THINGS TO DO IN TAWI TAWI: Climbing Bud Bongao, "The Sacred Mountain of Tawi-tawi"

Bud Bongao Tawi-tawi

Upon arriving in Bongao, Tawi-tawi province's capital town, one will not fail to notice Bud Bongao as it dominates its landscape. Standing at an a height of 314 meters above sea level, Bongao Peak is the highest mountain in the island of Bongao and of the entire province of Tawi-tawi. One of the main reasons we went here is to climb its most revered mountain. We believe that a visit to this southernmost province of the Philippines will never be complete without hiking its iconic peak. So, we really made sure that we will never leave Tawi-tawi without climbing Bud Bongao.

Bud Bongao Tawi-tawi

Bud Bongao (bud being the Tausug word for mountain) is a sacred mountain for the people of Tawi-tawi. This is where they climb to meditate, to offer prayers, worship or to ask for Allah's blessings.

Bud Bongao Tawi-tawi

Together with a blogger/mountaineer friend, we flew from Zamboanga City and arrived in Bongao on a Saturday morning in December 2012. After checking-in at Beachside Inn where we will be staying for a night, we started to trek this holy mountain together with one of the resort's staff, Kuya Eric who will guide us to the peak. If it's your first time to climb this mountain, I highly suggest that you hire a local guide.


The climb is relatively easy with some constant ascend to get to its peak. It has a forested but established trail. The climb usually takes about 1 to 2 hours to reach the peak depending on your pace.


Several monkeys or Philippine long-tailed macaques roaming freely in the wild are some of the common things that you should expect along the trail. As suggested by our guide, bring some bananas as these monkeys will be very happy to get some food from you. So make sure to buy a bunch of bananas before starting to trek.


Along the way, you'll also notice some plastic strips tied on the trees. These are not garbage, they are usually left by locals (Muslims and Christians) in their belief that doing so will make their prayers and wishes come true.

As a sacred burial site, expect to see tombs of Muslim Imams along the way. This is one of the tombs near the mountain's peak. There's a small shaded area here where you could take a rest before continuing the hike to the peak.

Another tomb will greet you along the way before reaching the peak.

It was already 12:00 noon when we reached Bud Bongao's peak. The tiring and exhausting climb was instantly washed away upon reaching the peak. It was truly awesome! From here, you'll have a panoramic view of the wide open sea, the nearby islands such as Sanga Sanga with the airport's runway, Simunul and Sibutu islands, among many others.

Despite the scorching heat of the sun, we spent about 2 hours here just admiring the beauty of the landscape, enjoying the stunning views and taking photos. The strong cool breeze of the wind is also a great company! How I wish we could stay longer here but we have to get going.


  • Hire a local guide
  • The best time to start the climb is early morning or before noon time
  • Bring enough drinks (water, juice, or energy drink)
  • Wear comfortable clothes and appropriate footwear (preferbly trekking sandals or shoes)
  • Bring some bananas for the monkeys
  • The monkeys are non-domesticated, be cautious all the times
  • There are no standard rates for the guides, give them what your heart desires but please be generous as it is also a source of income for them
  • Respect nature, the mountain, the beliefs and traditions of our Muslim brothers and sisters
  • Practice "Leave No Trace Policy" at all times


From Manila, take a 2-hour flight to Zamboanga City. From there you may take a 45-minute plane ride that lands in Sanga-Sanga airport then take a tricycle to Bongao town proper. You may also opt to take a ferry boat from Zamboanga Port to Bongao. Trips are three times a week.

This is part of my Tawi-tawi trip that happened on December 8-9, 2012. Tawi-tawi is the 78th province on my list.


More photos on Pinoy AdvenTurista's Facebook Page, click here.


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