Visitors arriving at Tawi-Tawi's capital town of Bongao, either by plane or by ferry, will be welcomed by the sight of a mountain that dominates the landscape. Bud Bongao (bud being the Tausug word for mountain) is the highest point of the island of Bongao (from which the mountain got its name) and of Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost province of the Philippines.
|Bud Bongao as seen from Sanga-Sanga Bridge|
The best spot to admire the beauty of Bud Bongao from the ground is at the Sanga-Sanga Bridge, the bridge connecting Barangay Sanga-Sanga (where the airport is located) to the main island of Bongao. From there, you can also watch how the locals do about their daily life.
|at the foot of Bud Bongao|
If it's going to be your first time to trek to Bud Bongao, we highly recommend that you get a local guide. The hotel or resort where you are staying is the best place to ask for a guide. If you're staying at Beachside Inn, look for Kuya Eric. He's an awesome guide, highly recommended.
|a macaque welcoming visitors of Bud Bongao|
Bud Bongao is also home to troops of Philippine long-tailed macaques. Mid-way the ascend, these monkeys will welcome visitors in anticipation of being fed so make sure to bring a bunch or two of bananas.
|foot path leading to the top of Bud Bongao|
It was our first time to climb a mountain and it's difficult for us to describe whether the climb was easy, moderate or difficult since we have no similar experience to compare it with. Judging from the visitors that we came across with, including young kids and an elderly couple, Bud Bongao is easy climb. We were told that the climb will take one hour, but it took us 2.5 hours to reach the top. It's not a competition anyway, so take your time, take a pause from time to time and enjoy the sight and the fresh air.
|enjoying the view from Bud Bongao|
We finally reached the top of Bud Bongao and all the feelings of pain and exhaustion were suddenly gone after seeing the view of the whole island and of the vast open sea. The gentle wind will healed our tired body, giving us renewed energy. The experience was so overwhelming you would want to stay there for hours just admiring the beauty of the landscape, counting every coconut trees your eye could see, every tricycle passing over Sanga-Sanga bridge, and every boat sailing by the sea.
|photo with the locals|
Climbing the Bud Bongao has always been a favorite activity for the residents of Bongao. On our way up the peak, we had a short chat with a family who visited the mountain. With them was their grandfather who (as translated by our guide) was extremely happy that people from Manila are now visiting their beloved Bud Bongao.
Another group of locals told us that every weekend, they would climb Bud Bongao and bond as a barkada sharing stories and snacks along the way. They were equally pleased to know that Bud Bongao is now gaining popularity around the Philippines. They gladly had photos taken with us at the peak and jokingly said "Tag na lang sa Facebook" (Let's tag each other on Facebook). Yes, they are avid Facebook users too.
Date of Trip: January 27, 2013
Location: Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, Philippines
Update: We recorded the path leading to the peak of Bud Bongao and added it to Google Maps. You can now see it online at maps.google.com