Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost province of the Philippines, was a revelation to me.
A remote province that is often portrayed negatively in media for violence and kidnapping, Tawi-Tawi isn't exactly the place most people would want to go for vacation. I had qualms going there and had seriously considered ditching the whole plan since the trip was scheduled a month after the infamous Zamboanga siege. But after doing careful research and contacting several people before actually going there, I was all the more convinced to give this place a chance. And I'm glad I did. Tawi-Tawi is the fulfillment of a dream, the final destination of my 80 Before 30 challenge.
Far from what we often see in the nightly news, at least in the capital town of Tawi-Tawi, I saw a market bustling with people trading their goods, a place with some breathtaking views and with unspoiled beaches that really wowed me, and I met some friendly people who introduced to us their unique culture, and extended much of their help for us to easily explore their town.
One of my favorite Tawi- Tawi experiences was when we got to the summit of the imposing Bud Bongao. The trek wasn't exactly a walk in the park due to heavy downpour days before we arrived, but the view from there made the painful hike totally worth it. Considered a sacred Muslim burial site, locals there believe that if they make the sacrifice of hiking this mystic mountain and saying their prayers, their wishes will be granted. If their wishes do come true, it's part of the tradition to go back and hike again as an expression of gratitude. I did utter a wish hoping it will come true, and hoping to see this place again in the future.
More of my stories about Tawi-Tawi soon.