Off the Beaten Track: Mapun, Tawi-Tawi
Guest post by Mara Ione Sarail
Mapun? Where is that?” I get this question a lot when people ask me about my hometown. I’d ramble on and on the island (its location and the culture and the pretty spots...) but since the place is not really in any of the Philippines tourist spots and is in the middle of nowhere, I might as well talk about Atlantis instead. But the island does exist.
Mapun Tawi-Tawi or Cagayan de Sulu) is an island municipality in the Sulu Sea on the southwestern extreme of the Philippines, located very close to Sabah. Or from the way I see it on the Philippine map, the island is located on the Philippine’s “armpit”.
Mapun is a volcanic island. The picture above shows Mt. Nanggoy, an inactive volcano near the Sapah Lake. The most popular tourist attraction in Mapun would be the three crater lakes on the west part of the island. Legend says that the three lakes were once volcanoes that erupted together. The first two, Danao and Singuwang, became freshwater crater lakes (now quite inaccessible and infested with crocodiles), and the third lake, Jurata, empties out to the Jurata Bay.
The island has plenty of undiscovered falls, natural springs, inland marshes and hidden white sand beaches and rock cliffs. There are also islets near the island where turtles are being raised.
How to get there:
From Zamboanga City, go to Wee-Bin Wharf and inquire at one of the wooden ferries bound for Mapun for their schedule. Boats don’t have regular travel schedule. Departures depend on the weather and inconveniently, subject to daily, sometimes hourly changes. If you have limited vacation time, say a few days to a week, I won’t suggest vacationing here. But if you have unlimited time, then I’d say go for it.
Travel time can range from 16 hours to as much as 36 hours. You can also get there from Palawan from one of the wharfs in Brooke’s Point and travel time usually takes about 12 hours. Word of advice: Don’t expect private rooms at the ferry. It will be one communal area with cot beds and no canteens so you have to bring bedding and plenty of baon, most preferably those not easily perishable.
Google Map on Mapun's location, here.
Where to stay:
Since the island is quite inaccessible most of the time, there are no hotels or inns available. You have to bunk in with a friend who lives there, or if you know me, you can stay at my house
What to expect:
People subsist mostly on fresh fish and vegetables. There are no fast food chains or grocery stores, but some stores do sell dressed chicken and a lot of chicken products. Most of the people who live there practice Islam, but there are also Catholics and Seventh Day Adventists and they have been living in peaceful harmony for years. The locals are also quite friendly and very accommodating.