You could tell if a destination is gaining ground in terms of tourism when their infrastructure starts improving. During my recent visit to Tawi-tawi, I was able to climb Bud Bongao again. I certainly noticed a new building, paved stairways and other pleasing developments. It was eight years ago when I last climbed Bud Bongao. A time when there still a heavy stigma hovering over the province. But now that stigma is slowly lifting. People are learning that Bongao, Tawi-tawi is relatively safe which resulted to a three-fold increase in tourism arrivals just this year, 2017. At the forefront of the province’s tourism project is the Bud Bongao Eco-Tourism Park. A 342-meter high sacred mountain with an imposing presence at the center of the island.
No rain. I guess the afternoon squall has finally decided to halt. I just got out of Wat Pho and noticed I still have enough time to explore another temple that afternoon. The Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun is just across Chao Phraya river. Just a short walk from Wat Pho is the ferry terminal to cross the river. Only 3.50 baht and I’m across the river in less than 10 minutes.
We need more museums than malls. I sure am glad we have another National Museum opening its doors real soon. On October 29, 2017, National Museum of the Philippines celebrated its 116th year anniversary. As a treat, they opened the National Museum of Natural History for a day. It was a great way to preview what the museum would offer once it officially opens sometime early 2018. With this development, Manila adds another knowledge enriching landmark to compliment the Fine Arts, Anthropology and Filipino People Museum in Manila.
It took me three visits to Tawi-tawi before I finally set foot on the famed Panampangan Island. It’s not an easy island to reach like most of the islands in the region. Hiring boats have a hefty cost especially for independent travelers. An invitation to cover the Kamahardikaan 2017 festivity includes a visit to the island. It was an opportunity that’s hard to pass. Panampangan Island is considered the longest sandbar in the country.
“San ka galing? (Where did you come from?)”
“Sa malayo! Sa merloquet! (Somewhere far! At Merloquet)”
For Zamboangueños, ‘merloquet’ used to be a fabled place pertaining to somewhere far far away when used in colloquial conversation. Nowadays, it pertains to Merloquet Falls that has gained popularity in the recents years due to its wide pour and lovely wall of cascades. It is still far far away in Zamboanga City but I managed to visit the place as a side trip while in the region.
I like non-commercial festivals like the Agal-agal Festival in Tawi-tawi. They are refreshing and different. Unlike popular festivals that honors the Sto Niño, Agal-Agal Festival celebrates the way of life of the Sama people. From harvesting agal-agal (seaweeds), courtships, and even the supernatural. I was excited to see the Agal-Agal Festival 2017 since I enjoyed witnessing it the first time three years ago in Bongao. This year, the 44th Kamahardikaan Festival is hosted by the municipality of Languyan.
It was one of those national landmarks in the country most people are familiar with. Having grown up reading about it on text books, Magat Dam is known one of the largest dams in the country. The water is mainly used for irrigation, flood control and electric source through the Magat Hydroelectric Power Plant. We took a drive to the municipality of Ramon from Echague to visit this popular dam for an afternoon sightseeing.