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Province of Basilan
Lalawigan ng Basilan
Provincia de Basilan

Flag

Seal
Nickname(s): "Taguima"
"The Treasure Islands of the Southern Seas"
Motto: Arriba Basilan!
Location of Basilan within the map of the Philippines
Country Philippines
Region Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Zamboanga Peninsula (Isabela City only)
Class 4th Class Province
Districts Lone District of Basilan
Barangays 255
Official Languages Filipino, English
Other Languages/Dialects in Basilan Zamboangueño (Chavacano), Tausug, Yakan, Cebuano, Sama, Hiligaynon, Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese
Chartered City (R.A.288) July 1, 1948
Province (P.D.356) December 27, 1973
Government
 - Type Province of the Philippines
 - Governor Jum Jainuddin-Akbar (Lakas-Kampi-CMD)
 - Vice Governor Al-Rasheed Sakkalahul (Lakas-Kampi-CMD)
Area
 - Land 1,234.2 km2 (476.5 sq mi)
Elevation [1] 5 m (16 ft)
Population (2007)
 - Total 496,503
 Density 402.287/km2 (1,041.9/sq mi)
 - Demonym Basileño, Basileña
Time zone PST (UTC+8)
Area code(s) +6362
Patron saints Sta. Isabel de Portugal
Website www.basilan.gov.ph

Basilan (Officially: Province of Basilan; Fil. - Lalawigan ng Basilan; Chavacano - Provincia de Basilan) is an island province of the Philippines mostly located within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), except its capital, Isabela City, which is administered as part of the Zamboanga Peninsula Region. Basilan is located just off the southern coast of Zamboanga Peninsula. Basilan is the biggest and northernmost among the major islands of the Sulu Archipelago.

Basilan, although classified as a 4th-Class Province in terms of gross provincial income, is the only Province within the ARMM included in the Philippines' bottom 20 "Least-Poor" Provinces, having consistently shown one of the lowest incidences of poverty at only 26.19% of the general population, ranked 61 among the Philippines' 81 Provinces (in comparison, Sulu which is ranked first has a poverty incidence of 63.24%). More important, the gap between Basilan's rich and poor residents is among the narrowest in the country (ranked 3rd nationwide), pointing to one of the most equitable distributions of wealth anywhere in the country (Gini Coefficient 0.2826, which is slightly better than the Provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Cavite, Batanes and Batangas; internationally, Basilan's Gini coefficient is comparable to the national averages in Germany, Sweden, Norway and Austria, and better than Canada, France, Spain, Italy, UK, USA and South Korea).

Nationally, Basilan is 8th from the top (98.03%-2001; 98.7%-1999 at no. 7; 93.4%-1998 at no. 29) on the percentage of families with members of 18 years old and over gainfully employed. Basilan is likewise ranked no. 27 (88.17%; 2001) for percentage of families with head gainfully employed (down from no. 7 spot in 1999 at 98.7%; and no. 20 in 1998 at 93.40%).

Contents

Etymology

Examples of finely crafted Moro blades made from Basilan "basih" (iron).

Local Yakan oral traditions offer several names for pre-historic Basilan. Among the various names offered were "Uleyan" derived from the present-named Basilan Peak (Puno Mahaji), and later changed to "Matangal" after a mountain farther to the east of the island. These are names presumably used by the Maguindanao traders from mainland Mindanao, using these mountains as visible landmarks to guide them when navigating the Celebes Sea. Other names romantically given were "Puh Gulangan" or "island of forests", "Umus Tambun" or "fertile land", "Kumalarang" after the westward flowing river on the island's western half which is also otherwise called "Baunuh Peggesan".

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Taguima

Pre-Hispanic texts from royal archives of the Sulu Sultanate referred to the northernmost island of the Sulu Archipelago as Taguima (Fr. Taguime) from the Yakan who were called "Tagihamas" (people of the interior or hinterlands) by the Tausug and Samal (who came and settled in numerous but scattered communities strung along Basilan's western and southwestern shores and outlying islets and island groups).

Later references pointed to a place called "Bantilan", probably referring to Maluso, which was established as a major Tausug base by Sulu Sultan Muizz ud-Din (whose princely name was Datu Bantilan).

Imperial Chinese texts, however, are widely agreed to have been in contact with a "Kingdom of Kumalarang" during the Ming Dynasty, which is also believed to be the self-same island which now has a Barangay of the same name on its northwestern shores.

The earliest map of the Philippines which made reference to an island labeled "Taguima" was by Giacomo Gastaldi,[2] through woodblock prints in 1548 and subsequently published in the influential travel book of Giovanni Battista Ramusio, the Della Navigatione e Viaggi, which was published between 1556 and 1583 in 3 volumes. This was followed by Abraham Ortelius in his work "Indiae Orientalis Insularumque Adiacientium Typus" published 1573 in a German text edition of the Atlas "Theatrum Orbis Terrarum" at Christopher Platin in Antwerp, Belgium. As late as 1719,[3] a map titled "Die philippinische Inseln - Isle Brneo" by Allain Manesson Mallet of Frankfurt, Germany was published which features an island still labeled "Tagyma I."

Basilan

How all these were eventually changed to Basilan is, as is the norm among most of the Philippines' place names, simple miscommunication between the natives and the Spanish (who probably meant well but heard wrong), Royal dynastic politics in Madrid, as well as the penchant to engage in editorial license by European map-makers of the aforesaid era.

Quite poignantly, as though a harbinger of its violent and colorful history, Basilan's name is derived from its iron ore deposits turned into elegant weapons - blades and knives - which used to be plainly abundant in that period of swashbuckling Conquistadores and Tausug pirates and slave-raiders.

The first Spanish map of Mindanao officially naming "Basilan" island (instead of Taguima/Tagyma) by Nicolas Norton Nicols, published in 1757, during the reign of Spanish King Ferdinand VI (July 9, 1746 to August 10, 1759)

Pioneering Tausug warriors and slave-traders from Sulu, came to Taguima to purchase high-quality magnetic iron ores which were brought back to Sulu and turned into swords and blades crafted by local smiths. This profitable trade in iron ore, helped in large measure by the establishment of Maluso as a major military-naval base of the Sulu Sultanate, eventually gave the island the distinction of being "the place to go for 'basih-balan'", with 'basih-balan' being the Tausug word for magnetic iron (Tagalogs call this magnetic iron ore "batobalani"). Roughly translated and abbreviated, however, "'Basih'-lan" means: "the iron (magnet) trail" or "the iron way".

When several Tausug warriors were caught by the Spanish in one of their numerous raids on the Zamboanga settlement, Spanish officials supposedly admired the artistry and skill that went into making the warriors' elaborately decorated swords, knives and blades, and asked where these weapons could be bought. From atop the ramparts of the Spanish commandery at the '’Fuerza del Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Zaragoza (Fort Pilar), the warriors supposedly pointed to the island visible across today's Basilan Strait, and said, simply: "ha basih-lan".

Reports from the Jesuit reducciones in Zamboanga and Pasangen (Isabela) were relayed to Manila where Spanish Cartographer Pedro Murillo de Velarde published the "Historia de la Provincia de Philipinas de la Compañia de Jesvs. Segvnda parte" featuring a map of the Philippines with the as yet unofficial "I. Basilan". This was printed at the Jesuit printing press of Manila in 1749. The map was re-published by German (Leipzig) map-maker Nicolaus Bellinn for general European circulation in 1752, again carrying "I. Basilan".

Finally, to represent a clear break from the Habsburg Dynasty (which ruled Spain for 184 years from 1516 to 1700), the first officially sanctioned Spanish maps of its colonies, including "Las Islas de Mindanao," were commissioned by the Bourbons (1700-present). This particular map of Mindanao, apparently copied from the Nicolaus Bellinn map of 1752, was published by Nicolas Norton Nicols in 1757 featuring "Basilan" and bearing the royal stamp of Spanish Bourbon King Ferdinand VI. It has been called "Isla de Basilan" (Basilan Island) ever since.

Treasure Islands of the Southern Seas

Basilan Island's reputation variously as a favored staging-ground for Moro raids on Zamboanga, the Visayas and even Luzon, and therefore the repository of much of the loot from these raids before they were shipped farther on to Jolo, gave it a notoriety not unlike the "Treasure Islands" of the West Indies or the Buccaneer's havens and pirate coves of the Caribbean.

Throughout the era, Spanish and Tausug fleets engaged each other in sea battles and skirmishes not far from the western shores of the islands, many of which were scuttled and sunk, sometimes with precious cargo of traded goods and Mexican silver pieces meant for the Fort in Zamboanga and the Naval squadron in Isabela, as well as goods en route to Jolo from the Mindanao mainland.

