The Panampangan Paradise

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Tawi-tawi’s hidden gem

Of the 7,107 isles and islets that comprise the Philippine archipelago, 307 belong to its last frontier – the province of Tawi-tawi.  I consider myself lucky for being able to set foot on at least four of them. One of them truly a paradise on earth – the virgin island of Panampangan.

JourneyingJames, the surfer and the blogger who had backpacked around the Philippines for 100 days and been to practically every beautiful beach in the whole country wrote in his blog, “Ask me what’s the finest white sand beach I ever saw and hands down I will say aloud- Panampangan Island, off the coast of Tawi-Tawi.”

For somebody who had always fantasized of the white shores of Maldives, reading it made me long to see Panampangan for myself.

So I booked a flight for Tawi-tawi,  with four things in mind – the local breakfast in kahawans, Bud Bongao, Simunul Island, and Panampangan Island.

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Panampangan islet on the map

On my third day in the province, after an overnight stay with a hospitable Sa’ma family in Simunul Island and a tour around the capital town of Bongao the following day, I was about to give up my hopes of seeing Panampangan.  From Bongao, one has to charter a speed boat for P6,000 to reach the uninhabited islet. My three round trip plane fares from Tacloban-Cebu, Cebu-Zamboanga, and Zamboanga-Tawi-tawi when summed up would not even amount to such a hefty price for my poor pocket.

But fate favored with me. Mindanao State University just concluded the Tawi-tawi Jobs Fair the day before.  ARMM Assemblywoman Ma’am Samira Gutoc who initiated the event would be visiting the island for the first time. I rejoiced upon hearing the good news  from two tourism staff, Kuya Ladz and Ate Cdang that Ma’am Salve Pescadera, the Tawi-tawi Provincial Tourism Officer invited me to come along. The planned hike to Bongao Peak could wait until the afternoon.

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The boat moved at a speed that took our breaths away. But it was even more breathtaking when we finally arrived. The long stretch of immaculate white sand lay impressively on turquoise waters so pristine I could clearly see the creatures beneath. Dappled with coconut trees, and the picture of a tropical paradise was perfectly complete.

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calm and clear waters surrounding the Panampangan sand bar

I’m afraid that my photographs, let alone my bad writing, can’t give enough justice to the splendor of this place. It’s as if the Creator had fashioned something out of some precious white crystals and threw it somewhere between the Sulu and Celebes seas. I was instantly charmed. It was idyllic as I took off my flip-flops and sauntered on its fine powdery white sand. They were so soft and white they reminded me of something. Goldilocks milk polvoron. Yes, that’s it! And who would not be tempted to take a plunge into its inviting waters? As the sacred mountain of Bongao awaited for my ascent, I was frolicking in the resfreshing waters of Panampangan.

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“Lalong sumasarap ang sardinas kapag sa ganitong napakagandang  lugar ka kumakain.” I must have heard some of them say.  A picnic of sardines, biscuits, chips, and Tawi-tawi native delicacies by the beach with Ma’am Samira Gutoc (in blue hijab) and Ma’am Salve Pescadera (in red blouse) together with the Tawi-Tawi Provincial Tourism Office Staff.


Blessed with unspoiled beauty yet its image marred by the conflicts of its neighboring places and the sensationalized media coverage, the province of Tawi-tawi is like an exotic food.  If you don’t have the guts to try one, you wouldn’t know that you missed one of the greatest wonders nature has to offer.  Dare, give it a shot and you’ll soon discover its flavors bursting throughout your tastebuds, surprising you even more, making you crave for more,  and you’ll ask yourself, why haven’t I tried this before?

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For assistance contact the Tawi-tawi Provincial Tourism Staff
Ate Cdang – 09476395011
Ka Queen- 09288300581
Kuya Ladz – 09108532442
Kuya Ben – 09126425593/09075932907
or check out the Tawi-tawi Provincial Tourism Facebook Page


19 thoughts on “The Panampangan Paradise

    • You take the best photographs so go back to Tawi-tawi and take better pictures of Panampangan. Our time on the island was a bit limited I was confused what to do first, sa sobra kong saya. Oo nga, Mindanao is really blessed with beautiful beaches, I plan to explore more of it.

      • I can’t wait to visit this islet, and hopefully the surrounding islands as well. I will dedicate next year to explore more of Balabac, Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi (including Mapun and Taganak). Salamat dito sa post mo, I just made that sudden plan. Kung sinuwerte ako noon sa Tawi-Tawi, mas sinuwerte ka ngayon. Sana pagpunta ko may kasabay ako para makatipid.

  1. Ang layo ng Mapun sa mapa ng Tawi-tawi. It spells adventure, I’m tempted to go there. And yes, Sulu, which was included in my initial plans for this trip. Hopefully, next year. There’s Kuya Ben naman who will inform you kung kelan maraming bisita para may makasabay ka.

  2. Bad writing! Geez, Tell me you are joking. Give me 2 mikes and I’ll laugh. 😀
    The beach looks so so cool. I love beaches like that -when the sand stretches out so clear and the water is sightly low. I miss Philippines.

    • It’s not that expensive when you’re in a group or maybe you could get lucky like me.hehe. Am not sure if the Ramadan season has anything to do with the safety of the place, but from what I know, Tawi-tawi is relatively safe any time of the year. Probably much safer than Manila.

  3. wow! you are awesome!!! ang galing, handsdown ako sa lakas ng loob mo! at sympre nainggit ako sa beach! ♥

    “If you are kind-hearted you won’t have trouble climbing,” – btw, eto din sinabi samin nung inakyat namin yung bud bongao. ang galing!

    • Cha and Chyng, bilib ako sa mga travel adventures nyo at higit sa lahat inggit ako sa mga napuntahan nyo sa basilan at tawi tawi. Plano ko sana punta sa malamawi basilan next week baka may maibibigay kayong guide sa akin pagpunta ko doon. Any piece of advice would be very helpful. you can also email me at Wait ko sagot nyo ha. Thanks!

      • Hi Avin! My apologies for not being able to reply to you sooner.(Internet access and electricity are still a bit elusive here in Leyte) I hope you were able to read my Basilan post since I posted helpful information there. And I do hope you did have a great time in Malamawi. 🙂

  4. Hello, Cha! Thank you for sharing this information, it is very helpful. I called Ate Cdang before we visit Tawi Tawi and she was very accommodating and helpful our stay wouldn’t be as successful and filled with enjoyment without her guidance. I hope that all tourism staff would be like Ate Cdang and her efforts be recognized. She’s very friendly and humble. We were so thankful to meet someone like her, she even said to thank you for sharing your Tawi Tawi experience online. Big thanks to Ate Cdang and to you!

    • Hi Dith and Merari! I felt happy reading your comment with the thought that you had just explored Tawi-tawi and also met ate Cdang. I suddenly miss the place and its hospitable people. So glad that you enjoyed your stay there. 🙂

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