Bongao: Where Destitute Survive

Poverty is indeed affecting the Sulu people in general. In my observation, at least 20% of the Sulu people who are living in a luxury life, this includes the local politicians, businessmen, and other professionals who succeeded with their career be it at home and in abroad. The left percentage would be shared by middle class and lower class citizens. But it is the lower class, who are the indigent, has a high share of percentage, let say 50% of 80. The remaining 30% would be for the middle class. Anyway, even not to use centile ranking, poverty is so high in this part of the world.

Bongao is a place where the destitute, who are the victims of corruption, could survive. The things would be needed to survive here is just to lift the shyness from the face [Hi ig in luman – Tausug Language] and tirelessly do the menial works in the market and in the wharf.

The town of Bongao is serving as a hub of business in Tawi-Tawi. Most of the commodities in the entire islands would be brought here. The mode of transportation to load the goods from the islands is lansa and small boat such as the basnigan and pump boat.  

Tawi-Tawi is richer in seaweeds, fishes and copra. The dried seaweed such as the carrageenan [agal-agal], squids, octopus, yellow fin tuna, live fishes, lobsters and other sea products are delivered to Business Companies in Zamboanga City and in Sabah.  It was there in Zamboanga where the Tawi-Tawi products reach international companies.

The vessels arrive to Bongao wharf from Zamboanga City is almost daily. There are at least four vessels operating to this island. Out of that four only a vessel directly travels from Zamboanga City to Bongao, the rest have to pass by Jolo, Siasi and to Sitangkai after it docked at Bongao’s pier.  Airplane is also operating to this island twice a day with reasonable prices. There are also lansa and Jungkung operating from Bongao to Sandakan, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu and Tawau. Most of the lansa and Jungkung were bringing in commodities from Sabah.

Even Bongao is not that develop in terms of buildings and other infrastructure; on its town you can have an easy access to the internet in various cybercafé, withdraw money from banks, western union and lhullier. “The only thing that hinders the development in Bongao is due to insufficient fund from the Philippine government” according to Filipino Governor Sadikul Sahali.

There are also restaurant operating in Bongao serves western foods but most of the locals are patronizing local delicacies such as Pastil, Satti, Bang-Bang Sug, Halo-Halo, Piyutu, Siyanglag and other Tausug food. I could not forget the restaurant in Awal Street which serves delicious halo-halo and pastil.

The business of the people of Bongao is mix. The people who have no enough money to upgrade their business were just selling fishes, vegetables, cooked foods, fruits and other things in the market. While the well off are the one who bought the products brought by the islanders to Bongao.

I hope someday, this slow develop town would become a busiest island city, where it has an international airports, international wharfs, and become like Singapore having toll ports between Bongao and Sibutu [Prof. Adil idea] where the foreign vessels use to pass daily. All these are impossible under the corrupt administration, the current government, but it is possible to the government of the Sultanate of Sulu Darul Islam, Insya’Allah.

May Allah uplift the status of the destitute in Sulu Archipelago once the SSDI fully implementing the De facto government.  

Visit Tawi-Tawi!