Panampangan Island | Philippines’ Longest Sandbar
Yes, there is another beautiful world beyond what you think of Tawi-Tawi. Not surprisingly virgin, Panampangan Island is definitely one for beachbums, photographers & those who love the languid castaway feel.
I have been to Tawi-Tawi a few times in the past. And in each time I went, Panampangan was always on my mind. Unfortunately, getting there isn’t as easy as hopping on a leisure cruise. It’s far & expensive to go to. It had to wallow on my bucketlist for some 15 years or so.
Finally, I had my luck when I got invited to witness the recent Agal-Agal Festival in Languyan. And nothing could be more exciting than a side trip to Panampangan Island! A big shoutout of love to DOT-ARMM & to Mayor Jimuel Que of Bongao for whisking the magic.
Panampangan Island, as wonderfully imagined!
The island is within Basibuli Shoal in the Municipality of Sapa-Sapa. At 12 hectares, it’s surely just a speck of land dotting the wide Celebes Sea. But what makes it stunning is the sparkling white sandbar that spans 3 kilometers.
The sandbar is so stretched that during low tide it connects Panampangan to Basibuli in a beautiful crescent shape. At 3,128.37 meters to be exact, it is the longest sandbar in the Philippines tailed by Angela, Manjuyod, Queen Helen, Manlawi & the rest. (Click here for Schadow1 Expeditions’ list of mapped sandbars.)
Keep Calm. No Harm
I know what’s running on your mind now—–Tawi-Tawi is scary! I feel you because I had the same thoughts the first time I went there in 2002. But for the record, it is the safest province within the Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi archipelago.
Pirates do not exist here because there is a naval base stationed in Panglima Sugala. The Philippine Coast Guard regularly patrols its shores too.
In fact, you’ll be surprised to find that some of the friendliest people on earth are in Tawi-Tawi. While it is predominantly a Muslim province, everyone peacefully coexist regardless of religion or lifestyle choice.
Sexy & you know it!
Panampangan Island is so away from it all that you can be in your skimpiest exposure ever. And if you really like a standout OOTD shot, come in anything that creates a stark contrast against the blinding white sand & turquoise sea.
How to get there?
Sure, it was a rock star feel cruising around on a speedboat loaded with helps & escorts. But it also got me thinking, if the mayor did not host us, how can regular tourists get access?
If you like chill over thrill, take the regular motorized boat like how Rod of Just Go Pilipinas did. At P5,000 they cruised for about 3 hours. But with sambal prawn, squid & grilled tuna on board, who would mind the long hours of travel?
However, note that there are no fixed prices for these services yet. So powder up & use your charm.
Is that all it, just the island?
There are so many things to love about Panampangan Island. It is secluded, pristine & unhurried—served to you all at once. And to strike it a bit of character, houses on stilts float in the middle of nowhere.
The island is uninhabited but some Badjao communities who live on nearby islands paddle to Panampangan to sell seashells, fish, seaweeds & sea urchin to tourists.
Other than these, the island is yours to own.
Is Tawi-Tawi ready for tourism?
Yes. In fact, Bongao has a small airport that serves Platinum Skies & Cebu Pacific flights from Zamboanga. There are modest hotels, resorts & restaurants too. And if old-world cafes are your kind of fancies, Bongao will eat your hearts out.
Indeed, Panampangan Island is one of the most exotic destinations in the Philippines. It is some place you can say, you’ve arrived to escape. Wander into the sensational yonder. Feel beautifully away in Tawi-Tawi.
It is always best & wise to coordinate your adventures in Panampangan Island
with the Provincial Tourism Office of Tawi-Tawi or with the Department of Tourism-ARMM.
Click the links above to get connected.