A visit to Tawi-Tawi archipelago will not be complete without trekking the province’s iconic peak – Bud Bongao!
Rising at an altitude of around 314 meters or 1030 feet above sea level, Bud Bongao or Bongao Peak is the highest mountain (more of a hill) of Bongao Island and the entire province of Tawi-Tawi. It is situated in the island Bongao and considered as a sacred burial site for Muslim locals. They also go here to worship, meditate and pray, so expect to see tombs of Muslim priests (imam) as well as Muslim prayer shrines (tampat) there.
While it is a sacred site for Muslim locals, Bud Bongao is an attraction for tourists and trekking this small mountain is a usual or should I say a must in very itinerary.
It is relatively an easy trek, with clear trail and pathway going to the peak. On the average, the trek going up takes an hour or two. Monkey’s (Philippine long-tailed macaques) freely roam along the trail and they expect visitors to have something for them, bananas most specially. These monkeys usually follow the trekkers going up and sometimes become aggressive specially if provoked by monkey’s belonging to other clans, so take precautionary measures. Surprisingly, these clever animals do not usually show up for those going down. If you are a keen observer, you will also see some rare insects and reptiles such as snakes and lizards.
Another thing to notice in Bud Bongao is the cellophanes or plastics, in different colors and sizes, that are tied to the trees. These plastics are usually left by locals, Muslims and Christians alike, believing that doing so will make their prayers and wishes come true.
Meanwhile, the peak offers panoramic vista of the sea and landmass surrounding Bongao Island, overlooking the vast seas of Celebes and Sulu, the islands of Sanga-Sanga, Simunul, Laa, Bilatan and Sibutu among others, as well as the outline of the island of Borneo on a clear day.
Trekking Bud Bongao, it is advised to have a guide or a local assist you. But there is no standard guide fee or whatsoever, so give whatever your heart desires, but please be generous enough for it means livelihood to the locals. Trekking the revered Bud Bongao is an experience one must not miss when visiting Tawi-Tawi but I beg everyone going there to respect the nature as much as we respect the belief and tradition.