Tawi-Tawi is the southernmost province of the Philippines, featuring many breathtaking islands and atolls in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

ABOUT TAWI-TAWI

Tawi-Tawi Island is 55 kilometers long and 10 to 23 kilometers wide, with steep and highly forested terrain. Tawi-Tawi Island is closer to Borneo than it is to mainland Mindanao. It lies less than 100 kilometers from Sabah, Malaysia, and more than 300 kilometers from the coast of Zamboanga on the Philippine island of Mindanao.

The municipality of Bongao, the province’s capital, is located on an entirely distinct island from the western tip of Tawi-Tawi Island.

The majority of the population is Sama, a Muslim people who speak the Austronesian languages of the Sama-Bajau family. Bato Bato is the island’s main settlement. The climate is warm and humid, and the principal commercial crops farmed on the island’s fertile volcanic soils are coconut, tobacco, sugarcane, and kapok. Other crops planted include rice, corn, citrus fruits, root crops, vegetables, cocoa, and coffee. Mother-of-pearl shells, capiz shells, and reptile skins are gathered. Fishing is very important, and the residents are skilled boatbuilders.

Photo of Bud Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
Bud Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
Photograph: Flickr. Bud Bongao, Tawi-Tawi by SIPAT: View from the Edge. https://www.flickr.com/photos/69958366@N04/33929682770

THE 11 MUNICIPALITIES OF TAWI-TAWI

  1. Bongao
  2. Languyan
  3. Mapun
  4. Panglima Sugala
  5. Sapa-Sapa
  6. Sibutu
  7. Simunul
  8. Sitangkai
  9. South Ubian
  10. Tandubas
  11. Turtle Islands
A View from the Sky of the 11 Municipalities of Tawi-Tawi

LIST OF ISLANDS IN TAWI-TAWI

  • Babas Island
  • Banaran Island
  • Basun Dakula Island
  • Baturrapa Island
  • Bellatan Island
  • Bintoulan Island
  • Bongao Island
  • Cabankauan Island
  • Daluman Island
  • Dial-Dial Sibi Island
  • Kakatan Island
  • Kalupag Island
  • Kang Tipayan Dakula Island
  • Kang Tipayan Diki Island
  • Latuan Island
  • Maningkulat Island
  • Mantabuan Island
  • Manuk Mangkaw Island
  • Mayemayo Island
  • Naungmin Island
  • Omapuy Island
  • Pajumajan Island
  • Pamisaan Island
  • Panglima Sugala
  • Pasegan Guimba Island
  • Sanga-sanga Island
  • Sibutu Island
  • Sikubung Island
  • Simunur Island
  • Sipangkot
  • Sitangkai Island
  • South Ubian Island
  • Tabulunga Island
  • Tagau Island
  • Tamloylangan Island
  • Tancan Island
  • Tandubas
  • Tandubas Island
  • Tawitawi Island
  • Tonkain Islands
  • Topaan Island
  • Tumbagaan Island
  • Tunbauhan Island

THE BEST TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN TAWI-TAWI PHILIPPINES

  1. Badjao Village in Bongao
  2. Balobok Rock Shelter
  3. Biraddali Falls
  4. Bud Bongao Peak
  5. Gusong Reef
  6. Kaban-Kaban Natural Swimming Pool
  7. Marlboro Beach
  8. Old Chinese Pier and Bongao Public Market
  9. Panampangan Island
  10. Saluag Island Beach
  11. Sangasiapu Island
  12. SangaySiapo Island
  13. Sheik Karim Al Makhdum Mosque
  14. Sibutu Natural Wildlife Sanctuary
  15. Sikulan Island Beach
  16. Sitangkai
  17. Sukarno Beach
  18. Tahing-Tahing Beach
  19. Tai-Tai Beach
  20. Tawi-Tawi Provincial Capitol
  21. Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary

THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN TAWI-TAWI

  1.  Hike Mount Bongao..
  2. .Visit the Old Chinese Pier.
  3. Climb Bud Bongao’s sacred peak.
  4. Discover Sibutu Natural Animals Sanctuary’s wildlife.
  5. Visit the Balobok Rock Shelter Cave.
  6. Explore Mangrove Forest
  7. Free diving and snorkeling
  8. Visit the towns of Sibutu and Sitangkai.
  9. Join the Agal-Agal Festival in September.
  10. Meet the marine life of Gusong Reef
  11. Pay a visit to the Sheik Karimol Makhdum Mosque.
  12. Relax and enjoy your staycation on the gorgeous beaches of Tawi-Tawi.
  13. Visit the Badjao villages of Bongao and Sitangkai.
  14. Visit Sitangkai Town, known as the “Venice of the East.”
  15. Walk around the market and the historic Chinese Pier.

