Looking to feed your wanderlust and searching for new destinations? Put Tawi-Tawi on your travel list. There are lots to see and exciting things to experience in the “country’s last frontier”. I am pretty sure you have heard of Panampangan Island with the biggest sandbar in the country. The island is truly amazing. There is another island worth visiting—Simunol Island. The island is listed as “historic” and it’s along the boat path to Panampangan Island. Do make a quick stop.
Simunol Island is the larger of two islands in the Municipality of Simunol. The other island is Mangkaw, or Manuk Manka, 3.5 kilometers to the south.
Why is the speck of land in the Celebes Sea historic? It is said that the first Muslims in the Philippines arrived in this island making it the cradle of Islam in the country. And it seems logical that the first mosque in the country, the Sheik Karimol Makhdum Mosque, was built in this spot in 1380. It was named after the Arab missionary who erected the edifice.
The current mosque houses what is said to be the original four posts of the old 14th-century mosque. But studies made by the National Museum of the Philippines confirmed that the pillars date back to the 17th century, which makes the pillars we see today as remnants of reconstruction of the mosque in the 17th century.
Whatever the pillars’ history is, these are considered sacred and are the oldest known Islamic artifacts in the entire Philippines with 400 years of age.
Sheik Karimol Makhdum Mosque is a National Landmark (as declared by the National Historical Commission) and a National Cultural Treasure (as declared by the National Museum).
Legend has it that the sheik is taller than the ordinary human. The size of the mound, where he is believed to be buried, is unusually longer than normal. He’s a giant, perhaps?
Further inland, is another giant, a living giant known as Papa Bull and a park was built in his name. Papa Bull is a crocodile—a large one. The croc has become somewhat of an attraction, especially during feeding time.
Did I mention that Simunul has six beaches? I haven’t had the chance to check any of it, but that gives me a good reason to go back. But if you’re not a beach person, there is a natural freshwater pool in the island’s interior. It’s quite a popular spot for picnics among the locals. Go take a dip.
Also published in the SunStar Davao newspaper.
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