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Bud Bongao and My Unexpected Discoveries | Exploring Tawi-Tawi

Iconic Bud Bongao

I must confess, climbing mountain is already beyond my “thing” or maybe it came down with my progressing age. But seeing the grand icon of Tawi Tawi, the Bongao Peak or locally known as Bud Bongao, is a temptation to any visitors to climb this majestic landmark in the province of Tawi-Tawi. The regal view from a far is quite a scenery that would enchants anyone who would lay their eyes on the majestic mountain.

Maybe I am not the hardcore mountaineering type, but the moment I saw this famous landmark, I have sworn  that I shall never leave Tawi Tawi without eating dirt from this mountain.

To accomplish my mission, I rode a motorcycle down to the foot of the mountain, just fronting  Sandbar Lepa Resort in Simandagit. I chose to start trekking at 7:00am when the temperature was still cool.

Common skink that dwells in Bud Bongao
The fear of climbing alone never occurred to me as I felt very safe roaming around the vicinity. As I trek higher, I noticed that I was the sole hiker that day. 

I started with a short pace and got  amazed with the flora and fauna I encountered along the way. The semi agri-forested area is home to some unique avian and reptilian species that I have never seen in other places in the Philippines. Sad, I wasn’t equipped with proper high edge camera to capture some images of the raptors that crossed my path.

Discovering some unique flora on the trail, I was reminded of my college mentor and friend Dr. Melanie Medicilo who is a genius studying some of the noted Aroids in the Philippines.

I was in  doubt identifying a beautiful ornamental Aroid that at first I thought would be Alocasia heterophylla or Alocasia boyceana. But I bet Dr. Medicilo would be very happy to take a look on my photos and identify it for me. I hope it's a new record. 

The whole Bud Bongao is "infested" of such beautiful endemic Aroid. Wow! If this plant is another unidentified species, as I suspect, this would add up to my list of scientific discoveries in Mindanao.

Some interesting flora in Bud Bongao: Cycad sp.,and Alocasia sp. (possibly new Philippine species)
Reaching the middle of the hill, I noticed that a lot of colorful plastics were tied on twigs, and I was thinking that it was just the traditional markings on the trail. But these markings have  different story as visitors purposely tie them on twigs with the belief that the plastics left in the mountain would also  confine the peoples’   negativism in their lives likes sickness and bad luck and would be left and lost  forever in the heart of the mountain.

Halfway through, there are human-made staircases to which according to a local was commissioned by a Chinese businessman. The story tells that the shipment of the Chinese trader was in the verge of sinking while sailing ward the Celebes Sea. The Chinese businessman prayed and promised that if his shipments arrived safely in Bongao, he will construct staircases in the mountain.

Long -tailed Macaque of Bud Bongao

The most revealing find in this climb was the existence of wild long-tailed macaque naturally inhabiting the forested part of Bud Bongao. It was nice to see these primates wandering and jumping from one tree to another. At first, I only saw a couple of monkeys walking along the concrete staircases. But I was surprised that their number grew as the elevation increases.

At Bongao Peak
After an hour of trekking, I finally reached the peak of Bongao. From where I was standing, the view was breath taking seeing the island of Sanga-Sanga and the coastal areas of Bongao. There was a good cellular phone signal at the peak since a cell site tower was erected at the top of Bud Bongao.

After a couple of hours resting and updating my status on my FB , I hurried tracing my trail back down of the mountain. I was fascinated to even saw some unexpected unidentified species of Cycad in the thick bushes near the peak.

It was almost noon, and more and more packs of monkeys appeared following me on my trail. There were individuals that were very observant  while sitting on trees and must be wondering on my presence in their territory. According to a local, the monkeys were accustomed to the bananas being thrown at them by the visitors of Bud Bongao.

I did not bring any bananas with me since it was not my intention to feed the wild monkeys as suggested by the locals I met downtown. The monkeys aggregated and I suspected that they must have sniffed the loaf of bread I had in my bag. I threw slices of bread at them that lead them snatching the pieces on air. I have never seen wild monkeys performing acrobatic stunts but what I had just witnessed was way better than in the circus.

On my descend down to the foot of Bud Bongao, I finally met some visitors (a group of family and some group of youngsters) who were about to start climbing towards the peak. They were awed that I was climbing alone and had finished it before noon. They were carrying some sodas and basket for some kind of family picnic tradition in the mountain.

I have never thought in my entire life that I would set foot solo in a place being feared by many. Climbing Bud Bongao have just proved that Tawi Tawi is just like any other peaceful places in the Philippines and sad to tell that this place was like character assassinated just because it is home to Filipino Muslims. Fearing this place is not so different from the  discrimination being thrown by most Filipinos to our Muslim brothers. A very unfair treatment and stereotyping and avoiding  the whole community and its people just because of its association to ARMM. 

Check my other article about Tawi Tawi here.

Thank you for reading and I hope you liked it!

Don't forget to leave your comments in the box below. Good luck to your adventure :D


  1. minsan may maganda rin naman naidudulot ang negative image ng Mindanao. some of the beautiful places are not abused. I would say kung ang Tawi-Tawi ay hindi kinatatakutan na puntahan, there beaches will become what Boracay beaches these days. sobrang dami ng basura at ang marine biodiversity ay masisira. but I'm grateful for your effort in telling the whole world on how safe to travel to Mindanao and trying to eradicate the bad image of Mindanao. thank you and keep up the good work! :)

  2. It was all about the branding ... sad that Mindanao got the bad branding from the media ... victim of generalizations...

  3. i love mindanao... very nice place... wow!!!

  4. wild long tailed macaque, monkeys yon di ba? Ang ganda ng place ,far from the city .beat place to be alone and embrace the nature.

  5. I haven't been home in 7 years, I can't wait to come back home! But I don't thik I can ever mountain-climb. I tried once but I have a fear of heights so it went back down. I also have a fear of amphibians and reptiles. The macaque might change my mind though haha!

  6. A great experience for you, bro. And you are so lucky to see those long-tailed macaque. Great photos as well.

  7. Rochkirstin SantosJanuary 23, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    That's an awesome view right there. Connecting to nature and doing those exercises such as climbing a mountain is fulfilling.

  8. wow awesome and great photos! i am totally scared of monkeys! there's tons of monkeys around asia anywhere i go there's a family of them haha xx

  9. I must say Bud Bongao must have a pretty strong signal based on your 2nd to the last shot. ^_^

  10. Oh how I wish I could also visit the places you visit :) Extreme adventure is not my thing but I would like to try it soon!

  11. revisiting. Hindi nakakasawang tignan ang mga photos. Get to know more din about Bud Bongao.

  12. Maria Gemma Defeo-HilotinJanuary 24, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    I love mountains!!!! I used to climb mountains too.. but at this time.. I'd be catching breath for sure! It must be fulfilling to reach the peak!

  13. it always fascinates me whenever i go to provinces. because in the city, you get used to see malls, parks, fountains, etc. whereas in mountaineering or lets say, in the untouched nature, you will always be amazed with the beauty of nature. :)

  14. Been here again :) You have wonderful photos. But I don't think I'll ever be a climber like you :( How I wish I am more of an on-the-go person

  15. for now i will just have to marvel at your photo. i hope someday i find the time to climb mountains

  16. Ma'am Medicilo ♥ Best Botany professor :)

  17. You must be an archer and perhaps a med student. she is indeed one of the best :D

  18. go with your your plan and let no one hinder your adventures here in Mindanao . It's worth a visit Mark

  19. Hi there, great story, I hope to explore more of Mindanao in the near future. - Myles

  20. Mindanao waits for you :)