MUST TRY FOODS IN TAWI-TAWI

  1. Agal-Agal
    A seaweed
  2. Baolu
    A tasty little muffin
  3. Batang Burung
    A crispy rice roll made with sugar, milk, oil, and flavoring
  4. Bubungkung
    A type of suman
  5. Byanban
    Cassava
  6. Chicken Pyanggang
    A chicken dish that is traditionally simmered in a rich sauce before being grilled
  7. Fried Kilur
    A fried breadfruit
  8. Guso
    A type of seaweed
  9. Hot Moro Chili Powder
  10. Isikalang
    A sweet biscuit made with flour, egg, butter, coconut milk, and olive oil
  11. Jintan
    An indigenous cookie
  12. Junay
    Steamed rice with coconut milk and toasted coconut
  13. Kawah
    A Tausug coffee
  14. Knickerbocker
    A halo-halo version of Mardos Restaurant
  15. Lawal
    A fish kinilaw
  16. Mee Goreng
    Fried Noodles
  17. Palikambing
    Banana dumplings
  18. Pastil
    An empanada with pancit bihon filling
  19. Putli Mandi
    A steamed rice cake
  20. Pyalam
    Paksiw na isda smothered in tomatoes and spices
  21. Pyuto
    Steamed cassava
  22. Sabaw Maimuh
    A sweet soup or beverage
  23. Satti
    A popular spicy meal cooked with either chicken or beef
  24. Syanglag
    Roasted grated cassava
  25. Tiyula Itum
    A hot beef broth with a coconut meat
  26. Utak Utak
    A hot and spicy fish dish

FESTIVALS IN TAWI-TAWI

1. KAMAHARDIKAAN SIN TAWI-TAWI (September)

The 11 towns of the province come together for the Kamahardikaan Sin Tawi-Tawi, or celebration of Tawi-Tawi’s foundation anniversary, for a week of celebrations, thankfulness, and a display of their rich culture, customs, and bounty.

The declaration of Tawi-Tawi as a separate province was a major historical event since it addressed the people’s demands for self-governance and independence from Sulu.

The Kamahardikaan Sin Tawi-Tawi, or the Province’s Founding Anniversary, which takes place in September, coincides with the Agal-agal and Lepa Festivals.

2. AGAL-AGAL FESTIVAL (September)

The Philippines’ biggest producer of seaweed powder is thought to be the province of Tawi-Tawi. In the Sulu archipelago, the word for seaweed is “agal-agal.” It symbolizes the significance of seaweed farming in the thriving seafood industry that dominates the Tawi-Tawi province. It became a way of life for the majority of people and represented a lot of their culture.

The Agal-Agal Festival shows how much the community values the contribution that the ocean has made to their way of life. Tawi-Tawi is a Province made mainly of island settlements surrounded by vast oceans, hence it is well-stocked with marine resources.

The Sama, Badjau, Jama Mapun, and Tausug, who peacefully inhabit the Province, are included in the festival. They have a rich culture and customs that are still practiced and lived by them today.

3. LEPA FESTIVAL (September)

The Sama D’laut, also known as the Badjaos, are seafaring nomads and “sea gypsies,” and Lepa is their houseboat. In addition to being utilized for transportation, weddings, and even daily living, lepas are also used for fishing.

This festival features men and women dressed in their traditional garb sailing on ornately painted lepas while singing and dancing to the rhythm of gongs and drums.

Photo of Kamahardikaan sin Tawi-Tawi
Kamahardikaan sin Tawi-Tawi
Photograph: facebook/Municipal Tourism Office – Sitangkai Tawi-Tawi

BEST TIME TO VISIT TAWI-TAWI

Tawi-Tawi is best visited between April and May, during the Philippines’ summer season, or November and December, shortly after the rainy season, when the temperature is comfortable and there are fewer tourists.

HOW TO GET TO TAWI-TAWI

By Air

Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific operate flights from Zamboanga City and Cotabato to Bongao, Tawi-Sanga-Sanga Tawi’s Airport.

There are no direct flights from Manila to Tawi-Tawi, so you must connect in Zamboanga or Cotabato.

By Sea

Aleson Shipping navigates the Sulu Sea on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, transporting people from Zamboanga City to Bongao. 

2GO Travel also provides ferry service between Cebu and Manila, as well as Bongao and Tawi-Tawi.

A ship leaves Semporna, Malaysia, once a week for Bongao.