Even at a much earlier date, the Spanish, through the Pigafetta expedition, dropped by a group of Islets west of the Basilan (see also History of Basilan), where they found precious pearls, and which subsequent Spanish cartographers aptly named Isletas de Perlas (Pearl Islets). Native Samal and Bajao folk heard this, eventually calling this group of islets and reefs "Pilas" (Perlas), a geographical name which is still used to this day.

Of more recent vintage, local residents have likewise been relaying stories about gold bars and other trinkets stuffed in wooden crates and buried among the many islets west of the main island, by retreating Japanese troops at the end of World War II. To date, treasure hunters of various nationalities, among them Japanese and Europeans, have scoured the area for this fabled treasure.

All these tales of "Hidden Treasures" in Basilan's many, unpopulated and remote islets, eventually gave Basilan its nickname: the "Treasure Islands of the Southern Seas", immortalized in the official Anthem of the Province of Basilan, "Fair Basilan" (see also Basilan Jaycees) composed by Basilan lyricist and composer Snr. Tranquilino Gregorio, and first recorded in 1974 by the U.P. Madrigal Singers, with the accompaniment of the CCP Philharmonic Orchestra, and arranged and conducted by National Artist Lucrecia Kasilag.

Land

The province of Basilan has an aggregate historical jurisdiction of 135,892 hectares, with mainland Basilan encompassing an area of 124,892 hectares. The main island of Basilan is joined by the Pilas Group' of islands (now Hajji Muhtamad Municipality) west of the island, and the Bubuan and Tapiantana Group of islands (now Tabuan Lasa Municipality) in the south. These are listed among the Philippine islands with a moderate risk of getting hit by tsunamis.

Geography

Basilan in Mindanao, Philippines (Regions IX, X, XII and ARMM)

Basilan is geographically located between latitude 6°15' and 7°00' longitude 121°15' and 122°30'.

Basilan is one of a system of 7,107 islands that make up the Philippine archipelago. Regionally, Basilan is the biggest and northernmost island of the Sulu Archipelago between the Philippine island of Mindanao and Borneo which includes about 400 islands. The island chain is one of two partial land bridges to Borneo and is an important migration route for birds. Basilan Strait, about 17 nautical miles (31 km) at its narrowest point, separates Basilan Island from the mainland of Mindanao and the port city of Zamboanga.

The island is washed by the Basilan Strait from the North, the Sulu Sea from the Northwest and West, the Moro Gulf from the Northeast, and the Celebes Sea from the South, Southeast and East.

Natural resources

The island of Omosmarata in Tuburan (now Mohammad Ajul) is listed among only fifteen (15) sites in the Philippines with commercially viable ocean thermal energy potential. The Philippines' ocean thermal resource area is 1000 square kilometers, based on the archipelagic nature of the country. Based on a study, the potential capacity for this resource is estimated to be 265 million megawatts.[4]

Likewise, the Basilan Strait is listed among only eight (8) sites in the Philippines with commercially viable ocean tidal energy potential (along with Bohol/Talibon Strait, Basiao Channel, Surigao Strait, Gaboc Channel, Hinatuan Passage, San Bernardino Strait and San Juanico Strait).[5]

Only the Provinces of Basilan, Samar and Surigao have both high ocean thermal and ocean tidal energy potential for future development, a veritable gold mine in energy if properly harnessed.

Basilan likewise has fairly significant (yet underdeveloped) mineral deposits, specifically, iron ore ("basih"-lan), gold, manganese, copper, coal and rich agricultural lands.

Alienable and disposable lands cover 862.249 km2, forest lands occupy 406.526 km2, 294.194 km2 are underused, 574.85 km2 are under forest cultivation, while 689.479 km2 are under agricultural cultivation.

The Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea provides Basilan aquatic resources such as tuna, mackerel and sardines. Most of these are processed in canning factories located in nearby Zamboanga City, General Santos City (The Philippines' Tuna Capital), and Navotas.[citation needed]

Climate

The climatic condition is the same as other areas in the entire Zamboanga Peninsula. The annual average rainfall is 1,100 millimeters and mean annual temperature is 26.6 °C. Source of rainfall is the southwest monsoon and its location in the Intertropical Convergence Zone. The climate is classified as a tropical monsoon climate(Am) using the Köppen climate classification system.

Basilan, as part of Mindanao, is outside the typhoon belt. Prevailing winds are from the southwest with a speed of 4 knots (7.4 km/h).

March to May is hot and dry, with temperature at 22 degrees Celsius. June to October is rainy. November to February is cool, with temperatures ranging from 22 degrees Celsius to 28 degrees Celsius. Average humidity year-round is 77%.

Climate data for Basilan, Philippines
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 102
(39)
108
(42)
99
(37)
106
(41)
99
(37)
108
(42)
104
(40)
100
(38)
106
(41)
99
(37)
99
(37)
100
(38)
108
(42)
Average high °F (°C) 82
(28)
81
(27)
81
(27)
82
(28)
82
(28)
82
(28)
82
(28)
81
(27)
82
(28)
81
(27)
81
(27)
81
(27)
81
(27)
Average low °F (°C) 75
(24)
73
(23)
73
(23)
75
(24)
75
(24)
77
(25)
75
(24)
75
(24)
75
(24)
75
(24)
75
(24)
73
(23)
73
(23)
Record low °F (°C) 63
(17)
63
(17)
68
(20)
55
(13)
70
(21)
68
(20)
63
(17)
70
(21)
59
(15)
55
(13)
70
(21)
68
(20)
55
(13)
Precipitation inches (cm) 1.6
(4)
2
(5)
1.6
(4)
2
(5)
3.5
(9)
4.7
(12)
5.1
(13)
4.7
(12)
5.1
(13)
6.3
(16)
4.3
(11)
3.1
(8)
46.9
(119)
Source: Weatherbase[6] Jan 2009

Topography

The terrain is relatively plain with several undulating slopes (especially in Isabela City) along the coastal areas and hilly towards the interior. Urban areas are usually 2.5 meters above sea level and gently sloping to 300 meters toward the hinterlands. The stand of timber and forest vegetation is more or less evenly distributed throughout.

Basilan National Park is located at the eastern portion of the remaining public forest located between the City of Isabela and the municipalities if Lamitan, Tipo-Tipo and Sumisip. It has an elevation of 971 meters above sea level, where the The tallest peak, Puno Mahaji or the Basilan Peak, is located and dominates the landscape.

Flora and Fauna

Several species of Flora and Fauna have been discovered to be unique to Basilan, some of whom have been named accordingly, this includes the following:

  • Mammals

The Basilan Flying Squirrel (Petinomys crinitus) is a species of rodent in the Sciuridae family. It is endemic to the Philippines, but found extensively in Basilan.

The Philippine Tarsier (Tarsius syrichta)is an endangered tarsier species endemic to the Philippines. It is found in the southeastern part of the archipelago, particularly in the provinces of Bohol, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao, Philippines. Its name is derived from its elongated "tarsus" or ankle bone. Its geographic range also includes Maripipi Island, Siargao Island, Basilan Island and Dinagat Island. Believed to be about 45 million years old, and perhaps one of the oldest land species to continuously live in the Philippines, it was only introduced to western biologists in the 18th century.

Philippine Tarsier
  • Amphibians

The Basilan Island Caecilian (Ichthyophis glandulosus) is a species of amphibian in the Ichthyophiidae family. It is endemic to the Philippines. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical moist montanes, rivers, intermittent rivers, freshwater springs, plantations , rural gardens, heavily degraded former forest, irrigated land, and seasonally flooded agricultural land.

  • Birds

The Pycnonotus urostictus. Found and documented in the Philippines, specifically Isabela, Basilan, on November 15, 1887, by Moseley, E L. Published by STEERE, J. B., in a list of the birds and mammals collected by the Steere expedition to the Philippines.

The Basilan Tarictic Hornbill (Penelopides panini basilanicus), a variant of Penelopides affinis basilanicus (Tweeddale, 1877). Also published by STEERE, J. B., in a list of the birds and mammals collected by the Steere expedition to the Philippines.

The Everett's White-eye basilanicus (Zosterops everetti basilanicus), with distribution throughout the Philippines, but more extensively in Basilan, Dinagat, Mindanao, Siargao, and Camiguin. (Everett's White-eye, Tweeddale, 1878).

