The Panampangan Paradise
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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?
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