i am born and raised in the island of Basilan. spent the first seventeen years of my life there thus i consider it as my island province. lived in the former capital city of Isabela, which is now part of the Zamboanga peninsula.
there are no direct commercial flights to the island, making Zamboanga city as the gateway to the island. there are a number of trips of ferries and fast crafts to the island every day. with two major ports going to the city of Isabela and Lamitan.of the many years of conflict and unwanted events, very few has dared to cross Basilan strait, the water that separates Sulu sea in the west and the Moro gulf in the East. home to the Muslim ethnic group Yakan and Tausug and a number of sea gypsies, the Badjaos.
among the most usual sight when one enters the Isabela channel are the stilt houses of the Badjaos. occupying the shoreline of Basilan island on the left and Malamawi island on the right. something usual to islands of the archipelago of Sulu of which Basilan island is the largest.i grew up seeing Badjaos begging for coins from the ferries of the pier of Isabela. they would usually ask the people to throw it to the waters while they all jump from their wooden boats to get the coins. a display of their expertise in deep sea diving.
with the continuous conflict between the military and the terrorists in the archipelago, military detachments are also positioned in the channel. it serves as dock points to navy boats, watch towers and on weekend are turned into picnic sites.
Isabela city is a component city since administratively it belongs to the Zamboanga peninsula while the rest of the eleven municipalities including Lamitan is part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or more known as ARMM.
the city is divided by the Aguada river with the central and commercial area in the east and the large residential area in the west. main source of livelihood is agriculture which includes rubber, copra, coffee and palm oil which are often exported.
the main seat of government in the island is the new provincial capitol in the central city area. the old capitol was on the same location which was burned in 1993. few knew that Basilan before it became a province, was as a whole declared as Basilan city along with Zamboanga city but was later divided into seven municipalities and now to twelve to extend leadership.
a park away from the capitol is Sta Isabel cathedral, the church that has been bombed several times through the years, thus most of the time it is guarded by military soldiers. some of the gates are regularly closed to control the people entering the church. it was accidentally burned in the 1960s but was rebuilt with an altar with an intricate mosaic which came from Italy. one of the best that i've seen which i believe every visitor in the island should closely see.though the long conflict in the island lead it in isolation to tourists, it is a misconception that Christians and Muslims cannot live together. i grew up having Muslim barkadas, really good friends and we get along together even now. we knew our differences, we knew where we can go together.
how to get there:
there are regular flight from Manila to Zamboanga with the major airlines - 1hour 20minutes
from Zamboanga, take a taxi to the pier of the ferry that goes to Basilan. better if you ask the taxi to bring you directly inside the pier.
option 1: cheaper way is by ferry to the pier of Isabela. 1hour and 40minutes.
option 2: taking the fast craft which is less than an hour to the pier of Isabela.
it is advisable to check first the situation in the island before setting a visit. i also recommend that you know of someone from the island who can guide you around.
6^ 42" 22' N
121^ 58" 20' E
finally... everyone has been waiting for this post:)great photos. The stilt houses..it reminds me of my province pero last visit ko dun wala na...pina alis na sila.
I guess your province has alot to offer for travelers sana nga lang maayos na ang gulo...since we are all filipino.
I just attended a Muslim wedding yesterday, and was amazed at how grand their celebration was. It was my first time and I was culture shocked at what I saw - sabi ng isang kasama ko: para kang hindi taga-Mindanao. I was actually surprised he said that, but I acted like one, amazed, awed. i still have a lot to learn when dealing with our brother Muslims. it's good that you grew to be with them, I'm glad you saw their culture earlier. I have yet to discover more.
This post was very interesting for an European like me. There are so many things we do not know or understand about that part of the world. Thanks! The photos are wonderful.
very interesting post. it's a place less known and very few photographs are online. thanks for sharing.
good to know you got along well with your friends of different religion while growing up.
the tall signage of jollibee in one of your photos really caught my attention. my family and i miss jollibee so much! haha!
Lovely photos and information about the island that we never heard of.
at last. first time that i looked at photos very intently..i like good stories and you have so many of them.
ibang-iba ang design ng capitol. galing!
ah, that's the Last Supper mosaic you told me about. i surely wont miss the chance to see that upclose. in time.. ^_^
Dong, I got some questions.
Are Yakan and Badjaos also follow the muslim faith?
And since you grew up there, do you know the reason of the animosity between the Tausug and Maranaws?
napakaganda ng basilan...
siguro sa mga susunod na araw,gusto kong mapuntahan ang ibat ibang kultura sa atin..
salamat dong, at isinama mo kami sayong paglalakbay..
Beautiful post, really interesting. This is such a characteristic place.
The much awaited post!
Dom, bring me to your howetown on a peaceful time ah :D
Would love to see the Badjao houses and the very nice church! As always! Love the shots! :D
grabeh kayo---sugal buhat edition na travel na anman to. although walang immediate threat, yung idea lang that the place is the center of recent conflict with the government and the muslim separatists instanly scared me. kahit sabihin pang safe ang isabela mismo---nawala na nga sa vocabulary ko ang basilan eh. kasi last to na lugar sa Pinas na pupunta ko. that was so brave of you Dom and your group.
Yey, finally! I am excited about this series, and you know why. Pang secret intelligence work ko. :P
Seriously though, it's very interesting maybe because I haven't read anything about Basilan that is not related to conflict, war and death. So this is really refreshing. And it's nice to see peaceful sceneries of Basilan. Like doc gelo, napansin ko rin yung Jollibee. Hehe.
And best of all, it's nice to get to know you more through this post. I'm looking forward to the rest! Cheers!
can u guide me when i go there? hehe...taga basilan diay ka ha. 1. great photos. 2. glad you're safe ^^ hehe. most people would really not go as far as basilan lalo na dahil laganap ang gulo rito. but tingin ko namn talaga worth a visit ang basilan...i heard...they have nice beaches there...have u been to one?
thanks for showing us a glimpse of this "hot spot". i'd love to see photos of the beaches--i heard they're fabulous. at may jollibee, pwede ako dito.:p
..and waiting was worth it, beautiful photos!
What an extraordinary sequence. I most like your photos of people, the way you capture faces and the intensity of their individual experience. Always, your posts take me to exactly where you are. Thanks.
I liked that this was written dokyu style. I hope that more people will get to read your Basilan series to know its other side. :)
Excellent photograhic coverage! Do the occupants of the stilt houses leave during stormy weather?
i loved the first picture!!! ang ganda.
Wonderful shots Dong. Thanks for sharing the beauty of Basilan. From the photos you shared, it makes me want to visit Basilan very soon. :-)
this series is simply refreshing... brings a new face to Basilan, which is totally different from what most of us would think (i guess). gleng gleng!
no one could tell a story better than someone who lived there. thanks for bringing me there doms.
expect more amazing shots and stories from basilan.
kailan ba tayo balik?
sama ako pls!! =)
Very interesting post, not many posts regarding Basilan. That mosaic does look interesting too (sana may close up =))
There's JOLLIBEE!!! :)
Thanks for sharing this, Idol! First time ko atang nakabasa ng may nagblog about Basilan.
Love all the photos.
thanks for taking us on a photo "walk" of basilan - a place we often here only from the news.
Taga Basilan ka pala Dom, meron na akong source of local info kapag pumunta ako ng Basilan.
Pati dyan may jollibee na
Hi Dom! :) I especially like this post because I felt as though I just went to Basilan by looking at your photos. I'm sure madami pa kami hindi nakita. I hope makapunta ako dito soon. :)
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