Infobox Philippine province
name = Tawi-Tawi
sealfile = Ph_seal_tawi-tawi.png region = Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)
capital = Panglima Sugala
founded = 1972
pop2000 = 322,317
pop2000rank = 17th smallest
popden2000 = 296
popden2000rank = 21st highest
areakm2 = 1,087.4
arearank = 7th smallest
hucities = 0
componentcities = 0
municipalities = 10
barangays = 203
districts = 1
languages = Tausug, Sinama, Banguingui
governor = Sadikul Sahali
locatormapfile = Ph_locator_map_tawi-tawi.png

Tawi-Tawi is an island province of the Philippines located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The capital of Tawi-Tawi is Bongao. The province is the southernmost of the country sharing sea borders with the Malaysian State of Sabah and the Indonesian 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.


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 migrants from the Sulu Province and came to Tawi-Tawi in search of better livelihood opportunities or run away from the seemingly undending conflict and violence in Sulu.


The prevailing 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 Tausug language is also spoken, as are English and Filipino (Tagalog). Many local locals and barter traders can speak Malay and Indonesian.


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 produce, followed by root crops, fruits, and vegetables.


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



Tawi-Tawi is subdivided into 11 municipalities.

*Bongao - Is the 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 70s.
*Mapun (Cagayan De Tawi-Tawi)
*Panglima Sugala used to be known as Balimbing. However, after the EDSA Revolution, the word "balimbing" got a rather derogatory definition as a turncoat.
*Sibutu - is home to descendants of Malay royalty in Borneo and not necessarily associated with the Sulu royalty.
*Simunul - 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.
*Sitangkai - "Venice of the South"
*South Ubian
*Turtle Islands

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 1197 km² (462 square miles).

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.


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 "jaui" 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.

Outstanding Citizens

From Sitangkai and Sibutu

Abdulwahid Bidin - Lawyer, judge and former justice of the Supreme Court.

Datu Nur Jaafar - Political leader. Currently the province's congressman. Scion of the Jaafar Nobility.

Eddie M. Alih - Environmentalist, academician, philanthropist and current Chancellor of the Mindanao State University @ Tawi-Tawi.

From Bongao

Alih A. Bud - 'Alim (Religious Scholar), academician, development worker, peace advocate and until his demise Dean of the College of Islamic and Arabic Studies; Director of the Supreme Council for Islamic Preaching and Guidance - Tawi-Tawi. He finished his teacher education from MSU-TCTO; his Islamic education (baccalaureate) from the International Islamic University, Islamabad Pakistan and his master's degree from another university in the same country.

Filemon Romero - Environmentalist, academician and researcher. Currently associated with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippines.

From Tandubas

Santanina Tillah Rasul - Political Leader, Educator and Women's advocate. Formerly member of the Philippine Senate and Chair of the Bantay Dagat Philippines, and Chair of the Philippine Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy.

From Simunul

From Panglima Sugala

Panglima Sugala - Traditional Leader. He is recognized as the highest traditional leader throughout the area. The current municipality bears his name.

Imam Jainuddin Dionga - Traditional Leader. He is the undefeated local headman of Buan Island. He was arrested and incarcerated by the Japanese for his involvement in the liberation movement. He serve as Vice Mayor of Panglima Sugala (then named Balimbing) for some time.

From Bannaran

From South Ubian

From Cagayan Mapun

Abdulwahid Inju - Religious Scholar, Peace Advocate. He holds the distinction as the first Jama Mapun to have earned a tertiary Islamic education. He obtained his degree from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. He is currently the Mufti (Jurisconsult) of the province, the first native-born to hold the office. He is also connected with the Supreme Council for Islamic Preaching and Guidance - Tawi-Tawi and is the Division ALIVE Coordinator in DepEd ARMM Division of Tawi-Tawi.

From Turtle Islands

From Languyan

Hadjiril "Gerry" Matba - School Teacher, Revolutionary and Political Leader. He is a school teacher before joining the MNLF raising to become one of the top commanders until he re-join government service. Languyan Municipality was created from Bongao through his initiative and became itslongest serving local executive. During the Marcos time, aside from being the mayor, he was also provincial vice governor. He was the undefeated governor of the province until his demise. He was succeeded by his son, Rasheedin Matba.

External links

* [http://www.tawitawi.gov.ph/ Tawi-Tawi official government website]
* [http://www.wowphilippines.com.ph/explore_phil/place_details.asp?content=description&province=117 WOW Philippines - Tawi-Tawi]

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