The Basilan Oriole (O. xanthonotus basilanicus Ogilvie-Grant). There has been some confusion over whether the name Oriolus steerii Sharpe, 1877, should be attached to the population of Basilan or the population of Negros of the Philippine oriole. Two separate descriptions appeared (Sharpe, 1877 a, b) and differed. A decision on which was the prior description was taken by Dickinson et al. (1991) and a fresh review of the facts shows that they were incorrect in selecting Basilan as the type locality of the nominate form. That decision was in contradiction to the approach taken by Greenway in Mayr & Greenway (1962). As there, the name must be assigned to the population of Negros. As a result, the population of Basilan must be called O. s. basilanicus Ogilvie- Grant, 1896, or if a broader species-concept is preferred O. xanthonotus basilanicus Ogilvie-Grant, 1896. The name nigrostriatus Bourns & Worcester, 1894, returns to the synonymy of nominate steerii. The specimen in Tring is designated as the lectotype of steerii Sharpe, 1877, because the Michigan specimen, from Isabela de Basilan, is not representative of the nominate population of steerii.

  • Plants

The Dipterocarpus basilanicus trees , lofty, emergent, with grayish brown to orange flaky , prominently lenticellate bark and aromatic oily white resin, with stout buttresses. Stipules large, enclosing terminal bud, finally caducous and leaving an annular scar ; leaf blade leathery, plicate in bud and ± corrugate when opened; lateral veins pinnate, straight; tertiary veins subscalariform, conspicuous , margin entire or sinuate-crenate. Raceme 3-9-flowered, hardly branched. Flowers large, sweetly scented. Calyx with urceolate or cup-shaped free basal tube ; sepals valvate , unequal. Petals white or with a reddish median stripe , pubescent or stellate pubescent especially on parts exposed in bud. Anthers yellow, linear , equivalved; connective appendages aristate or filiform . Ovary narrowly ovoid , pubescent; style filiform; stigma slightly dilated . Fruit nutlike, enclosed in accrescent calyx tube ; winglike calyx lobes 2, erect . Seed adnate to base of pericarp; cotyledons large, thick, unequal; radicle inconspicuous.

About 70 species: Cambodia, China, India, W Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam; two species (one introduced ) in China. Published by Foxworthy Publication, in the Philippine Journal of Science, Botany, 1918, vol. xiii, no. 179.

People

Basilan Province Population Distibution (NSO Figures 2000)

Basilan has a median age of 19 years, a lot lower than the 1995 median age of 25 years.

The sex ratio is almost even. There were 166,413 males and 166,415 females in the 2000 CPH. However, there were more females in the age group 15 to 39 years and more males in all other age groups.

More than 55.2 percent belongs to the economically active population aged 15 to 64 years. About 42.3 percent are young dependents (aged 0 to 14 years) while less than three percent are old dependents (aged 64 years and over). The overall dependency ratio is 81.2. This means that for every 100 persons aged 15 to 64 years, there were about 77 young dependents and 4 old dependents.

Married persons accounted for 47.76 percent of the total persons 10 years old and over, lower than the 1995 figure (49.11 percent) by 1.35 percentage points. Single persons comprised 43.80 percent in 2000, from 45.71 percent in 1995. The widowed (4.49 percent) had less than one percentage point difference with the proportion registered in 1995 (3.89 percent). Those with other arrangements increased from 3.87 percent in 1995 to 4.49 percent in 2000.

Out of 60,710 housing units in Basilan, 60,699 units (99.98 percent) were occupied by 61,546 households. This rate of occupancy was higher than that of 1990 (95.6 percent). It recorded a ratio of 1.01 households for every occupied housing unit or 5.48 persons per occupied housing unit.

Members of the BCHS-BNHS Alumni Association during a get-together in preparation for the Grand Alumni Homecoming of April 2009

A large proportion (94.3 percent) of the occupied housing units in Basilan in 2000 were single houses. Three-fourths (75.9 percent) of the occupied housing units did not need repair or with minor repair while 17.8 percent needed major repair. One out of nine occupied housing units was built from 1996 to 2000.

The proportion of occupied housing units with roofs made of galvanized iron/aluminum rose from 23.1 percent in 1990 to 42.5 in 2000. On the other hand, roofs made of cogon/nipa/anahaw declined from 69.6 percent in 1990 to 50.3 percent in 2000. As to construction material of the outer walls, the use of wood rose by 10.2 percentage points, from 42.2 percent in 1990 to 52.4 percent in 2000.

Out of Basilan's estimated 60,582 families, 19,740 live in urban areas and 40,842 are rural. Average Poverty thresholds province-wide are pegged at Php9,271.00 as monthly family income, of which Php10,997.00 is considered the urban threshold and Php8,080.00 for rural families. 26.20% of the total population is below the poverty threshold, this comprises 36.50% of the urban population and 21.20% of the rural population. Poverty incidence is defined as the proportion of families whose income cannot provide for the basic food and non-food requirements called the poverty threshold to the total number of families. (magnitude of poor families / total number of families) X 100. Its a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.425.

(The preceding figures are from the National Statistical Coordination Board - NSCB Philippine Database, Census of 2000[7] )

Culture

Sta. Isabel Cathedral, in the heart of Isabela City's poblacion, is the center of Basilan's thriving Catholic community.

The three biggest cultural influences on the island are derived from the native Yakan, the Tausug and the Chavacano. Both Yakans and Tausugs are predominantly Muslim, while Chavacanos are primarily Christian. These three groups represent Basilan's tri-ethnic community.

The Chavacanos are joined by the Cebuano and Ilonggo/Hiligaynon Bisaya to form the main block collectively called the "Christians", as a clear majority of the Christian population of the island hails from these tribes. Yet another curious cultural reference point is manifested when locals, usually Tausugs and Samals, would say: "Mag-tausug na kaw", which apparently means "Become a Muslim", instead of the more correct translation: "Become a Tausug", owing probably to the exalted position of the Tausug tribe as the "original Muslims" of the area. Albeit majority of the Yakans have converted to Islam in later centuries, a significant number still conform to traditional local beliefs, traditions and rituals, and yet another significant number has likewise converted to Christianity as well.

YAKAN INTERIOR/EAST: Yakans gathered at Materling, Al Barka (Tipo-Tipo), Basilan, visited by ABS-CBN Foundation Inc., Kapamilya Broadcaster Bernadette Sembrano for a community outreach with the Philippine National Red Cross - Basilan

Culturally, therefore, the Yakan is distinguished from the Tausug and represents the "Lumad" or indigenous peoples of Basilan, the Tausugs, on the other hand, together with their Samal and Bajao allies, are regarded as the "Muslims", and the Chavacanos, Cebuanos and Ilonggos are the "Christians". All the rest, a mixture of Tagalogs, Ilocanos, Waray, Bicolanos, Maranaos, Iranuns and Maguindanaos are more recent migrants or are usually itinerant merchants and government workers.

This curious mix of ethnicities, forged together first by the Spanish practice of establishing resettlements or "reducciones", as well as the Multinational plantations' importation of skilled Christian farm workers and laborers from the Visayas and Luzon, gives Basilan one of the most unique cultures in the Philippines and even in Mindanao. It is the only majority-Muslim province that is governed by Lumads, and whose most commonly spoken dialect is decidedly foreign (Chavacano - Spanish patois)!

This delicate balance in Basileño culture is seen primarily through the interplay of influences among the different tribes that inhabit Basilan island. Whereas Christian Fiestas are celebrated throughout, the foremost local festival is Yakan (Lami-Lamihan).

CHRISTIAN NORTH/NORTHWEST: J. S. Alano Street, which, together with N.S. Vaderroza St. on the opposite side, are the main thoroughfares of urban Isabela City, connecting Sta. Isabel Cathedral with the Isabela City Plaza/Plaza Rizal and the Provincial Capitol (further on, hidden behind the trees), and ringed by the City's biggest business establishments and banks, patterned after classic 16th-18th century Spanish town-planning.

Tausugs and Samals, for the most part having been denied ownership of land, and owing too to their primary livelihood (fishing), hug the coastlines, constructing their houses on stilts at the water's edge of population centers. Their houses are huddled together in compact seaside communities and are, for the most part, outside of the municipal water and sewerage systems of the urban centers. The Yakans, on the other hand, having been driven far inland, are situated allover the island's interior, in similar raised houses usually made of light materials, but spread far from each other. It is not wholly strange to see Yakan neighbors separated by at least a kilometer or two of jungle and coconut groves between them. Finally, the Christians are mostly found in the plains, the Cities and in the plantations, squeezed between the Tausug-dominated coasts and the Yakan-dominated hinterlands. They make up the bulk of the island's professionals, entrepreneurs, and lowland farmers. The Christians own most of the arable land, as well as nearly all of the businesses and occupy most of the professions.

