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Lalawigan ng Tawi-Tawi
Flag of Tawi-Tawi
Map of the Philippines with Tawi-Tawi highlighted
Map of the Philippines with Tawi-Tawi highlighted
Coordinates: 05°10′N 120°15′E / 5.167°N 120.250°E / 5.167; 120.250Coordinates: 05°10′N 120°15′E / 5.167°N 120.250°E / 5.167; 120.250
Country  Philippines
Region Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)
Founded September 11, 1973
Capital Panglima Sugala
de facto seat of government: Bongao
 • Type Province of the Philippines
 • Governor Nurbert Sahali (Liberal Party)
 • Vice Governor Tati Ahaja (Liberal Party)
 • Total 1,087.40 km2 (419.85 sq mi)
Area rank 73rd out of 80
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 366,550
 • Rank 64th out of 80
 • Density 340/km2 (870/sq mi)
 • Density rank 21st out of 80
 • Independent cities 0
 • Component cities 0
 • Municipalities 11
 • Barangays 203
 • Districts Lone district of Tawi-Tawi
Time zone PHT (UTC+8)
ZIP code 7500 - 7509
Dialing code 68
ISO 3166 code PH-TAW
Spoken languages Вajau-Sinama, Тausug/Ѕulus, Zamboangueño Chavacano, Cebuano
‡ Both Panglima Sugala and Bongao are recognized as capitals by the NSCB, but the provincial capitol is located in the latter.

Tawi-Tawi is an island province of the Philippines located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The capitals of Tawi-Tawi are Bongao and Panglima Sugala. The province is the southernmost of the country, sharing sea borders with the Malaysian State of Sabah and the Indonesian North Kalimantan province. To the northeast lies the province of Sulu and to the west is Sabah in Malaysia. Tawi-Tawi also covers some islands in the Sulu Sea to the northwest, the Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi Island and the Turtle Islands, just 20 kilometers away from Sabah.


Sibutu remained under Spanish rule until 1900.

Tawi-Tawi was previously part of the province of Sulu. On September 11, 1973, pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 302, the new province of Tawi-Tawi was officially created, separate from Sulu. The seat of the provincial government was established in Bongao.

The name of Tawi-Tawi is a projection of the Malay word "jauh" meaning "far." Prehistoric travelers from the Asian mainland would repeat the word as "jaui-jaui" to mean "far away" because of the distance of the islands from the continent of Asia. The word "Tawi-Tawi" was picked up to later become the official name of the province.


Political map of Tawi-Tawi


Tawi-Tawi is subdivided into 11 municipalities:

  • Bongao is the capital of the province and a microcosm of religious and cultural diversity.
  • Languyan was created by then President Marcos for rebel leader Hadjiril Matba who decided to join the government fold in the 1970s.
  • Mapun (Cagayan De Tawi-Tawi or Cagayan de Sulu)
  • Panglima Sugala was formerly known as Balimbing. However, in the EDSA Revolution, the word "balimbing" acquired a derogatory meaning associated with turncoatism due to the fruit's many sides.
  • Sapa-Sapa
  • Sibutu is home to the descendants of Malay royalty in Borneo and not necessarily associated with the Sulu royalty.
  • Simunul is the site of oldest mosque in the Philippines and home of the revered Sheikh Makdum, one of the early pioneers in the spread of the Islamic religion in the country.
  • Sitangkai the southernmost municipality in the country; known as "Venice of the South"
  • South Ubian
  • Tandubas
  • Turtle Islands are declared as turtle sanctuaries and protected areas in the Philippines.

Most of the municipalities are located on the islands in the Sulu Archipelago. Two of them, Mapun, and Turtle Islands lie in the Sulu Sea. The municipalities are further subdivided into 203 barangays.


Tawi-Tawi lies at the southwestern tip of the country. Irregular in shape, with splashes of white sandy beaches and rock-bound coasts, the province has 107 islands and islets with a combined land area of 1,197 km2 (462 sq mi).

The province has two seasons: dry and wet. The climate is generally moderate. The wettest months are from August to November. The other months of the year are generally dry with occasional rain showers.


