BONGAO, Tawi-Tawi – Tourists visiting this southernmost province will be surprised of the new infrastructures in the two most iconic tourist destination sites — the Sheik Karim-ul Makdum mosque and the majestic Bud Bongao Peak.
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman led the inauguration on Monday of the PHP80 million in the town of Simunul that included improvement of the access road, Sheik Makdum Cultural Center, and a welcome arc fashioned with a big Quran.
“It is but fitting to improve this area not only for tourism but most importantly to value the place because this is where Islam was introduced to the Philippines,” Hataman said.
The Sheik Karim-ul Makdum is located in Barangay Tubig Indangan, Simunul, a fourth class municipality.
Islam, through Arab merchant Sheik Makdum, was introduced in the country in 1380.
Simunul Mayor Ahmad Abdurrahman said in an interview that they have been receiving a steady visit of Muslims across the country.
“What we are doing right now is to train our communities on how to handle tourists. The good thing about tourism economy is that it trickles the benefits down to the communities,” Abdurahman said.
Sec. Don Mustapha Loong of the Department of Public Works and Highways in ARMM (DPWH-ARMM) said that their interventions are the region’s counterpart to the development of the site of the mosque.
Loong said the National Historical Institute (NHI) is in charge of the rehabilitation of the mosque.
Loong said the mosque has undergone several renovations more than 600 years after it was established. The original four pillars of the mosque are still intact.
Hataman also inaugurated the P56-million tourist center building and pavement of the more than two kilometer stretch in Bud Bongao Peak, located in the municipality, the province’s capital.
The project also included viewing decks, 14 waiting sheds, and solar-powered led-lights within the 250-hectare eco-tourism site.
Mayor Jimuel Que said an average 1,500 visitors weekly climb the Bongao Peak.
“There’s a need to balance the area as tourist site and environmental protection. People trekking the Bud Bongao will not just enjoy the challenge to reach the top of the mountain but importantly to learn the rich biodiversity of the mountain,” Que said. Darwin Wally T. Wee/PNA
The visitors are also greeted by long-tail macaques inside the elephant-shape mountain.
The Bongao Peak was also the burial site of Sheik Makdum, which is also being visited by pilgrims and Muslim scholars.
At the top of the mountain, one can view the several island municipalities of this province such as Simunul and Sibutu.
This province comprises of 11 island towns. Aside from Simunul, Sibutu and this town, the other towns are Languyan, Mapun, Panglima Sugala, Sapa-Sapa, Sitangkai, South Ubian, Tandubas and Turtle Islands.
Sec. Ayesha Vanessa Dilangalen of the Department of Tourism in ARMM (DOT-ARMM) said this province is the region’s best asset.
Dilangalen said this relatively peaceful province has been the favorite destination of tourists among the five provinces of ARMM.
Other tourist spots in the province are the renown Turtle Islands and its several diving sites.
“This is on top of the fresh and very affordable seafood you can enjoy,” Dilangalen added. Darwin Wally T. Wee/PNA