Friday, March 09, 2007

bud bongao

woke up early to catch the sunrise today.  but i would like to catch it at the highest peak in bongao island, tawi-tawi, philippines.

we parked mon's multicab van at the southwestern side of bongao island, just very near the sea breeze resort.  it looks like a daunting climb.  with wall faces looming at our path.  i have not climbed since apo in october 2004.  i stretched a bit to make sure that i would be ok through it.

about an hour and 15 minutes of quick step climb up, we came upon the main shrine of bud bongao (bud is the tausug word for a mountain or in this case a hill).  it is an fenced structure made of a wooden frame and covered by a white cloth.  from inside, pilgrims pray for the intercession of a spirit to intercede for them for various reasons.  either to heal the cough of a husband or to pray for passing a board exam.  the people of bongao would trek through the jungle and encounter the monkeys that guard the sanctuary just to commune and ask for the help fo the so called spirit.

it was said that the spirit revealed his resting place to a holy man who in turn popularized it with his fellow town mates.  the legend turned into practice and into custom, and now even with the declaration of islam leaders of the practice being haram (as there is only allah as the one true god, and believing in spirits that heal is contrary to this belief), the local folks would still climb and hope for a miracle.

for us it was for sight seeing.

the exerting climb was rewarding with views and stories.  tong, our climbing buddy was fast and quick on his feet, i used to remember how i can climb as fast as he is.  in one of our pitstops he pointed to an island off the horizon.  the island is known as sibutu, 3 -4 hours away from bongao.  it crosses the sulu sea, thus the current is very very strong. another two hours, you would have reached sitangkay and the turtle islands through a different route.  three hours more and there is sindangan, malaysia.  i imagined the lights and the life of this tiny malaysian city.  i heard its call and i said to myself that i would reach its ports someday.

quick trivia: turtle island is a marine protected sanctuary that is protected by a multi-sectoral group of stakeholders from bongao and from sindangan.  ain't that cool?!?!

teaser:  if there is sibutu, another island in the tawi-tawi archipelago is called binilat.  go figure.

a few meters from that view spot, tong stopped again to point to simunul.  simunul is another island which houses the oldest mosque in the philippines, the sheik makhdum mosque!  my imagination ran wild, especially when tong told me of the beautiful women and people who have arabs from malaysia as their ancestors.

from the same point, he pointed to sangay shapu, a sand bar and the la island, which is in turn is a dive spot.

from the main shrine, there are two more viewing decks.  the left side, afforded a view of the southwestern side of the island.  sibutu is visible here, and the stories of politicians and their antics were casually shared.  there is another peak visible from this deck that looks like pico de loro.  a zip line could be attached from this deck, rappel down.  or rock climb up!  possibilities are endless.

the right viewing deck, is more strenuous, and has a wider and expansive view of sanga sanga island.  the airport is visible, msu tawi-tawi and the straight that separates bongao and sanga sanga.  it truly is a magnificent place, lots of opportunities to explore and discover.

when i arrived yesterday and saw bud bongao, i asked casually what is its name, and whispered beneath my breath, "i want to climb it..."

mon warned me that once i say it, i must do it.  otherwise, there would be repercussions to me... stories according to old folks.

i didn't need much prodding.  climbed it i did.


  1. Hi jerry. Nice description! the climb must be exhilarating. Anyway, can you enlighten me more about the Bongao mountain? I was wondering who that pious man be, the one who's laid to rest on the peak of the mountain. And have you heard of the lengend that touching the monkeys of bud bongao is bad luck? Do you know folks who would tell me storiues of that mountain? Thanks! here's my email, Email me if anything comes to mind

  2. hi abby, i have only been to bongao only once. and that was the only time i had the chance to climb bud bonggao. as to your queries:

    1. the legend of the pious man remains a legend and the person telling me the story had no idea of the name.

    2. touching the monkeys may be considered bad luck because they might scratch you and result to a nasty wound. but that is for practical purposes only. again, i have no idea.

    3. i have friends in tawi-tawi who might be able to help you out. i can connect you if you send me email please indicate your purpose of communication etc. so that it would be easier for me to explain.

    thanks for dropping by.

    balik balik


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