Home » Philippines » Mindanao » Tawi-Tawi Travel Guide: Mindanao’s Undiscovered Jewel

Tawi-Tawi Travel Guide: Mindanao’s Undiscovered Jewel

Klook.com google.com, pub-5320905345872243, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

Enchanting Tawi-Tawi | Overview

As you may know, Tawi-Tawi is the southernmost province of the Philippines and part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao. Formerly part of the province of Sulu (until 1973), this 307-island province is yet to be put on the tourist map.

Read also: Exploring Zamboanga City

Tawi-Tawi Provincial Capitol | Turista Boy

Tawi-Tawi Provincial Capitol, Bongao

I Love Tawi-Tawi | Turista Boy

I Love Tawi-Tawi Sign, Capitol Hills, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi

Scattered around the Sulu Sea and bordered by Sulu Sea in the North, Sulu in the North East, Celebes Sea in the South and East, and Sabah, Malaysia in the West, Tawi-Tawi is one of the least-known provinces in the country for travel and tourism. But when I set foot in this province, I know it has a lot in store. This is the 17th province on my personal #Project82PH project. With this, I was eager to discover this not-so-undiscovered pearl of the south.

Tawi-Tawi has now become accessible because of the Sanga-Sanga airstrip. The province opens its doors for tourists and locals alike to experience its wonders. Finally, I have set foot in the country’s “southernmost province” despite my family and friends telling me that going here is dangerous, but I proved them wrong.

Tawi-Tawi Demographics and Fast Facts

Sheikh Karimul Makhdum Mosque Simunul Tawi-Tawi | Turista Boy

Sheikh Karimul Makhdum Mosque (the first mosque in the Philippines, circa 1380), Simunul, Tawi-Tawi

Tawi-Tawi is believed to be derived from the Malay word “Jauh” meaning “far”. Early travelers would then repeat the word as “jauijaui” meaning “far away,” given its remote distance from the mainland.

The province is home to some indigenous people. Some of these groups are the Samas, the Tausugs, and the Badjaos. Tawi-Tawi holds the distinction, too, as the home of the very first mosque in the Philippines established by Sheik Karim ul-Makhdum, marking the start of Islamic faith in the country in Simunul Island.


Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao
GPS Coordinates

5°12′00″N 120°05′00″E

Land Area

1,087.40 km² (419.85 mi²)
Municipalities (Barangays)

11 (203)

Time Zone

GMT +8
Zip Code

7500 – 7509

Telephone Area Code

+63 68
Spoken Languages and Dialects

Вadjao-Sinama / Тausug / Zamboangueño Chavacano / Tagalog / English / Malay

Best time to go to Tawi-Tawi

Bihik Tahik Resort Bongao Tawi-Tawi | Turista Boy

Bihing Tahik Resort, Bongao

Tawi-Tawi is predominantly tropical when it comes to its general climate and weather. The province has two seasons, the wet and dry seasons. The average temperature in Tawi-Tawi is around 27 – 29 °C (80.6 – 84.2 °F).

The best months to visit Tawi-Tawi are from February to November of every year where the weather is warm and temperate throughout these months. You can also visit Tawi-Tawi during September when they hold the annual Kamahardikaan Festival.

How to get to Tawi-Tawi

Tawi-Tawi is an archipelagic province comprising 307 islands. Getting to and from another municipality can be quite challenging but here are their transportation options.

By Land

Bongao Tricycle Tawi-Tawi | Turista BoyTricycles are the main mode of transportation in mainland Tawi-Tawi. Minimum fare usually starts at ₱ 20 and will vary depending on your destination. There are also multicabs and motorcycle taxis in other municipalities (i.e. Simunul) that cater to their residents for faster mobility. Minimum fares vary from ₱ 50 and up.

By Air

Sanga-Sanga Airport Bongao Tawi-Tawi | Turista Boy

Sanga-Sanga Airport Bongao Tawi-Tawi | Turista Boy

By air, there are two (2) regular flights to Tawi-Tawi from Zamboanga City via Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines (as of December 15, 2019).

Cebu Pacific

Daily M-W-F
Zamboanga (ZAM) – Tawi-Tawi (TWT) 0715 – 0825 H 0715 – 0825 H
1455 – 1605 H

Philippine Airlines

Monday, Thursday M-W-F
Zamboanga (ZAM) – Tawi-Tawi (TWT) 0930 – 1030 H
Cotabato (CBO) – Tawi-Tawi (TWT) 0735 – 0910 H

All flights will be arriving and departing from the Sanga-Sanga Airport. The flight is only about 1 hour – 1.5 hours.

By Water

Chinese Pier Bongao Tawi-Tawi | Turista Boy

Old Chinese Pier, Bongao

By water, there are regular trips to and from the Zamboanga Port to Bongao Port or the Chinese Pier. Bongao is also the gateway to Malaysia through Semporna (which is approximately 4-5 hours away.)

From Zamboanga, there are 3 regular trips to Bongao Port every week, just ask the personnel in Zamboanga Port for more details. The Chinese Pier also has daily trip schedules to the farthest islands of Tawi-Tawi, namely: Mapun (16 hours), Simunul (45 minutes), Sitangkai (4 hours), South Ubian (6 hours), and the Turtle Islands (12 hours), on designated time slots.

