By Maya M. Padillo
Bongao, a municipality and the capital of Tawi-Tawi province is now slowly making a name in domestic tourism. Although it is still reeling from negative news generally about Mindanao, the Local Government Unit (LGU) in partnership with the Tawi-Tawi Provincial Tourism Office and Gawad Kalinga’s Kusina ng Kalinga keep pushing to find its place in the tourism world.
The partners organized its first Ultramarathon race aiming to bring in more tourists and stir economic activities.
As one of the highlights of the 59th founding anniversary celebration of the municipality of Bongao, 190 ultramarathon runners from across the country defied their limits as they dashed in the 15K, 25K and 50K race courses. An ultramarathon, also known as ultradistance running, is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometers.
The 50K race course took the runners around Bongao’s paved coastal and mountain highways including an ascent to Bud Bongao, the province’s highest mountain at 422 meters above sea level.
At the end of the race winners for the 50K are: 3rd place (female) – Jovene Torribio, clocking in at 4 hours 52 minutes; 2nd place (male) – Marianito Ramirez, Jr., clocking in at 4 hours 38 minutes; 2nd place (female) – Mary Ann Beth Kong and Ma. Elena Cuario, clocking in at 6 hours 46 minutes; 1st place- Anthony Delima, clocking in at 4 hours 36 minutes.
The winners of the Bongao Ultramarathon Age Category are: 29 years old and below – Female: Catherine Millan, Male: Jonel Bechayda; 30 to 39 years old – Female: Mary Joanne Lim, Male: Oliver Angeles; 40 to 49 years old – Jessibel Casamis, Male: Roderick Salih; 50 and up: Maktadir “Thadz” Absara.
Bongao Mayor Jimuel Que, who also took part in the race, said the activity will not only give the runners an opportunity to see how peaceful and beautiful the municipality but with their pleasant experience in Bongao, they could help bring in more tourists and help stir economic activities in the municipality.
Race director Dan Requejo Bercasio of The Great Filipino Race said they want to hold races in areas that are rarely visited by people. He said when people hear about Tawi-Tawi, there are so many misconceptions about the province that’s why they decided to hold it here to prove them wrong.
Bercasio also plans to hold races in other areas in Mindanao, such as Maguindanao, Sulu and Bukidnon.
Department of Tourism in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Secretary Ayesha Mangudadatu Dilangalen said they are hoping to have a bigger Ultramarathon next year to strengthen the promotion of the race and help make Bongao as sports and tourism destination.
Proceeds from the race will go to the feeding of public school children in Tawi-Tawi for at least one school year through Gawad Kalinga’s Kusina ng Kalinga program.