Published: February 21st 2010February 9th 2010
Today I am off to visit another island called Simunul, where apparently an ancient missionary of Islam was buried, Sheikh Makhdum is his name.The first Muslims in the Philippines are said to have arrived at Simunul. The first Mosque in the Philippines was Built here by Sheik Karimul Makhdum. This Mosque is called The Sheik Karimal Makdum Mosque. Inside this mosque stands 4 hags where it is repainted every year. Anyways, getting there is really simple, just get on the boat from the Chinese pier. First I have to drop off my backpack at the hotel reception and make my way to the pier. I walked from Rachel's hotel, and started asking people at the Chinese pier where is the boat to Simunul, apparently there are 3 destinations to the island municipality, namely Tubig Indangan, Tampakan and Manuk Mangkaw, none have arrived yet at 9am when I was there so I went for a walk to watch the Intramurals being held here in Bongao, all island municipalities compete here the town is full of kids from different schools all over the archipelago, the Governor is there, the Barangay chairmans etc. all the important people.
Went back to the pier and
mosque Of Sheikh Makhdum
try and figure out where the damn boat is, they have no destinations posted just boat names, so you need to ask the locals, the vendors or the people on the boat. A woman told me the boat she is getting on goes to Simunul so I followed her,inside the boat I asked a man who told me the boat is for Manuk Mangkaw and it will not stop at Tubig Indangan so I have to get off! I walked around asking people where the boat for TI is, I asked porters, a police guy, fruit vendors everyone pointing me to different directions, an elderly gentleman told me I can get to Tampakan and then take a pump boat from there, problem is i can't find the boat either! Very annoyed and discouraged I already contemplated just going back to the hotel and book the next flight out to Zamboanga! In the searing heat I was wilting, the Chinese pier is very crowded, smells of trash, drying fish, me and other people's smell's overwhelms my senses,I stood next to a shade and casually asked another vendor if he knows the TI boat, he pointed me to the boat behind his
stall! So I quickly hopped on asking everyone I pass as I get up the ladder if indeed the boat goes to TI, affirmative nods!
Took my place in one of the seats, it's a big boat and you can sit anywhere so long as there is space, people have been waiting there for a while now. i watched as people load up the boat with goods, people from other islands come to Bongao to shop for food and daily needs,you see eggs, noodles, clothes, even plywoods and other materials for say boat building.This is excruciating wait, I sat for a good 2 hours before we finally left almost at 1pm, a breeze came through the boat, what a relief, I have been inhaling 2nd hand smoke from locals who have no regard for other people. You see all types of trash in the water, mostly plastic bags, and it smells funny too, the pier. The trip is about 45 minutes, the water is calm and in no time we are in Tubig Indangan(TI). I was told by the Tourism head in Bongao, Salvacion that I should just look for the Barangay chairman, she neglected to tell me they
have 2 Barangays in Tubig Indangan! Tom, an elderly gentleman sat next to me,asked me where and what am I doing there, so I explained my predicament, he mentioned that the barangay chairman of Doh-tong(one of the 2 barangays, the other is also called TI)is in the boat, he took me to him and introduced me , first impression he wasn't really that friendly, expressionless, he shook my hand and just stared at me, we got off the boat and told me to go with Tom and he will catch up with us. Tom dropped me off at the chairman's house, he is the chairman's uncle and he lives just next door. He left me at the veranda and soon the chairman came.
He turned out to be friendly, with lots of stories to tel but his Tagalog is not that good so explains his hesitations. I told him I am a tourist and was given instructions to report to him and maybe get some assistance to see the attractions of his island. He gave me a brief history of the Sheikh Makhdum which by the way is his namesake, the sheikh was a missionary from Saudi Arabia who
octopus for sale
came here to propagate the Islam religion, this he claimed is the place where the seed of Islam was first planted in the Philippines in the 14th century. We had a snack then he took me for a walk to see his barangay, and we dropped by the mosque that the sheikh established, there are 4 wooden pillars made from the Ipil tree which was way back then predominant in this island, now scarcely found. The mosque is very simple but nice, the pillars are impressive, they have intricate carvings and this is all that is left of the original mosque, the elderlies there told me several legends about how the sheikh came here, and that he is a giant of a man and with super strength.His tomb was behind the mosque and is very simple, sand covers the tomb, it's very long, but am not sure whether he is actually that size or they just super sized the outline just so it would correlate with the legend., there are ancient tombs here and there around the perimeter.