Because of this seemingly voluntary segregation among the three groups, Tausug/Samal festivals are usually connected to the sea, celebrating the seas bounties, even staging dazzling fluvial wedding parades on colorfully bedecked Vintas and Paraus, a nod at the Tausug's former naval prowess. Christian fiestas are almost always related to good harvests from the farms, as well as Saintly miracles against natural calamities and victories against Moro attacks. Yakan festivals, meanwhile, are rooted in older, pre-Islamic rituals such as warrior dances, colorful wedding pageants, and harvest rituals.

TAUSUG SOUTH/SOUTHWEST: Main road at Port Holland, Maluso, Basilan, leading to the USAID-GEM constructed Ro-ro Port, and flanked by Tausug traders and market stall owners.

Culturally, therefore, "Christians" and "Muslims" have a closer relationship, both professionally as well as in trade and commerce, being regarded as the island's "lowlanders", relative to either one's direct contacts and connections with the more aloof and inward-looking Yakan, regarded as "de arriba" by the Christians or "tagihamas" by the Tausugs, which roughly translates as "uplanders". Conversely, the Yakan is traditionally suspicious of the intents and motives of its lowland neighbors, having been at the receiving end of slave raids, invasions and punitive attacks from both groups for over 500 centuries.

With the island's strategic location right at the crossroads of the warring camps of Tausugs and the Spanish, Basilan was henceforth divided into three primary spheres of relative cultural dominance by one group over the other two. Basilan's northern and northwestern coasts, facing the heavily Hispanized Zamboanga City across the narrow Basilan Strait, is culturally "Christian", or more precisely - "Filipino Catholic". Basilan's southern and southwestern coastal areas, washed by the currents that carry the Tausug trade routes and navies from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, has a distinctly Tausug-oriented culture. Almost the entire eastern half and interior of Basilan, on the other hand, isolated for the most part from the Spanish in Zamboanga, and the Tausug from Jolo, is the enclave of the indigenous Yakan.

Demographics

Basilan Ethnicity Profile

As the Jolo-based Tausug Sultanate grew in power, the native population of the island withdrew farther and farther inland, until most of the coastal communities which dotted the island's southern, western and northwestern shores were primarily inhabited by Tausugs and their vassal tribes, the Samals and Bajaus (Tau-Laut). The only exception was the relatively prosperous Yakan community of Lamitan.

The withdrawal of the Yakans inland was hastened even more so when the Spanish established advance bases on the island's northwestern coast, bringing in Christianized 'indios' from nearby Zamboanga, and as far as the Visayas and even Luzon. By then, even the Yakan communities of Lamitan were completely overrun.

By the eve of the Commonwealth era in the Philippines, local census estimates showed that a majority of the people of Basilan were Christian migrants, mostly plantation workers recruited from all over Mindanao and the Visayas, and Tausug traders, as well as Samal and Bajau fisherfolk. Only around 5,000 Yakans were counted in the census. Until then, most Yakans preferred not to inter-act directly with their lowland neighbors.

Currently, Basilan inhabitants include Christians and Muslims from a number of tribal groups such as the Yakans.[8], Tausugs, Chavacanos, Bisaya, Samal Bangingis, and to a much lesser extent by Ilonggos, Ilocanos, and Maranaos

Current census statistics show the following breakdown in demographics (2000 Census):

  • Yakan (137,545 or 41.36%)
  • Tausug (76,366 or 22.96%)
  • Chavacano/Bisaya/Cebuano/Hiligaynon/Ilonggo/Ilocano/Ibanag (71,344 or 21.45%)
  • Others/Samal/Bajao/Tagalog/Maranao/Maguindanao/Bikolano (46,174 or 14.23%)

Population growth?

Basilan Youth at the Claret School of Lamitan

Basilan is experiencing a somewhat irrationally rapid increase in population growth rates. Comparative census results from 2000 and 2007, a period of only 7 years showed an actual increase of 163,675, from 332,828 (2000) to 496,503 (2007) or an increase of 49.17% in the last 7 years alone, an average annual growth rate of 7% annually.

Curiously, the population growth during the 1995-2000 census period was much more modest. The total population of Basilan, as of May 1, 2000, was 332,828 persons. This implied an increase of only 37,263 persons over the 1995 census figure or an average annual growth rate of 2.58 percent. This was 1.53 percentage points lower than the average growth rate recorded in 1995 (4.1 percent). A corresponding increase on the number of households was also registered, from 55,137 households in 1995 to 61,546 in 2000. This resulted to an average household size of 5.4 persons, higher than the national average of five persons.

Of the seven original municipalities in Basilan as of May 1, 2000, the municipality of Isabela, the capital of the province, was the largest in terms of population size with 73,032 persons or 21.94 percent of the total population of the province. This was followed by Lamitan (17.64 percent), Sumisip (15.23 percent), Tipo-Tipo (14.50 percent), and Tuburan (12.78 percent). Lantawan and Maluso, on the other hand, had less than ten percent each.

By 2007, the three biggest LGUs and foremost opposition bailiwicks saw their population share fall vis-a-vis their Administration-friendly neighbors: i.e. Isabela City's share has fallen to only 17.72% (-4.22%) of Basilan's total population despite it remaining as the most densely populated area on the island. Lamitan, traditional refugee catch-point is now only at 16.53% (-1.11%); Old Sumisip (2 municipalities: 71,807 pop), with the biggest aggregate land area likewise fell to 14.46% (-0.77%).

US Ambassador Kristie Kenney with Datu Bantilan Dance Troupe in traditional Yakan costume.

On the other hand, Administration-allied areas of Old Tipo-Tipo (3 municipalities: 83,249 pop.) is 16.75% (+2.25%) and is now bigger than Lamitan; Old Tuburan (3 municipalities: 73,942 pop.) is 14.89% (+2.11%) and is now bigger than Old Sumisip. Old Lantawan (2 municipalities: 49,270 pop.) is still below 10% at 9.92%, while Maluso (48,175 pop.), also below 10%, is at 9.7% of total.

Religion in Basilan
religion percent
Islam (Sunni)
  
41%
Islam (Folk)
  
30%
Roman Catholic
  
24%
Protestant
  
3%
Others
  
2%

The 7-year period increases are widely disparate, which explains the 2000-2007 percentage figures stated above. In Isabela City, the population growth is 20.47% (+2.92% per annum; 73,032 in 2000, to 87,985 in 2007) slower when compared to the newly created Akbar Municipality, scene of many of the latest gun-battles between government troops and Moro separatist/extremist groups. The municipality's population growth is 101.42% in the last seven years (+14.48% per annum; 10,581 in 2000 to 21,312 in 2007).

Apart from Akbar municipality itself, the erstwhile small and sparsely populated municipalities of Ungkaya Pukan grew by 89.74% (+12.82%/an.), Muhammad Ajul by 79.72% (+11.38%/an), Lantawan (incl. Hji. Muhtamad) by 79.25%(11.32%/an.), Tipo-Tipo by 76.57% (+10.94%/an.), Al-Barka by 63.86% (9.12%/an.), Maluso by 55.13% (+7.87%/an.), and Tuburan by 52.03% (+7.43%/an.).

On the other hand, the island's three biggest LGUs all clocked-in below 50% growth rates, these are: Lamitan, which grew by 39.80% (+5.68%/an.), Sumisip (incl. Tabuan Lasa) by 38.85% (+5.55%/an.), with Isabela City dead-last.

The average aggregate annual population increase in the 7-year period for the ten (10) municipalities and one (1) city that comprise Basilan is a mind-boggling 9.12%. The average annual population growth rate of the rest of the Philippines is only 2.3%.

These figures are verifiable from the National Statistics and Coordination Board and National Statistics Office of the Philippines.[9][10]

These abnormally rapid growth rates have been attributed mainly to the practice of local governments, especially those under Akbar control, to augment their real population numbers in order to: (1) corner a bigger slice of the Internal Revenue Allotment fund given to Philippine LGUs, (2) to fulfill minimum requirements set by the Philippine Local Government Code (for the newly created municipalities and Lamitan city), (3) as well as a reserve of votes for local political clans from constituencies that "usually" record 100% turn-outs during election periods.[1]

Religion

Basilan Faith Profile
Kaum Purnah Mosque, oldest "masjid" on the island of Basilan

Basilan has a population that is 27% Christian (90% of whom are Roman Catholic) and 71% Muslim. Non-Catholic Christians identify with the Evangelicals, Episcopalian (Anglican Catholics), and Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and a number of other Protestant denominations. Only the most recent Chinese immigrants exclusively adhere to Buddhism/Taoism, while most of the older Chinese families have acculturated and have either converted to Christianity or Islam while retaining most of their Chinese beliefs.

