Tawi-Tawi is an island province of the Philippines located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The capital of Tawi-Tawi is Bongao. The province is the southernmost of the country sharing sea borders with the Malaysian State of Sabah and the Indonesian Kalimantan province.
Wild cattle, wild hogs, and monkeys of the brown and white variety are just some of the many exotic fauna that abound in the forests of mainland Tawi-Tawi. Lying at the southwestern tip of the Philippines, accessible in only a matter of hours from Sabah in Malaysia, Tawi-Tawi is a province to visit for its natural zoos and a world all its own.
At Sibutu, wild hogs come in rampaging bands of black, reddish brown, white, and spotted black and white. A hunter’s paradise, Sibutu also boasts of the sleek and rare “labuyo” or wild rooster, birds of the edible variety – the balud, tabon, kingfisher, orioles, dandunay of the peacock variety, and more – as well as pet birds such as green, gold, and white parrots, canaries, lovebirds, and so much more.
Seagulls, known to the natives as “tallah-tallah,” have settled by the thousands at Gusong Reef in Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi to lay their eggs there. Gusong Reef is a top producer of the delicious turtle eggs, ranking second to the Turtle Islands. Bongao Peak is a veritable monkey sanctuary, which also provides a view of the expanse of sea and the necklace of islands for miles around.
Tawi-Tawi can easily transport one to a whole other world. Eye-catching Sitangkai is considered the “Venice of Tawi-Tawi.” The Royal “Kupunga” rises straight out of an Arabian setting. The Malay influences as well as tribal arts and crafts are very much visible in the province. Here, it is not uncommon to see folks dressed in colorful malongs, the women adorned in beads and brass trinkets.
Bongao, the provincial capital, is the only place in the province where simple amenities can be availed of. Lodging is spartan. Bazaars and small cafes crowd the commercial center. At the marketplace, foodstalls serve seafare and native delicacies like the “tapa” or cured boar’s meat.