Bongao feels more like an island town than Jolo. You can still see a lot of trees, and the topography is hilly. Thus, you don't see a lot of rice fields. Downtown, the action is pleasant and vibrant. Lots of umbrellas in different colors lined up the streets around the public market.
We took a short drive around town, starting with the market. We moved to the Chinese pier as they call it, where a lot of Chinese traders have their warehouses and boats filled with various merchandise from Malaysia and Indonesia.
In fact, there was a boat sailing to Sandakan in Malaysia. The trip supposedly takes 8 hours, which I think is not bad. Tawi-Tawi is just beside Sabah, so it's practically part of it already.
I really didn't feel threatened here, and they don't seem to look like Muslims. It's just like any other Filipino town. I was happy to see more smiles here, than in Jolo. The people don't seem to complain, but you can see that poverty still abounds.
We moved uphill to one of the highest points in town, the provincial capitol. They really make their capitol buildings extravagant here.
The view from above is breathtaking. You could see a panoramic view of Bongao, and even some of the other islands of Tawi-Tawi. Sinumul can be seen from this point. I was pointing to beaches left and right, and wondered if there were ways to get there. Again, I got the look, "it's not safe going around".
It was almost sunset so we took great pictures from the top. The air was cooler too. We saw a lot of families hanging out here, just enjoying the breeze while watching the sun set.
My trip to Tawi-Tawi was unexpected, and thus, I wasn't really able to prepare. Hopefully next year, I would be traveling to Sitangkai, the last town of the country to the South. I hear the beaches are fabulous there. As I jetted back to Zamboanga, I couldn't get my eyes off the islets and sand bars that began to show up again, waving goodbye to me and wishing me time to come back.