Things to know about when visiting Tawi-Tawi

Bud Bongao Tawi-Tawi | Turista Boy

Bud Bongao Summit, Bongao

Bud Bongao Tawi-Tawi | Turista Boy

Upon arriving in either Sanga-Sanga (which is 15-20 minutes away from Bongao proper via a tricycle) or the capital municipality of Bongao, there are some key places that can be seen already, one of which is the revered “Bud Bongao” or Bongao Peak – the highest peak in the province at 314 meters (1,030 feet) above sea level.

Sanga-Sanga Baywalk Bongao Tawi-Tawi | Turista Boy

Sanga-Sanga Baywalk

When traveling, you can also have a look at Sanga-Sanga’s own Baywalk – a landstrip that connects Sanga-Sanga and mainland Bongao. You can also pay a visit at Mindanao State University Tawi-Tawi Campus in Sanga-Sanga.

Bud Bongao Cellsite Tawi-Tawi | Turista Boy

Globe Cellsite, Bud Bongao Summit

Tawi-Tawi’s total Land Area is slightly smaller than the land area of the island of Guam. Cellular Signal is Good to Best (Globe) and Fair to Poor (Smart). The Socket Standard in Tawi-Tawi are Types A (composed of two parallel pins), B (two parallel pins with a grounding pin), and C (composed of two round pins); running mainly on 220 volts (V) and a common frequency of 60 hertz (Hz). The main mode of payment in Tawi-Tawi is Cash. There are also a few stores and establishments who accept Online Transfer (Maya / GCash) or Wire or Bank Transfer (Debit / Credit). The currency used in the province is Philippine Peso (PH₱).

Read also: Tawi-Tawi – Exploring the wonders of undiscovered Mindanao

Famous food and delicacy in Tawi-Tawi


Tiyula Itum – This dish is one of the popular dishes in the south, especially in the Sulu Archipelago. This famous Tausug dish is the Tawi-Tawi counterpart of Luzon’s Bulalo and has a distinct, coconut-y, and very spicy soup base. It is made of beef broth mixed with burned grated coconut that gives its black color.

Tiyula Itum Bongao Tawi-Tawi | Turista Boy

Tiyula Itum (Tausug Dish)

Syagul – This spicy stingray meat is cooked in coconut milk and burned coconut grated meat.

Guso – this is a kind of seaweed (a.k.a. agar) that is very much common in coastal waters of Visayas and Mindanao. However, Tawi – Tawi locals bleach the seaweeds with salt and add soy sauce, and other spices like onions and ginger to give it a yellowish color.

Syanglag – This roasted cassava dish replaces rice as the “main carbohydrates.”

Utak Utak – This popular Tausug Fishcake is also one for the books. The ground fish inside its core is mixed with various spices mixed with beaten eggs rolled in flour and is deep fried.


Wadjit-wadjit – This is Tawi-Tawi’s version of biko. It is a rice cake cooked in coconut milk and brown sugar, but this delicacy uses brown rice as the main ingredient.

Apam – It is the south’s native version of a pancake and is usually eaten during breakfast and snacks.

Tsikalang (or Tabid-tabid) – These are fried, rolled purple glutinous rice, sprinkled with sugar or shredded coconut.

Palikambing – Palikambing is a deep-fried banana ball that looks like a bite-size donut. It is best drizzled with caramel sauce or any other sweetener.

Junay (or Junai) – This popular to-go “dish” rice cooked in tiyula itum or burned coconut. This delicacy is best paired with boiled egg.

Pitis – This is a rice cake with bukayo (sweetened coconut strips) filling. It is similar to suman and is a popular Tausug delicacy served in most coffee shops in downtown Jolo, Tawi-Tawi, and even in Zamboanga City.

Sameera Coffee Shop Platter Bongao Tawi-Tawi | Turista Boy

Sameera Coffee Shop Platter

Daral – This another famous Tausug delicacy is made with a rice flour wrap filled with sweet coconut filling.

Pangi-Pangi  – These are deep-fried flour doughs shaped into loops likened to a soft pretzel.

Pan Pan – This is a tasty mung bean fritter.

Putli Mandi – These sweet colored rice balls are covered with grated coconut and bukayo filling. It is similar to Japan’s mochi!

Baulu (or Baulo)  – This bite-size pastry tastes and feels like mamon and is molded into decorative  and varied shapes.

Exploring in and out of Tawi-Tawi

Bongao Tricycle Tawi-Tawi | Turista Boy

The main mode of transportation in the province is the tricycle. Fares range from around PH₱ 20 – PH₱ 50 (US$ 0.40 – 1.00) depending on the distance and each tricycle can carry up to four (4) people at a time. I can safely say that their tricycles are identical to that of those in Zamboanga City – spacious and decorative. Private cars are also present, especially in the town center of Bongao making the capital town more congested. Road conditions in Tawi-Tawi are mainly paved but can be rugged and mostly terrain in rural areas.

Read also: Tawi-Tawi – Exploring the wonders of undiscovered Mindanao

*Note that the places, prices, and information written as of publication date and time are true and are given best during my visit. Changes may occur without prior notice. If you notice any changes to the information given above, you can e-mail me here so we can dish things up!*

We’re born to travel!

Share the love to other turistas! :)
, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One thought on “Tawi-Tawi Travel Guide: Mindanao’s Undiscovered Jewel

Leave a Reply


Discover more from Turista Boy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading