From Jolo, we went back to Zamboanga to catch another Sea Air flight to our next exotic destination, southern most province of the country, Tawi-Tawi. We already felt we had a private plane to ourselves, since we always rode the same plane.
The view from above was not as clear, and the flight was deafening and longer. It took us 1 and a half hours from Zamboanga to Bongao, the capital of Tawi-Tawi. As soon as I saw Bud Bongao, the highest peak in these islands, I was having headaches from the sudden descent. Our pilot had to go around again and take another chance in landing the small aircraft.
So we landed safely, and awaited for our gracious hosts. I immediately sensed Tawi-Tawi was going to be different from Sulu. We had no police escorts, and the presence of the military dwindled. We rode a red multicab and drove off to the center of Bongao town, passing by the coastline and going around Bud Bongao.
We arrived in our hotel, Rachel's Place, which is one of the 4 accommodations in the island. It is located near the town center, and looks like the biggest and most preferred place. Get the rooms (P800 to P1200) in the new building though, as they are cleaner.
From here, we had lunch at the venue of our shoot, Lutong Bahay sa Bongao. It seems that there is a lack of food places in Tawi-Tawi. There's even no Jollibee. But you can get a lot of fresh seafood from the market, and they can cook them for you as well. Lutong Bahay sa Bonao is cozy place to eat, but don't expect a different menu. It's your typical carinderia.
We rode our multicab to get a tour of the town. I saw a bustling market place which was colorful. Stalls selling clothes, DVDs and a lot of stuff from Malaysia lined the narrow alleyways. There was a mall being built, but people don't know when construction would finish.
Bongao had its charm that I expected. I felt much safer, but people still warned us to keep a vigilant eye open. Tawi-Tawi is considered free from terrorism, but they say some of the Abu Sayyaf bandits spend their vacation here. Like everyone else, the bandits just want a place more peaceful and pleasant.
More on Tawi-Tawi in my next posts...