Major jump-off: Pasiagan Village, Bongao
LLA: 5.01361°N 119.7422°E, 314 MASL
Days required / Hours to summit: Half-day / 2 hours
Specs: Minor climb, Difficulty 2/9, Trail class 2
The southermost mountain in the Philippines is Bud (Mount) Bongao, a sacred site for the Muslims, and a landmark for the seafarers of Sulu Sea. As you approach it from the Jolo ferry, it is shaped like a plateau, reminiscent of South Africa’s Table Mountain. Dramatically it surges up from the sea, making it imposing even though its elevation is only 422 MASL.
The trek is a profound experience.You will have to wear ‘sawal’ or a cloth you wrap around your neck, as a sign of respect for the culture.You will also have to bring bananas to feed the expectant monkeys. Indeed the moment they detect your presence, they will congregate around you. As they approach, the rumbling of the trees would make it seem as if there’s an earthquake. Though shy at first, they’ll be more aggressive afterwards, even fighting for your attention. Indeed the monkeys are among the prime attractions of Bud Bongao
As you reach the peak, you will smell the scent of rangutay trees. The trunk of this fragrant species was highly valued in the imperial courts of China and Japan. Back to the trail, you will see a tomb at the top: this is a tomb of a Muslim saint and his family; treat the site with respect. According to another account, the entombed body is that of Anjaotals, who belonged to an ancient Muslim royal family. This shrine is said to have healing powers.
Ten minutes away there’s a nice view deck,with the view of Sanga-Sanga island and the airport (NNE) and the islands of Sibutu (WSW) and Simunul (SSE). ; on a clear day you will see even the faint outline of Malaysian Borneo (Sabah). Interestingly, Borneo is already west, not south, because Bongao is already on the same latitude as Malaysia. Other islands visible include
Its location, at the southermost tip of the Philippines, with a unique culture and picturesque seascapes, places Bud Bongao on the list of great hiking destinations in the country!
0530 Take tricycle to jump-off from Bongao town proper
0600 ETA jump-off point. Register then start trek.
0830 ETA peak. Feed monkeys and take pictures
0900 ETA viewdeck; take snacks here
0930 start descent
1100 back at jump-off point; take trike back
1200 Lunch at Bongao; proceed to next destination
*Travel to Bongao from Zamboanga is via air (SEAIR) or sea (Weesam Liner)
The reputation of Tawi-Tawi is blemished by the strife of Southern Mindanao, but is actually a very peaceful place. Aside from the cultural advisory, there are no special concerns for the climb. Don’t forget to bring the bananas!
Bud Bongao is the only mountain in the Philippines where foreign land (Malaysian Borneo) can be seen.
WEATHER OUTLOOK: BONGAO, TAWI-TAWI