By: Nickson Garcia
This is not a completely informative write up. This is a three (3) part story that highlighted my personal experience on our seven (7) day journey to the southern most part provinces in the Philippines - SULU, BASILAN and TAWI-TAWI. An experience that changed how I think about these provinces, the people living in it and my life.
After an overnight RORO trip, we arrived back at Zambaonga while we wait for the boarding time of our next province, BASILAN! Ivan did not join us anymore for he has already been to BASILAN. Together with me in this trip was York, Steve, Vincci, Jon and our new found friend, Chris. Aboard Weesam fastdcraft, the six of us sailed for over an hour until we reached Basilan's capital, Isabela.
First order of business was Basilan's well known white sand beach, Malamawi! From the Isabela port area, you need to transfer to Malamawi port. From there, a 15-minute habal habal ride will take you to the beautiful beach of Malamawi Beach resort. It was a weekend and we were expecting tons of people in the beach. Luckily, there were few visitors.
I have been to many untold beaches/islands in the country yet still, new beaches still gives me the feeling of awe. Malamawi beach could be different in many things. Clear, pristine and uncrowded waters would be top selling point of the beach. The unique structure of the beach walkway suits best for people who loves taking pictures. And lastly, it is found in Basilan. One of the places considered by many as dangerous.
We spent a few hours at Malamawi before heading back to the municipality of Isabela. We really have no itinerary for Basilan and we just relied on itinerary given by the solo traveler we met, Radi. As we walk in the streets of Basilan, we asked around for the best place to stay overnight. We were surprised as we walked towards a hotel, BASILAN BUSINESS HOTEL!
Basilan business hotel is considered to be one of the best and fanciest hotel in Basilan. Imagine being in a place considered to be unsafe yet there exist one of the finest hotels. The ground floor interior are fine. They have in-house restaurants serving classy cuisine. The rooms were spacious, bed are comfortable and sheets were soft, comfort rooms are clean.
We just spent a day in the main city visiting the provincial capital and eating at Jollibee Basilan. We went back to the hotel to enjoy its fancy amenities and bed.
On the following day, we booked a tour courtesy of Yazeh Lauh, a member of the tourism office of Basilan, to tour us around the city capital of Basilan, the city of Lamitan.
One of the destinations of Lamitan is the Bulingan waterfalls located at Brgy. Bulingan. This 30 foot waterfalls has a unique structure. It cascades down to its basin thru the stair-like rocks. Bulingan is considered as an eco-friendly destination where families, friends and tourist meet to have a quick dip. Next on our itinerary were Wee Siu Tuy Hall or the Lamitan musuem was a site showcasing the tribes of Yakans, history of Lamitan as well as its historical artifacts such as musical instruments and costumes.
As part of the tour, we had our lunch at Lamitan marketplace and tasted its locale delicacy called "lokot-lokot". It is made from sticky rice and tastes sweet. It may be considered similar to a barquillos but lokot-lokot is much more tasty. The Lamitan marketplace is just your typical marketplace offering cheap "turo-turo" foods. What makes this marketplace memorable for me was the hospitality of the servers. Yes, we tourist from Manila but their service makes me wanna go back to Basilan for that sole reason alone.
Lastly, we went to a weaving center where famous Yakan hand weaving and witnessed how the community does it. You will be amazed how hard and detailed they work for on this weaves and that is why its prices could cost a fortune.
Ending the tour also signifies the end of our stay at the province. Contrary to what other think, including myself, Basilan is not a dangerous place. They may be a victim of unfortunate circumstances but tourism wise, they have many places to offer. In terms of Security, we traveled from point to point with lesser assistance from the military personnel . And the people were very accommodating and kind to assist us in every way that it makes me wanna go back again.
They may still struggle in terms of tourism for to some areas may still be under the influence of rebel or that some destinations are waiting to be explored but changing the mindset of travelers about the place would attract more tourist and eventually increase it tourism. There is more to explore in Basilan than those places we have been at. But with limited time, it is sad to bid goodbye with the hopes of exploring more of Basilan in the future.
Before, my very reason of going to Basilan was for the thrill and excitement of being in a place of danger. But my experience changed my perspective, I want to go back because of the place and the people. Sometimes, what makes the place memorable is not just the place itself but the people in the place and that is what Basilan thought me, it is a province dangerous, beautiful.
Photo credits to:
1. Nickson Garcia
2. Steve Jensen
3. Jon Calugay
Sulu Province: Secured Wonder
Tawi Tawi Province: Your Home Away From Home