Seal of the Prelature of Isabela

A majority of Basilan's Christian population are concentrated mostly in the island's southern slopes. Muslim community resides in the urban centers of Isabela City and Lamitan Municipality on the island's northern coast, where they constitute a majority. Sizeable Christian settlements are likewise found in the former multi-national plantations, e.g., Tairan, Lantawan; Tumahubong, Sumisip; Maluso Townsite, Maluso. The rest have a mixture of both traditional and autochthonal beliefs.

The Prelature of Isabela de Basilan was created on October 12, 1963, and comprises all territories constituting the civil jurisdiction of Basilan Province, including Isabela City, its present capital. Its titular patron is Sta. Isabel de Portugal.[11]

A majority of Basilan's Muslim population (41%) practice Sunni Islam of the Shafi'i tradition, as taught by Arab and Malaccan missionaries from the 14th century onwards. A substantial number nevertheless (30%) follow a syncretist mix of Islam and Yakan folk customs and traditions exclusively among the native Yakan populations farther inland, and a different version of the same Folk Islamic tradition which is practiced by the Bajao in Basilan's outlying islands and surrounding seas.

Relatively newer Islamic sects, mostly from returning veterans of the Afghan wars and missionaries from Pakistan's stricter Sufi traditions, referred to as the Tableegh, have likewise been active in propagating what they believe to be a "purer" Islamic way of life and worship. A very small number who have since married into Iranian or Iraqi families have likewise converted to Shiite Islam.

Language

Chavacano is the lingua franca of Basilan, understood and spoken by nearly 80% of the residents both Christian and Muslim. Basilan has the biggest concentration of Chavacano speakers in the Philippines, outside of Zamboanga City.

Native-Chabacano speakers in Mindanao

Almost all residents also use Filipino/Tagalog as a second language. Tausug is also widely spoken and understood, especially among the Muslim tribes and is spoken and understood by approximately 70% of Basilan's population. Cebuano/Bisaya is a preferred third tongue among the Christian tribes and is spoken and understood by approximately 60% of all residents.

Yakan, although the acknowledged native dialect of Basilan, is used primarily by the Yakans alone (constituting 41% of the population), although it is also spoken and understood by about 15%-20% of the non-Yakan residents. An even lesser percentage can speak or understand Samal/Banguingui, Maranao, Ilocano and Ilonggo which are mostly confined to members of their respective tribes.

The educated classes, both Christian and Muslim, also use English for most official, business or government transactions. A dwindling group of native-Spanish speakers can still be found, nearly all of them are in Isabela City and Lamitan, and are usually members of the wealthy landowning class and/or descendants of expatriate plantation managers. Finally, Chinese/Fookien is used by the immigrant/naturalized Chinese community in the Province.

Education

Basilan National High School, Roxas Ave. Ext., cor. Brown Street, Isabela City, Basilan's premier secondary institution

Basilan's literacy rates has grown over the past two decades, although it remains one of the Philippines' lowest. At a mere 72.23% (171,000 of the population are considered literate), it is comparably better than literacy rates in Sulu, as opposed to the national figure of 92.6%. The literacy rate in 1990 was 66% (112,000 persons), while in 1994 it was 72.80% (150,000 persons). School Year 2003-2004 figures show that grade school enrollment in public elementary schools are pegged at 43,581 pupils and are taught by 1,188 public school elementary teachers. Public high school students number 8,719 taught by 241 public secondary teachers.

The Island Province of Basilan has one (1) State College and five (5) private colleges. The Basilan State College is located in Isabela City and has an extension college in Lamitan City and Maluso.

The Regional Private Schools' Athletic Games (PRISAA, Jan. 19-21, 2007) hosted by Claret College of Isabela, Roxas Ave., Isabela City, Basilan

Among the private higher education institutions in Isabela City, are the Claret College of Isabela (formerly Fatima High School), established by the Jesuits as the premier institution for Catholic education; the Juan S. Alano Memorial School, Inc., offering midwifery and other health-related courses since 1958 and the first non-sectarian School of Midwifery in Western Mindanao, affiliated with the Juan S. Alano Memorial Hospital, Inc.(formerly Basilan Hospital), the first private health care institution in the province . Its campus is located at the Juan S. Alano Compound, Brgy. Doña Ramona T. Alano. It will soon be opening choice TESDA-accredited courses through a Technical Vocational Department. More recently, the pioneer computer school in Zamboanga Peninsula and the only computer college in Basilan - the Computer Technologies Institute (COMTECH) Inc. was established in 1997, located along N.S. Valderrosa Street.

Furigay Colleges, P. Cuevas St., Lamitan City, Basilan

The schools in Lamitan Municipality are Mindanao Autonomous College, founded in the year 2003. And the Mariam School of Nursing. The Mariam School of Nursing was established in 2004 as part of its Chairwoman's educational outreach program and was named Mariam or Mother Mary - a unifying and guiding figure among the Christians and Muslims. An I.T.-based College of Nursing located in Flores Street corner Rizal Avenue, it envisions to be recognized as a leading center for nursing and allied health education in the province. The newest school in Lamitan City would be the Furigay Colleges dubbed as "a school for global opportunities", opened its doors on June 2008, offering courses in B.S. Hotel Restaurant Management, Information Technology, Computer Science and Midwifery, as well as a number of TESDA-accredited courses.

Students of the Juan S. Alano Memorial School, Inc., J. S. Alano Compound, Rizal Ave., Isabela City

Basilan is served by two School Divisions of the Department of Education, one for Basilan and one for Isabela City, though both are headquartered in Isabela City. A number of public and private high schools likewise dot the Province. The premier secondary educational institution on the Island is the Basilan National High School located in Isabela City, followed by the Lamitan National High School in Lamitan City. The Claret High Schools of Isabela, Lamitan, Maluso and Tumahubong, and a number of Madaris provide private secondary instruction.

More than 42 percent of the population five years old and over had attended or completed elementary education. Only 17.3 percent had attended or completed high school while 1.5 percent had attended or finished post secondary education. Less than three percent are academic degree holders while 6.2 percent were college undergraduates. A very insignificant number pursued post-baccalaureate studies. There were more males than females among those who had attended or finished elementary (51.1 percent), high school (50.3 percent), among college undergraduates (52.0 percent) and had attended post baccalaureate courses (58.4 percent). On the other hand, there were more females who had attended/completed post-secondary courses (52.9 percent) and were academic degree holders (52.34 percent).

Civil Society

JCI Basilan (Basilan Jaycees) Bowling Tournament 1975

Basilan has a vibrant civil society and non-governmental organization/people's organization sector. The oldest and one of the most enduring civic clubs is the Junior Chamber International Basilan Inc. (Basilan Jaycees) established in January 11, 1949, JCI Lamitan (Lamitan Jaycees, est. 1976) and the Rotary Club of Basilan Inc., founded in 1959. The island was also home to a Lion's Club which died off sometime in the 1970s. Also present are numerous motoring clubs, such as the Basilan Motor Club, Freiheit Motorcycle Club, Xrulz Motor Club and Karancho Inc., and sports clubs, among which are the Basilan PNP Tennis Club, Basilan Tennis Club, R&R Tennis Club (Lamitan), Isabela City Badminton Club, as well as a host of local Basketball Leagues and Clubs. A variety of NGOs engaged in community mobilization, health, education, governance and peace-building are represented by the Nagdilaab Foundation, Inc. (funded by Manos Unidas of Spain and Consuelo Foundation), Christian Children's Fund (USAID), Kasanyangan Foundation, Inc. (USAID), BEAM (AusAID)etc.

Basilan is likewise served by the Philippine National Red Cross - Basilan (a subchapter of PNRC Zamboanga), which has figured prominently in the care of refugees and displaced persons as a result of the incessant fighting in the island's interior. A number of environmentalist groups have likewise taken root in the island, first among these is the Basilan Green Movement. Safety and Security advocacies are spearheaded by such groups as the Guardians Brotherhood Philippines, Inc. (GBPI), and a number of neighborhood security associations.

The Catholic Church's lay organizations are represented by the Knights of Columbus Sta. Isabel and San Pedro Councils of Isabela and Lamitan respectively, the Catholic Women's League (CWL), Couples for Christ (CFC), Singles for Christ (SFC), Marriage Encounter (ME), Columbian Squires, as well as a number of other sodalities and associations. The Bishops-Ulama Conference of Basilan is one of the most influential voices from civil society, advocating greater understanding between Christians and Muslims in the province.

The youth sector is populated by an array of Student Councils and Student Governments under the Provincial Association of Student Councils (ProASC), as well as a number of civic-oriented youth organizations such as the 7-chapter Metro Basilan Junior Jaycees, the Inter-act and Rotar-act Clubs, Dance Clubs, Fraternities, Sororities, and the more recent Text clans.

