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Capital: Bongao

No. of towns: 10

Land area: 1,087.4 sq. km.

Location. Occupies the southernmost part of the Philippines, bounded on northwest part by Sulu Sea, and on the south is the eastern part of Celebes Sea.

Brief history. When the Fil-American Forces landed at Leyte on October 20, 1944, civil government was established all over the Philippines. Tawi-Tawi was then still a part of the province of Sulu.

On September 11, 1973, pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 302, the new province of Tawi-Tawi was officially created separate from the province of Sulu. This ia a significant milestone. It has given hope that people will have an active participation and development. Provincial administration of outlying island-municipalities is now more expedient and efficient. The seat of the provincial government was immediately established in the premier town of Bongao.

Tawi-Tawi is a projection of the Malay word "jau" meaning "far". Pre-historic travelers from the Asian mainland repeat the word as "jaui-jaui" (far away), because of the distance of the islands from the continent of Asia. The folks picked the word "Tawi-Tawi" which today, is the official name of the province.

Geography. Tawi-Tawi archipelago lies at the southwestern tip of the country, only hours away by motorized "kumpit" from Sabah, Malaysia.

Bongao, the capital town of Tawi-Tawi, is one hour and ten minutes away by plane from Zamboanga City. By ship, it takes approximately 26 hours travel time, passing through Jolo, Sulu.

Irregular in shape, with splashes of white sandy beaches and rock bound coasts, the province has 107 islands and islets with a combined land area of 462 square miles. The geogtaphical conditions of these islands make navigation difficult because of extensive reefs. Only light seacraft can pass through some of these "sea trails". However, in some areas like the capital town of Bongao, the deep harbor in perfectly calm and breathtaking. Inter-island vessels and naval boats dock in this harbor. Batu-Batu in Balimbing has a good deep port and a landlocked harbor in the area where the Philippine Navy has its station.

Political Subdivisions. The province of Tawi-Tawi is composed of ten municipalities: Balimbing, Bongao, Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi, Simunul, Sitangkai, South Ubian, Tandubas, Turtle Island, Languyan and Sapa-Sapa.

Except for the municipalities of Bongao, Balimbing and a part of the municipality of Tandubas which are in the Tawi-Tawi mainland vicinity, the other municipalities are composed of several outlying islands accessible only by watercraft.

There are ten to more than thirty barangays in each municipality. Each barangay is administered by a Barangays Captain.

Climate. Tawi-Tawi has two seasons: dry and wet. The climate is generally moderate. During the months of August, September, October and November, the average rainfall is 6.70, 2.40, 8.91 and 8.47, respectively. Other months of the year are generally dry, although there are occasional rainshower.

People. Tawi-Tawi is peopled by four cultural communities - the Samals, the Badjaos, the Jama Mapuns and the Tausugs - it is common to see folks dressed in colorful "malongs", the women adorned in beads and brass trinkets. The Malays influences as well as tribals arts and crafts are very much visible.

Language / Dialect. The prevailing dialect is "Sama", which is widely used in varied tones and accents. Tausug dialect is also spoken. English and Pilipino (Tagalog) are readily spoken by the Tawi-Tawians, the reason why local and foreign visitors to Tawi.Tawi find difficult in oral communication with the local inhabitants. Many local traders can speak Malay and Indonesian languages, too.

Major industries. Agriculture, fishing, and agar-agar farming are the leading sources of livelihood of the people of Tawi-tawi, with quite a number ingaged in the barter trade business. Copra is the top agricultural produce, followed by root crops, fruits and vegetables.

Points of interest

The government has not yet officially proclaimed any area in Tawi-Tawi as a part or wildlife sanctuary but there are several places in the province which are natural zoos. Wild cattle, wild hogs and monkeys of the brown and white variety abound in the forests of mainland Tawi-Tawi.

The following tourist potentials are accessible by small motor launches called "kumpits" docked at the Chinese Pier near the market in Bongao´s busiest downtown section. In Bongao, all inter-island vessels traversing within Tawi-Tawi are docked at the "Chinese Pier". Commercial boats and launches coming from Zamboanga City and Jolo are docked at the "Commercial Pier".

Sibutu. Wild hogs come in rampaging bands of black, reddish brown, white and spotted black and white. A hunter`s paradise, Sibutu also boasts of the sleek and rare "labuyo" or wild rooster, as well as birds of the edible variety: "balud", "tabon", "kingfisher", "orioles, "dandunay" of the peacock variety , etc. and of the kind classified as "pet" - green, gold and white parrots, canaries, lovebirds, etc.

Gusong Reef. Located in Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi where sea gulls known to the natives as "tallah-tallah", settled by the thousands to lay eggs. Gusong Reef is a top producer of the delicious trutle eggs. Eggs ranking second only to the Turtle Islands (Taganak).

Bongao Peak. A verible monkey sanctuary in the principal town of Bongao. It also serves as the "window" to the expanse of sea and the necklace of islands for miles around.

Tubig Indangan. Located in Simunul. Its main attraction is the first Muslim mosque built by the Arabian missionary Sheik Makdum, 1380 A.D. (Makdum´s tomb lies in Tandubanak on the southern shore of Sibuto).

Manuk-Mangkaw or Musa. An island located slightly beyond and across the channel. It is said to be "floating like an umbrella" under which Allied submarines sought refuge from enemy depth charges during World War II. Manuk-Mankaw derives its name from a cluster of brances atop an ancient tall tree forming the image of a hen about to walk. This was used as a landmark by seafarers who jestingly called upon the "hen" to take the first inevitable step - "manok mankaw", means "walk,hen, walk".

Tahing-tahing Beach. Located in Tabawan, South Ubian District. With its crystal clear waters, forms another natural swimming pool. A picnic haven. It is where a group of American soldiers were inspired to compose the song, "Tawi-Tawi Beach".

Bongao. The provincial capital. The only place in Tawi-Tawi where simple amenities can be availed of. Lodgings are spartan. Bazaars and small cafes crowd the commerdial center. At the marketplace, foodstalls serve seafare and native delicacies like the "tapa", cured boar´s meat.

The Royal "Kupungan". The capital, located some eight miles away rises straight out of an Arabian setting. Along the coastline are houses on stills built above the shallow waters. Docked nearby are boathouses. Padding out for a day´s catch are the sea gypsies to dive for pearls and to fish.

Mosque at Simunul. Another pilgrimage site built by the Arabian missionary Shiek Karin Ul Makdum in 1380 A.D. Makdum´s tomb at the southern shore of Sibutan continues to be revered.

Sangay Siapo. An uninhabited island with its pure white beaches and extensive coral reefs. Its beach is a perfect place for beach combing and spear fishing.

Sitangkal. Tha "Venice of Tawi-Tawi", has an eye-catching appeal. The sight of babies learning how to swim even before they learn to walk is a delight to watch.


Hariraya Puasa. A religious Muslim holiday.

Hariraya Hadji. A religious Muslim holiday.

Amon Jaded. A religious Muslim holiday.

How to get there. It is one hour and ten minutes away by plane from Zamboanga and some 26 hours in travel time by ship passing through Jolo in Zulu.