It's about 4pm now and kids and adults started coming out after shading from the heat of the day, the streets
are busy, I noticed heaps of volleyball courts some are makeshifts, one is on the road! people here love to play the sport and they are pretty good, very aggressive spikers! i did not stay to watch them play, I asked the chairman if he could provide me a motorbike to explore the island, he left and when he came back a motorbike was there with a driver, his cousin Alemar, he will drive me around the island i just need to cover the gas cost, barely 50 pesos. Alemar took me to different barangays in the island, all the nook and crannies, there is a good paved cement road but does not run the whole of the island, we crossed a bridge to the other side, nice coastline, and of course every barangay has a volleyball court, kids playing near the shores, waving at me with a ready smile, people are so friendly. We went to some caves with a big tree full of monkeys! It used to be a swimming hole when Alemar was a kid but now a bit dirty, too bad.
Went back to the town at dusk, I bought some fish from kids to
contribute for dinner as i am staying at the chairman's house. We bought some flying fish, i wanted to try them. just as when we are going back to the house, the chairman's brother stopped us and took the fish and said we have more than enough he wanted to return it to the kids, i asked if we could keep a few of the flying fish so i can try it, i felt bad for the kids, we got our money back of course. Such hospitality, they won't have be spend a cent for food! Dinner was gorgeous, fish and more fish, fried, stewed, escabeche grilled, oh such luxury. After dinner the chairman and i engaged on an interesting conversations about the local people's superstitions in his island. i dont really believe them but he seems to be a big believer about spirits and monsters! he's kid at heart, a scared one! As barangay chairman he prohibited dynamite fishing but he claimed people still do them, very stubborn and hard headed, he said there used to be a lot of fish in the canals around their barangay now it's dwindling and people have to go out far in the
se to catch a decent amount of fish
Later Alemar and one of his cousins took me to the stores to buy some booze, they wanted to drink tanduay rhum and nestea iced tea mix, their favorite cocktail concoction. People here are not supposed to drink since they are Moslems but some still do but discretely. We went to this store that looks shut but a tap on the door and whisper to the lady we want Tanduay, it readily came under the cover of the night, no lights so no one can see us perhaps. We have to hide the rhum bottles in our pants, out of respect for the elderly in the house we have to keep it as a secret! we went up to the room above the dirty kitchen where we are going to sleep for the night, its open and breeze can go in and out, I chose to sleep here rather than inside.We went drinking, this guys are strong drinkers we finished quickly then went to bed. I watched the stars above brightly lit, electricity here is only from 6pm to midnight, after that, it's the moon that gives light. People sleep here
3am the roosters started crowing! damn these birds i want to wring their neck! I was expecting the morning call to prayer would wake me up but did not hear it at all! The mosque is close by, I must have drifted to sleep somehow to not hear them. 6am we got ready for breakfast so we can get to the pier and catch the boat back to Bongao. people wake up early here too, and they take coffee and sit in the corner or against their houses' walls and stare at a distance. Alemar wanted to come with me for my adventures so i agreed, at least have a chaperone to help with communication with the locals, and also good company to chat with. At the pier the chairman saw us off, the boat was full, we sat in the front. During the 45 minute trip I saw 2 brown turtles diving down as the boat approaches! really cool, i thought they were floating garbage at first, what a sight to see! We arrived in Bongao and ready to connect to the Sibutu boat.
-Boat to Simunul leave at the Chinese pier in
Bongao, around 11 am to 12 noon once daily, there are 3 boats to the island of Simunul(for Tampakan, Tubig Indangan and Manuk Mangkaw) make sure you get on the Tubig Indangan boat, if by any chance you took the wrong boat, pump boats are available to take you to Tubig Indangan but you may need to hire it
-Boat goes back to Bongao from Tubig Indangan, Simunul around 8am, also once a day only
-when arriving at Tubig Indangan look for the Barangay chairman of Doh-tong (Makhdum Hamja) his house is open to visitors, very nice family, they will take care of you, if any case he is not available look for Alimar Karim(cell#09398371012) or the Barangay chairman of Tubig Indangan, the other barangay.They let me stay with them for free! but maybe you may want to give donation or bring fruits as gift from Bongao if you chose to but not really necessary, they are plain hospitable
-trips outside of Bongao, i.e. inter island travel it is best to report first to the Provincial Tourism office head, Mrs. Salvacion Pescadera(cell phone#0910 6716367) so they can give you guidance and tips and security if need be,
travelling in Tawi Tawi I consider safe but notifying them of your presence makes it easier to get assistance from them
-travel to Simunul you can easily do on your own, should you chose to travel with the tourism staff be aware they charge a fee, I believe 1,000 pesos/day/group or individual and you pay for their transport and food
-bring bottled water, they use rain water for drinking, though I did not get sick drinking it, better safe than sorry if your tummy is sensitive
There are more photos below