Economy

Basilan Economic Profile

Agriculture is the main source of economic livelihood. Basilan's major products include coconut (primarily copra), rubber, coffee, black pepper, and African palm oil. Other crops are palay, corn, cacao and cassava. The island’s waters produce grouper, tuna, squid, octopus, marlin and fishponds supply milkfish, prawn and shrimp. In addition, seaweed is cultivated along some coastal areas.

Local products also include intricately woven cloth and trinkets by members of the Yakan tribe. Yakans use fibers from plants such as pineapple for their crafts. The weavers traditionally used extracts from leaves, roots and barks to dye their fibers. However, contact with U.S. Peace Corps workers and Christian Filipinos has influenced Yakan textile art. One is influence is the introduction of chemical dyes.[8] The museum of Lamitan displays the colorful and intricate designs of the traditional Yakan textiles and highlights of the traditional Yakan Festival called the Lami-lamihan.

Historically, Basilan's economy has seen wild upswings and downturns over the course of several centuries. Pre-Hispanic Taguima had an economy based on basic subsistence agriculture, mostly root crops. Ancient Chinese texts point to the existence of a "Kingdom of Kumalarang" which presumably was located on the island's northwestern shore, and which traded occasionally with Chinese merchants plying the route to the Spice Islands of the Moluccas and Borneo farther south. Kumalarang was even recorded to have sent occasional tributes to the Chinese Emperor and his court, and even sent an embassy, headed no-less by its resident Datu all the way to the Chinese court in two instances.

By the arrival of the Spanish, other crops such as rice and corn were introduced and cultivated, primarily for the local consumption of the growing Christian settlements of Isabela and Lamitan. Trade with Zamboanga grew tremendously, as most of the needs of the settlers relied on regular shipments from the busy Zamboanga port.

The Multinational plantations

President Manuel Quezon tapping the sap off one of the trees in the Philippines' pioneering Basilan rubber plantations developed by American Dr. James W. Strong

American occupation brought about the single biggest change in the local economy. By around 1914, Dr. James W. Strong, a pioneering American plantation owner, cleared vast tracts of land on the island's northern plains (Isabela/Lamitan), and established what eventually came to be the Philippines' first commercial rubber plantation—the American Rubber Co. Upon consulting with Fr. Zamora a noted botanist of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila he decided to start experimenting with rubber plants and in 1910 formed the Basilan Rubber Plantation in partnership with J.M. Menzi Corporation as principal stock holders. Seven years later he sold out his interest to J.M. Menzi Corp. and started American Rubber Co. backed by San Francisco capital. He started building roads in Basilan with the help of his children of his first marriage mostly as truck drivers since such skills were not readily available at the time. Those roads are now part of the National Highway system in Basilan.

The family and plantation prospered and was frequently visited by such notables as Manuel L. Quezon President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, his vice-president Sergio Osmena, General Douglas MacArthur and assorted Governor Generals and High Commissioners for the Philippines.

The plantation was eventually sold to American multi-national B.F.Goodrich. This was followed by investments from British-Malayan firm Sime Darby Corp., which opened their 4,000-hectare rubber plantation on the island's southern slopes (Sumisip/Tipo-Tipo).

The success of these large-scale cash crop plantations was emulated by a number of enterprising Filipinos and Spanish-mestizo families from Zamboanga, Negros and Luzon. Among these were Don Juan S. Alano, a Hispano-Chinese mestizo and native of Malolos, Bulacan, who opened the Philippine National Sugar Co. on Malamawi Island in 1921. This eventually became the Basilan Estates, Inc., the only wholly-owned Filipino plantation competing with American and British multi-nationals. It operated the Malamawi Island plantation which was converted to coconut/copra production, and opened a 3,800-hectare copra plantation on the island's western plains (Lantawan). American logging firm Weyerhaeuser Timber Co. and the American Lumber Co., opened large-scale logging concessions which operated in Basilan's extensive upland virgin forests. Menzi Corp., owned by Hispano-German J. M. Menzi, also opened an extensive rubber plantation in the southern part of Isabela which eventually expanded to black pepper and palm oil. The University of the Philippines was awarded with a 4,000 hectare land grant by the Philippine Government located in Sta. Clara, Lamitan.

When J. M. Menzi died, he was succeeded at the helm of his substantial business interests by his son and Marcos crony, Hans Menzi. When the younger Menzi replaced the plantation's Swiss-expatriate managers with local hires, these managers in turn opened up their own plantations elsewhere on the island.

Arnold Winniger, Menzi's Swiss manager, together with the Cuevas-Pamaran-Antonio-Flores (CPAF) Clan of Lamitan, cleared up the Tumahubong, Sumisip area for a rubber plantation. Johnny Boelsterli, yet another one of Menzi's Swiss recruits, established yet another rubber plantation in the Mangal, Sumisip area. An American corporation opened the Yakan Plantation in Lamitan, and finally, Dutch-American Karl Wieselski opened another coconut plantation in the Canas, Maluso area. The Wihara Plantation, a Japanese company, likewise opened in the Atong-Atong, Lantawan area. This became the source of much of the coconut varieties planted throughout the island.

USS Vicksburg coaling at the Isabela Wharf, Basilan. Photo taken from the vantage point of the "floating" Naval Hospital, 1901.

By the 1950s and throughout the 1960s, the Chartered City of Basilan was classified as a first-class City. It exported copra, coconut oil, rubber and lumber directly to America's Pacific coast ports in California by way of Guam and Hawaii. Basilan's Isabela Municipal Wharf regularly had oceangoing vessels at dock, taking on Basilan's export produce which made Basilan the Philippines' biggest rubber producer and the country's second biggest coconut by-products exporter (next only to Quezon Province in Luzon). It likewise cornered the market for the nation's annual black pepper harvest, and was consistently at the top 10 biggest producers of cassava and palm oil.

A substantial number of expatriate plantation managers, mostly Americans (such as the families of McClintock, Cawley, Wallison, Robinson, Barnes, Strong, Brown, etc.), but also Swiss (Winniger, Boelsterli), Germans (Menzi, Werble), Dutch (Wieselski), Russian (Azery Kozloff) and even Japanese (Wihara, Honda) continued to live and inter-marry into the native populace.

The Weyerhaeuser Compound (now Tabuk Barangay) was an exclusive gated community for American expatriates living in Basilan, it had its own airstrip and wharf, and two-storey plantation-style villas set apart by expansive yards. The same sort of exclusive gated communities were put up at the Menzi Compound (Menzi Barangay) for the Swiss and German managers, and at the Alano Compound (Dna. Ramona T. Alano Barangay) as well, precursors of modern-day subdivisions.

The Moro uprising

MNLF Fighters surrender their firearms to President Ferdinand Marcos.

The economic fortunes of the island took a severe nosedive when the Moro uprising of 1971, led by the maoist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) originating from Sulu, and led by leftist University of the Philippines lecturer Nur Misuari, infiltrated the plantations, burned entire Christian villages and terrorized the bigger coastal settlements with raids and bombing runs. This was compounded by the declaration of Martial Law by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972, and the decree that effectively created Basilan Province, with its initial complement of 10 Municipalities (eventually reduced to seven).

By then, politics took center stage, and the resurgent Yakan uplanders found themselves battling the Tausug lowlanders and their allies. The incessant Yakan-Tausug pocket battles throughout the 1980s culminated in the burning of Isabela City's downtown market in 1987. After several revenge killings, Basilan gained notoriety as the Philippines' "Wild, Wild West". By then, Basilan's economy, along with the rest of the Philippines', was limping along, barely surviving the aftermath of these struggles.

CARP and the rise of the Abu Sayyaf

At the onset of the post-Marcos administration of Corazon Aquino, another blow was dealt to Basilan's economy. In 1988, Congress passed a law establishing the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) which inaugurated the land distribution program, effectively dissolving nearly all corporate plantations on the island.

CARP, immediately covered Basilan's large multi-national plantations despite the plantation workers' misgivings and the landowners' objections. Almost immediately, the large multi-national corporations and all their investments were withdrawn from Basilan. Well-cultivated tracts of land were left to ill-trained, and ill-equipped farmer beneficiaries who managed operations in a farmers' cooperative format.

The J. S. Alano coconut plantation has since been converted to the Tairan Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association and Multi-Purpose Cooperative (TARBAMC), the University of the Philippines Basilan Land Grant into the Sta. Clara Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Integrated Development Cooperative (SCARBIDC), the B.F. Goodrich and Sime Darby rubber plantations were merged and converted into the Latuan Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (LARBAI). The vast tracks of the American-owned Yakan Plantation in Lamitan was first sold to then Defense Minister (and now Senator) Juan Ponce Enrile who established his Cocoland Plantation, this too was redistributed as the Lamitan Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (LARBECO). A number of other Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries' Cooperatives have likewise taken over most of the small to mid-sized plantations on the island.