The main island of Tawi Tawi supports many endemic species and subspecies of vertebrates, invertebrates and plants unique to this island, plus some that are only shared with Sulu Province. These include the Tawi Tawi Brown-dove, the Sulu Hornbill and the Sulu Bleeding-heart, although this latter species may already be extinct. The rapid expansion of human settlements into forested areas together with clearance for agriculture in the last few decades has dramatically reduced the available habitat for most of the endemic species, many of which are now considered 'Critically Endangered' by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.


Population census of Tawi-Tawi
Year Pop.   ±% p.a.  
1980 194,651 —    
1990 228,204 +1.60%
1995 250,718 +1.78%
2000 322,317 +5.53%
2007 450,346 +4.72%
2010 366,550 −7.22%
Source: National Statistics Office[2]

Most of the people in Tawi-Tawi belong to the Sama cultural group. Within this group are subgroups and named based on the location of the speaker. Sama Sibutu are those from the Sibutu-Sitangkai Island Group, Sama Simunul are those from Simunul-Manuk Mangkaw Island Group, and so on.

The Jama Mapun are largely found in the Cagayan Mapun and Turtle Island Group. Many of the people from the Turtle Islands and Cagayan Mapun maintain daily commerce with Sabah, since it is only 14 kilometers away.

The Badjao (also called "Sama Dilaut") are widely dispersed across the province, though their population is diminishing due to diseases and migration to other areas in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Tausog or Tau Sug, Orang Suluk or Aa Suk are a Moro ethnic group constituting a significant minority in Tawi-Tawi. Historically the Sama people were subordinated to the Tausog and ethnic tensions continue to be a problem.[3]


The prevailing local language is the indigenous Bahasa Sama which is widely used in varied tones and accents. This variety led to the development of Sinama dialects. The major ones are Sinama Sibutu (spoken mainly in the Sibutu-Sitangkai Region), Sinama Simunul (concentrated in Simunul-Manuk-Mangkaw Islands), Sinama Kapoan (spoken in the South Ubian-Tandubas and Sapa-Sapa Regions) and Sinama Banguingui (concentrated in Buan Island and spoken by Banguingui people).

The Βajau-Ѕama language is also spoken, as are English and Filipino (Tagalog). Many locals and barter traders can speak Malay and Indonesian. Zamboangueño Chavacano is also spoken by Christian and Muslim locals who maintain contacts and trade with the mainland Zamboanga Peninsula and Basilan. The Tausug language is however the lingua franca of Tawi-Tawi, as in the case of the rest of the provinces in the Sulu Archipelago.


Agriculture, fishing, and agar-agar farming are the leading source of livelihood of the people of Tawi-Tawi, with quite a number engaged in the barter trade business. Copra is the top agricultural product, followed by root crops, fruits, and vegetables.


Sanga-Sanga Airport, the main airport of the province, is located in the municipality of Bongao.

Cebu Pacific began operating a daily flight from Zamboanga City to Tawi-Tawi Province on October 14, 2011, utilizing its 150-seater Airbus A319 aircraft. In 2012, Air Philippines also started operating flights to and from Zamboanga city.

A sea connection to other parts of the Filipino archipelago as well as an international route to Semporna, Malaysia is available from Bongao.

The oldest mosque in the Philippines can be found in Tawi-Tawi, as well as ethnic groups Sama, Jama Mapun, Tausug and Badjaos. It also serves as a gateway to Sabah, Malaysia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Department of Agriculture: Tawi-Tawi (There seems to be major discrepancies among authoritative sources: 362,655 ha (NSCB 2007), 120,876 ha (NAMRIA), 1,197 km² (Department of Tourism), 999 km² (Mapcentral))
  2. ^ a b "Population and Annual Growth Rates for The Philippines and Its Regions, Provinces, and Highly Urbanized Cities". 2010 Census and Housing Population. National Statistics Office. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Rosaldo, Renato, ed. (2003). Citizenship in Island Southeast Asia: Nation and Belonging in the Hinterlands. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520227484. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 

External links[edit]