Brief History – Bongao

The word Bongao is derived from a local term (both in Sinama and Tausogbangaw, a name of a bird called heronin English. Bangaw abundantly inhabited in the mountain ranges around Bongao Island, thus, the place was identified with it.

Prior to the coming of the Spaniards, the inhabitants of Bongao, then a part of Sulu Province, were under several types of leadership based on the ethnic origin of the rulers. When centralized form of local government then came into being, more structures were built.

However, when Americans took over in 1898, a “President” was appointed to oversee the administration of community affairs. Bongao was a mere political district under the Province of Sulu. It was during this time that formal education was introduced in this part of the country with ArolasTulawie as the first teacher.

The following served as “president” of Bongao in chronological order, to wit:

DatuHalunSakilan 1898-1932

DatuWagasHalun 1932-1936

PanglimaJalilul 1936-1943

Imam ArabaniAplaha 1943-1944

When Second World War broke out, the term “ President”was changed to “Mayor”as the Chief Executive of the district. Since no election was held that time, this position of Mayor was still appointive. The following persons served as appointed Mayors of Bongao:

DatuWagasHalun 1945-1946

Sandakan Adjaluddin 1946-1949

Mangkabong Nasa 1949-1950

Imam MudaalaAnnao 1950-1951

Imam Ajihil 1951-1954

Dioeng Tadus 1956-1957

Epifanio Hernandez 1957

Ibrahim Hassan 1957-1959

In 1958, President Carlos P Garcia issued Executive Order No. 355, creating the Municipality of Bongao. That time Bongao was still a part of Sulu Province. That Executive Order took effect on July 1, 1958 with Ibrahim Hassan as the first appointed Mayor of Bongao after its creation. With him was Binging Ho who was appointed as Vice Mayor.

When the first election took place in 1964, Binging Ho became the first elected Mayor of Bongao. He remained as such for a period of twenty-two (22) years or until the EDSA Revolution in 1986.

Upon the assumption of President Corazon C Aquino in 1986 after the EDSA Revolution, Dr. George R Lee was appointed Officer In Charge of the Mayor’s Office in Bongao.

However, in 1988, SulayHalipa was elected as the second Mayor of Bongao and served for three (3) consecutive terms spanning a total period of ten (10) years (1988-1998).

In 1998, HjiSali E Samsuya took over. He served as Mayor for only twenty-five months due to his untimely death on August 14, 2000. By Law of Succession, Vice Mayor Albert T. Que automatically assumed as the new Mayor. In one term, Law of Succession has promoted Mayor Que twice. He was elected as the Senior Councilor in 1998. In February 2000, he became Vice Mayor when Vice Mayor Hja. SahayaImlan passed away of cardiac arrest. Then, after five (5) months as Vice Mayor (from February to August 2000), Mayor Que became the Mayor of Bongao when Mayor HadjiSaliSamsuya died.

HonorableJimuel S. Que is currently the Mayor of Bongao, succeeding his elder brother former Mayor Jasper S. Que.


The Municipality of Bongao is composed of three (3) major islands, namely: Bongao, Pababag, and Sanga-Sanga. It lies in the southwestern tip of mainland Tawi-Tawi. It is approximately located at map coordinates of 5 to 5 15” latitude and from 119 44’ to 120 longitude. In its south is the Sulu Sea, northwest the Municipality of Languyan and in its southeast is the Municipality of PanglimaSugala.

It has a total land area of 11,490 hectares in the 1990 NSO report that excludes its foreshore areas. Nonetheless, based on the survey conducted by the Provincial Land Use Committee in 1997, the total land area of the municipality including its foreshore is 25,042 hectares.


As the capital town of Tawi-Tawi Province,Bongao is reached from Zamboanga City by plane in an hour and ten minutes every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday or five times a week; by fast sea craft in seven hours every Monday and Thursday; and, by commercial boat in eighteen hours every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There are also other available commercial boats that travel passing through Jolo and Siasi that arrive in Bongao after two nights sea travel.

Bongao is also reached by motor launch from other island-municipalities depending on the distance and the weather. Land vehicles reaches the municipality of PanglimaSugala from Bongao. Boats from the nearest Municipalities of PanglimaSugala and Simunul also travel more than an hour to Bongao and vice versa daily except Friday.