Political map of Zamboanga Peninsula

By the early 1990s, disgruntled Yakan youth preached upon by returning mujahideen warriors from Afghanistan and schooled in Syria, Egypt and Pakistan, banded together to form the Al-Harakatul Al-Islamiyah, better known worldwide as the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist group advocating the delivery of Basilan into strict Islamic governance similar to Afghanistan's Taliban regime. Starting in earnest, this bandit group initiated test raids, kidnappings, ambushes and assassinations in some of the more vulnerable Christian communities inland, causing the dispersal of these communities and the total breakdown of the inland economy.

Inclusion in the ARMM and Balikatan 02-1

The Organic Act for the creation of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao was also passed into law in 1989. A plebiscite held in 14 Mindanao Provinces was held on the same year. Basilan initially opted out of the autonomous region. Only Maguindanao (without Cotabato City), Lanao del Sur (without Marawi City), Sulu and Tawi-Tawi joined the ARMM.

More than a decade later, in 2001, a new law expanding the ARMM was passed, and a plebiscite was subsequently held. While Basilan's five Muslim municipalities (Maluso, Sumisip, Lantawan, Tipo-Tipo, Tuburan) opted to join the expanded ARMM, residents of the Christian areas of Isabela City and Lamitan Municipality, chose not to join. Even then, only Isabela was not included in the expanded ARMM, having been granted Cityhood earlier in the same year. Lamitan joined the five other municipalities, as Basilan was officially enrolled into membership with the expanded ARMM.

Basilan Security Profile

Widespread corruption in the ARMM, helped in no small measure by corruption at the Municipal and Provincial levels further eroded business confidence in the island. This, plus the surge of terrorist activities by the Abu Sayyaf and their Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) cohorts in the international terrorist network of Al-Qaeda, effectively forced Basilan's economy to retreat further.

The Basilan hostage crisis of 2001 further raised questions about the economic future of Basilan. Operations by the militant Islamist extremist group Abu Sayyaf reduced prospects for investment and tourism. However, an increased presence by the Philippine and U.S. military in the area through the Balikatan 02-1 Joint Military Exercises and the subsequent death of the Abu Sayyaf leaders Khadafi Abubakar Janjalani and Aldam Tilao (aka Abu Sabaya), have been followed by investments by the United States through USAID. Investments reportedly have created 40 new infrastructure projects in the conflict areas of Mindanao as of 2007.[12] Projects include the Basilan Tuburan Road Improvement Project and improvements to Lamitan and Maluso Ports.

Smaller barangay infrastructure projects intended to help boost economic growth are also under development. For instance, authorities are building farm-to-market roads, community and trade centers, water projects, and pedestrian bridges; according to USAID information.

A number of other ODA-funded Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and People's Organizations (POs) flooded Basilan starting 2002. These NGOs and POs provided much-needed capital infusion for local entrepreneurs to restart defunct or dying business enterprises. Likewise, improved training and government-funded support were extended to decade-old Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries' Cooperatives, effectively improving productivity levels and crop yields. Extensive farm management training in these "Coop" areas have likewise improved business efficiency in the cooperatives.

Currently, Basilan's Minimum Wage is US$3.20/day for non-agriculture related jobs, and US$2.80/day for agriculture related jobs. There are only 1,203 registered Overseas Contract Workers from Basilan.

Return of rubber

Basilan is on its way to becoming the country's leading rubber producer once again.[8]

By 2003, Basilan embarked on large-scale replanting programs covering some 50,000 hectares of privately-owned and/or cooperative-controlled lands, mainly for rubber and cassava. As of 2006, the province had 15,503 hectares planted, of which 7,148 hectares were owned by individual farmers and the rest by cooperatives. The exact land area devoted to rubber could reach over 20,000 hectares as there are hundreds of unrecorded small rubber growers and farmers.

Provincial government show that almost half or 7,029.47 hectares are immature, about a fifth or 3,143.36 hectares is classed as "less-productive", and a little under a third or 4,880.21 hectares is described as "productive."

A consortium of agrarian reform beneficiaries has been formed to improve quality and increase production. The Isla Corridor Consortium Agrarian Reform Communities not only sees itself as reviving the rubber industry, it also wants to help in the transformation of the battle-scarred province.

The consortium, composed of the United Workers Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multipurpose Cooperative, Lamitan Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative, Sta. Clara, and the Latuan Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc., accounts for a total area of about 6,000 hectares, some 80% of which is planted with rubber trees.[13]

Coconut Crop

Copra processing plant in Isabela City, Basilan

Still the biggest single crop produced in the Province, coconut/copra production is churning out an annual harvest of only 193,848 metric tons (2003) down from its peak production of 189,297,937 metric tons just two years before. Coconut plantations and small coconut farmers cover more than 12,000 hectares all of which are classified as "productive" to "mature" areas.

Coconut plantations have been rehabilitated starting 2006, owing to the steep rise in copra prices of late. A comprehensive replanting and rehabilitation program is currently being implemented by the Philippine Coconut Authority and the Department of Agriculture for the resuscitation of the island's copra production industry, once the Philippine's second-largest copra exporter after Quezon province in Luzon.

Comparative annual figures shows a drastic reduction in coconut production over the years which was 156,367,036 metric tons in 1999, 172,368,214 metric tons in 2000, and peaked at 189,297,937 metric tons in 2001. However, due to the lingering effects of CARP, combined with a severe onset of the El Niño weather pattern, the worsening peace and order condition brought about by the resurgent Abu Sayyaf terrorist group and their MILF allies, and the policy of the Akbar administration to cut down entire coconut plantations and replace these with rubber trees, province-wide coconut production, which still accounts 50%-60% of the Province's total economic activity has dropped precipitously to only 174,939 metric tons in 2002, slightly increasing to only 193,848 by 2003.

To date, coconut production in the Province, rapidly being replaced by rubber plantations, has remained in the doldrums. Basilan will find it hard to regain No. 2 status among the nation's coconut producers from here on despite the Government's best efforts to revive the ailing sector.

Coconut Farmers get incentives from PCA.[14]

Other Products

Samal fisherfolk engaged in Lobster culture, a project of USAID GEM in Malamawi Is., Isabela City

Basilan's extensive coastline hosts seafarers and fisher folk, almost all of them Tausug, Samals and Bajaus, who have been engaged in fishing for several centuries. Annual Basilan fish production is limited however, only 28,073 metric tons, due to the resistance of these groups from modernizing their fishing fleets.

Only 2,945 metric tons of palay are produced in Basilan's mostly rolling terrain. Corn is at 1,333 metric tons, banana at 20,458 metric tons, and 211 metric tons of mangoes. In addition there is an inventory of 155,541 chicken, 5,085 ducks, 7,803 carabaos (water buffalo), 2,724 cattle, 14,470 goats, and 14,700 hogs.

Banking, Finance & Business Support

Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Inc. - Basilan

Banks based in Basilan have a total deposit base of more than Php764,500,000. Among the National commercial banks operating on the island are Metropolitan Bank & Trust Corp. (Metrobank), Allied Banking Corp. (Allied Bank), and Philippine National Bank (PNB) in Isabela City and the United Coconut Planters' Bank (UCPB) in Lamitan City. Government Banks include the Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). It hosts at least 27 distinct Pawnshop operations, each of whom has an average 3 branches, mostly located in Isabela City, Lamitan, and Maluso Townsite.

The Province is likewise serviced by satellite offices of vital Government Financing Institutions such as the Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

The Basilan business sector is represented by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Inc.-Basilan Chamber (PCCI-Basilan), organized in 1975, the only business support organization duly affiliated with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Inc. (PCCI), with 95% of its members being composed of Small and Medium Enteprises (SMEs), and offices mostly in Isabela City and Lamitan, but with business assets and operations ranging throughout the island. A number of smaller business groups have since been established catering to the needs of businessmen from specific ethnic or religious affiliations, i.e. Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Inc. - Basilan Chapter (FilChi - Basilan); Autonomous Basilan Islamic Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ABICCI).

