Baloboc view point in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
Guides and Itineraries,  Philippines

11 BEST Things to Do in Tawi-Tawi

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I’ll dare say that Tawi-Tawi is one of the best places you can visit in Mindanao! Whether you’re staying here for 2-3 days or longer, here are the best things you can do in the province of Tawi-Tawi.

P.S. Planning a trip to Tawi-Tawi? Read about our Travel Guide to Tawi-Tawi.

1. Explore Baloboc Rock Shelter

The word “baloboc” came from the sound of waves hitting the rocks.

Baloboc Rock Shelter is one of the most important archaeological sites in the country. It served as the shelter of early inhabitants from 5000-8000 years ago. As such, it is an evidence of the movement of people from Southwest Pacific to the Pacific region.

Baloboc Rock Shelter is known for a circular arc where you can take a glimpse of a small beach cove. Near the arc, you can explore a cave with fossilized stalactite formations.

Just walking distance from the rock shelter is the Baloboc view point. Here you can swim through an underwater tunnel to get to the ocean, not unlike the one in Carabao Island. The view here is also amazing. There’s a nearby beach and the surrounding water is so clear that you can see the underwater rocks from above.

Baloboc cave and rock formation
Arc in Baloboc Rock Shelter.
Kat in Baloboc view point
Baloboc view point in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi
Baloboc view point.

2. Shop in the public market

The Bongao public market is interesting as it can give you a glimpse of the everyday life in Tawi-Tawi.

Here you can find a barter section featuring products from Malaysia such as malong and other clothing. There’s also the fresh market where you can buy the usual goods as well as food stalls selling grilled fish and native delicacies or kakanin.

Public market in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.
Seafood stall in the public market.

3. Buy fresh seafood

There’s plenty of fresh seafood in Tawi-Tawi which you can buy for reasonable prices! You can drop by the public market for shopping. For bulk buys, you may also go to Old Chinese Pier, which is the drop-off location for fresh catches or the bodega.

We stopped by the bodega and were amazed at the large pieces of octopus (pugita), shells, crabs and fish. At the time of our visit (2019), we were able to buy crabs for P200 per kilo, different fish for P350 per kilo and shells for P100 per kilo.

4. See mat weaving art in Badjao Village

The Badjao Village is located near the public market. Here you can see traditional mat weaving using dyed pandan leaves, which is one of the products in Bongao.

Mat weaving in Tawi-Tawi
Colorful banigs or mats. (Photo by Khristian Teves)

5. Visit the Capitol and Municipal Hall

While at the town center, don’t forget to drop by the Capitol and Municipal Hall.

The Capitol can be visited during the day, although our guide Kuya Ben told us it’s better to see it at night when the building lights are on. Meanwhile, in the Municipal Hall you can see the Bongao signage where you can take pictures as remembrance of your visit. There’s also a small souvenir store across the street.

Bongao signage in Tawi-Tawi
Signage at the municipal hall.

6. Watch the sunset at Bud Bongao

Bud Bongao is the highest peak in the municipality of Bongao. It’s also considered a sacred mountain, as locals do pilgrimage here to pray and meditate. The trek to Bud Bongao takes 45 minutes – 1 hour depending on your pace. The summit rewards with a majestic view of the mainland and southern seas.

Bud Bongao can be visited as part of your town tour.

Bud Bongao summit
Summit view in Bud Bongao
View of the mainland.

7. Island hopping

Island Hopping in Tawi-Tawi is one of the activities you shouldn’t miss!

In a day, you can visit 3 islands: Panampangan Island (considered the longest sand bar in the Philippines), Simunul Island (the birthplace of Islam) and Sangay Siapo Island (a small island ideal for swimming).

Panampangan Island in Tawi-Tawi
Panampangan Island.
Sandbar in Panampangan Island
Sandbar in Panampangan Island.

8. Buy goods at the barter in Panglima Sugala

Every Saturday, a barter is held at the port in Panglima Sugala. The badjao people bring seafood and the rest bring land produce such as fruits and vegetables. Visiting the barter is an authentic experience, as you’ll get to see how the locals live and interact with each other.

An interesting aspect of the barter in Panglima Sugala is that the locals still practice the traditional exchange of goods. Cash is also accepted.

This is honestly one of our best experiences in Tawi-Tawi. I loved seeing all kinds of fresh seafood spread out in lines. Fruits and vegetables are also sold in bunches, either in sacks or hand-woven baskets. There are also food stalls selling local kakanin and refreshments such as fruit shakes and halo-halo.

From Bongao, it takes 45 minutes by land to reach Panglima Sugala and about 2 hours by boat.

Barter at Panglima Sugala in Tawi-Tawi
Barter at Panglima Sugala.
Barter at Panglima Sugala in Tawi-Tawi
Different kinds of fresh seafood.
Group shot at Panglima Sugala barter in Tawi-Tawi
With the gang. (Photo by Froilan Pernis)

9. Visit the town of Sitangkai

Sitangkai is another town in Tawi-Tawi, about 4 hours by boat from Bongao. Sitangkai is unique in that the town is built over the water, so major transportation is done via boats. Sitangkai is also called “The Venice of the Philippines”.

Sitangkai in Tawi-Tawi
(Photo by Jan Darren Guiwan of Kapampangan Traveller)

10. Taste native delicacies

Tawi-Tawi shares the same local delicacies as its neighboring Bangsamoro provinces. These include kumukunsi, blua, tinadtag, suman, pastil, dudul, daral and bang-bang sug.

This food is served in lots of eateries in Bongao.

Native delicacies in Tawi-Tawi
Native delicacies.

11. Scuba diving

Tawi-Tawi is positioned inside the Coral Triangle, which is considered the most biodiverse area in the world. This makes it a great place for scuba divers. There are various dive spots scattered along this island province, including the Kubbung Dive Site and Pahut Plane Wreck Dive Site.

That’s our list of top things to do in Tawi-Tawi! Do you have questions or suggestions? Let us know in the comments below!

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