More than the armed conflicts that most people would link to the province of Sulu, there are destinations within their borders that are relatively and proven peaceful, year-round. One, in particular, is the municipality of Banguingui. It is located at the western fringes of the mini archipelago of Sulu, with no land connection, thus, geographically isolated to the main island of Sulu. It is inhabited by the peace-loving tribe, the Sama tribe, and also, the sea-thriving Badjaus. I came to know this town, thanks to Google Maps, since my goal is to reach areas mostly unknown by the local travelling community.
NICE TO KNOW ABOUT BANGUINGUI
- The old name of Banguingui is Tongkil, which is actually more known by the locals.
- Islam dominates the religion in Banguingui.
- Their ethnicity is Sama Banguingui, one of the peaceful tribes in the Philippines.
- They have a turtle sanctuary area.
- They have many white beaches dotting their place
HOW TO GO THERE
It is crucial first is to contact their tourism officer, Sir Mar, of your intention to visit Banguingui. You have to pre-arrange your trip there since he has to schedule your boats for the island hopping.
Fly from Manila or Cebu direct to Zamboanga City. The municipality of Banguingui is directly connected only to Zamboanga City via a public ferry service. Since the pandemic started, the daily public passenger ferry varied in schedule. It is best to contact their energetic tourism officer, Sir Mar Appao for updates.
The usual approximate departure is past 8:00PM and will sail for about 6 – 10 hours depending on sea conditions and what vessel type. Upon arriving at their common seaport, you have to wait for Sir Mar until he collects you. The seaport is not connected to their town proper in Luuk Proper, and you have to take another boat ride to reach the Poblacion.
If you will be sailing via a cargo boat, expect that you would just lounge on its almost-bare main deck, like we did. It is not that comfortable with the usual passenger boat with mattresses, but a hell lot of adventure and experience. Best spot on deck is mid-front, right at the back of the pilot area.
POINTERS BEFORE VISITING
- Have enough cash stash. They do not have any ATM in the islands.
- Electricity is limited and is powered either by solar or generator. Have your powerbanks and other spare batteries in full charge.
- Have a Talk N Text Sim ready since this is the dominating network in the area with good LTE reception.
- It is best to visit during summer season to avoid the brunt of the Amihan and Habagat monsoon winds.
- Don’t litter around and Leave No Trace Principle all the time.
- Respect the local culture and faith. Learn and greet locals using their language.
- Smile always.
- Rest and recover if you need.
- Waterproof your electronics since you will be travelling most of the time over water.
- Follow rules set by the municipality.
- Observe modesty.
OUR ITINERARY IN BANGUINGUI
White Sand Beach of Dipul Island – this is actually their previous quarantine area during the pandemic area. The area has erected huts facing the clear blue sea featuring white sand beach splattered with broken corals and seashells. The island is currently inhabited by a few families.
Devil’s Rock Formation – this is a short trek and a bit of rock scrambling from Dipul Island White Beach. We are thrilled since we are the very first visitors to see these amazing and unique reddish rocks. There are so many interesting points and textures in this very spot. We also found a blowhole like structure that spurts water should there would be ample wave strength.
Seaside Banyan Tree – It is rare to see such a huge Banyan Tree growing on a rocky seashore with a white sand beach at its adjacent roots. It features its many vine outgrowths below a wide sprawling canopy, offering a good backdrop for your social media posts, plus, it exudes a creepy and mystic feel. Around the roots are smothered with rocks and corals.
Manisan Beach – it is one of the developed resorts in Banguingui. It features its own docking area, carpet-like grass, huts, a hall and an old canyon dated from the Spanish Invasion. This is where big occasions and events of the municipality are held because of its spacious outdoors and availability of a huge hall.
Sahaya Beach and Sand Bar – it is best to visit during sunrise and sunset to enjoy the warm glow against the white sand. Also, at low tide, the beach features interesting ripple patterns on the sand bar. It is located about 10-minute walk from Luuk Poblacion. We could have explored more of the islands but the daunting waves caused by the monsoon winds kept us anchored on the islands.
Gastronomics – coincidentally, we arrived when the whole town is observing the 7th day death anniversary of a prominent person. We are given the opportunity to share meals with the locals and try their delicacies and staples. Much excited I am as I will devour one of my favourite cuisines in the Philippines. Also, Sir Mar prepared us a full seafood diet during our stay, fresh, tender, delectable, sumptuous, scrumptious, and bursting with flavour.
You do not have to worry your accommodation there, you can arrange it with Sir Mar. Since the area is an emerging destination, expect the basics only. Anyhow, you will be just there to sleep and recover.
This trip is made possible by Cebu Pacific, for my roundtrip flight from Manila to Zamboanga. Also, our heartfelt gratitude to Sir Mar and Sir Omar for taking care of us during our stay, we appreciate your effort in making our stay as convenient as possible.