Utilities, Infrastructure & Health

Juan S. Alano Memorial Hospital, Inc. (former Basilan Hospital), the first private Hospital in Basilan, opened in 1953.
NAPOCOR Diesel Power Plant barge No. 119 docked at Tabuk, Isabela City
ISAWAD mini-filtration plant located in Brgy. Cabunbata, Isabela City

Basilan's electricity needs are served by the Basilan Electric Cooperative (BASELCO), powered by three diesel-powered electricity generating plants located at Brgy. Binuangan, Isabela City, one National Power Corporation(NAPOCOR) diesel-powered barge located at Brgy. Tabuk, Isabela City, and a mini-hydroelectric plant located in Kumalarang, Isabela City. Although 225 Barangays are energized, only about 38% of these Barangays are sufficiently powered, most of these are located in the Cities of Isabela and Lamitan, and Maluso Municipality. Rates are currently pegged at US$0.824/kwH, one of the highest throughout the Philippines.

Basilan is likewise served by three local water utilities namely: Isabela City Water District (ISAWAD), Lamitan City Water District (LAMWAD), and Maluso Water District (MAWAD). Only 17,693 households, however, have full access to safe and potable water. Current rates are pegged at an average US$3.20/month (+US$0.0826/10 cu.m.)

The island is likewise served by the Provincial Telephone System (PTS) which has 600 land-line connections and connected with National Direct Dial (NDD) via PLDT. It is likewise served by major Mobile Telecommunications carriers Globe and Smart. It has 2 Wi-Fi Internet Service Providers, and numerous Internet Cafes.

National Roads (concrete, asphalt, gravel) total 131.92 km, while there are 795.8 km of Local Roads. There are 13 municipal and local ports, 3 of which have roll on-roll off capacity, and at least 10 private airstrips servicing small aircraft. Among the major bridges are the Marcos Bridge of Isabela City and the recently inaugurated Matarling Bridge (built through USAID funding) between Isabela City and Lantawan.

There are 394 Barangay Health Workers, 6,966 immunized children, and 7 hospitals. There are 4 private hospitals, namely: the Juan S. Alano Memorial Hospital, Inc. (formerly Basilan Hospital), Infante Hospital, Basilan Community Hospital all in Isabela City, and the Dr. Jose Ma. Torres Hospital in Lamitan City. This is augmented by 3 government-run hospitals, namely: Basilan General Hospital and Isabela City Infirmary, both located in Isabela City, and the Lamitan District Hospital in Lamitan City.

Tourism

There are various attractions in the island of Basilan. There are architectural landmarks such as the Santa Isabel Cathedral, the Calvario Peak on which the Chapel of Peace stands and the Kaum Purnah Mosque. Natural attractions can also be seen such as the lake in the Panigayan fishing village, Sumagdang Beach and the waterfalls of the Kumalarang River. Various cultures can be visited such as the Badjao, the Yakan and the Muslim communities.[15]

Alano White Beach Resort, Malamawi Island, Isabela City, Basilan

"Nature Spots"

  • Kumalarang River – It boasts of its 14-meter high waterfall, a proposed site for a hydroelectric plant.
  • Tabiawan and Busay Waterfalls – Found in Isabela, a good site for picnics and bathing.
  • Balagtasan Waterfalls – The biggest waterfall on the island where the Basilan mini-hydro power plant is situated.
  • Sumagdang Beach – A natural resort for swimming. They have coconut plantations, mini rice fields and fishponds. It is 4 kilometers away from Isabela town proper and accessible by bus, jeepney or tricycle.
  • Malamawi Island – The main natural attraction of Basilan. Here, a lighthouse guides ships and vintas to the channel. Here can also be found the traditional final resting places of the nomad sea-faring Badjaos and Samal-Luans-Banguingui. It also boasts of the only lake in the province with wild ducks. Also found in Malamawi is the Panigayan fishing village where spearfishing is recommended and the Alano Estates' Bird Sanctuary atop Mts. San Juan and Comunal.
  • Alano White Beach Resort - also found on Malamawi Island, with powdery white sands, day-cottages, and other amenities usually for domestic tourists and local patrons, is widely touted as Basilan's own Boracay minus all the commercial trimmings.
  • Sunrise/Lanote Resort Row - still undergoing extensive infrastructure upgrades, this area will soon host what locals call the "Resort Row" of Isabela City. Already home to at least 3 fully functional inland resorts (The Farmland, EN4Es, and Biel Pool Resort)...no less than four more are slated to open along the same road in the next few months.
Bulingan Falls, Lamitan City, Basilan
  • Bulingan Falls - a mere 15 minute ride from Lamitan town, will bring you to the natural wonder that is Bulingan Falls, where one can enjoy the magical waterfalls during day picnics with family or friends.

"Churches and Religious Shrines"

  • Chapel of Peace, Calvario Peak, Isabela City – An excellent site for photo enthusiasts. Perched 400 meters above sea level and 15 minutes from the town proper.
  • Santa Isabel Cathedral, Isabela City – An art deco cathedral with a mosaic altar reminiscent of Roman-Byzantine cathedrals, named in honor of the patron saint of Isabela.
  • Monte Santo Shrine - located atop Mt. Ubit in Lamitan City, is a pilgrimage site for devout Catholics who visit the shrine for the traditional "13 Stations" during Holy Week.
  • Kaum Purnah Mosque, Isabela City – An old and imposing mosque, the sight of which greets visitors on board ferries as they sail the channel into Isabela.

"Historical Sites"

  • Datu Kalun Shrine, Lamitan – Built as a tribute to a famous Yakan leader, it is a triangular park located at the heart of Lamitan City's bustling downtown.
  • Museo ng Lamitan – Showcases the color and highlights of the Lami-lamihan festival. It also serves as the information center for the development of Lamitan City.
Basilan Provincial Capitol, former site of Fort Isabella Segunda
  • Basilan Provincial Capitol - site of Fort Isabela II, the original Fort was bombed and destroyed towards the end of World War II, having been used by the occupying Japanese forces as a munitions dump. A newer Capitol Building was built on the spot where the old Basilan City Hall stood after it was burned in the early 1990s. The new building is a celebration of Muslim and Christian influences which shaped modern-day Basilan, and still occupies the highest point of the City proper.
  • Isabela City Plaza (formerly Plaza Misericordia)/Plaza Rizal - as with every traditional Filipino town, the twin plazas of the City (formerly Plaza Misericordia) and Plaza Rizal, has remained at the very center of Basilan's socio-political scene to this very day. Political rallies, civic events, local programs, night-time entertainment and religious pageants are still held in and around the plaza...which also features an obelisk with the statue of Jose Rizal, a public stage, and a relief map of Basilan island on Plaza Rizal, and a fountain, skating rink, botanical garden and outdoor cafes on the City Plaza.

"Fiestas and Festivals"

  • Araw ng Basilan - celebrated every March 7 to commemorate the Anniversary of the Province of Basilan.
  • Lami-Lamihan Festival - the island's premier festival, is celebrated during the Feast of St. Peter (Fiesta San Pedro) on June 29 in Lamitan City. The Festival is highlighted by the participation of the Yakans who attend the festivities in full regalia, selling wares and produce brought in from their farms in the interior.
Lami-Lamihan Festival, Lamitan, Basilan
  • Cocowayan Festival - Isabela City's annual commemoration of its Cityhood, is a week-long series of activities culminating in the annual Street Dancing parade on April 25.
  • Fiesta Santa Isabel - celebrated every July 8 by the residents of Isabela City, in honor of its Patroness Saint Elizabeth of Portugal (Span. Sta. Isabel de Portugal), the focal point of the Fiesta celebrations happen around the Sta. Isabel Cathedral located at the center of Isabela's poblacion. This is highlighted by a Procession and Novena Masses, the traditional Bella Isabela Beauty Pageant, marathon, regatta and other activities organized primarily by the Diocese of Basilan and the Prelature of Isabela and its lay organizations the Catholic Women's League (CWL) and Knights of Columbus (KofC).
  • Semana Santa (Holy Week) - March/April (movable) A city procession known as the Santo Entierro (Holy Funeral) on Good Friday highlights the observance of the season of Lent. Celebrated in most parish churches in the city and in the Sta. Isabel Cathedral, the Santo Entierro is a procession of Christ's images, many of the Stations of the Cross, along the city's main streets, depicting his last hours before, during, and after the Crucifixion.
  • Flores de Mayo - May 1 - 31 A religious feast celebrated in all Catholic churches in honor of the Virgin Mary. Little children in white gala dresses walk up the altar to offer flowers to the image of the Blessed Mother, as the Catholics call her.
Farmland Resort, Lanote, Isabela City, Basilan
  • Fonda de Barangay or Fiestas del Barangay - Week-long celebration in the Barangay/Barrios honoring their patron saints. The celebration usually starts with novena masses held every day for 9 straight days prior the feast day of the patron saint. every night, the barrio is lit up for celebration and merry-making that includes pageants, trade fair, parade, cock-fighting, carnival, musical competition and "baile."
  • Budbud Festival - a quaint example of a Barangay Fiesta celebrated in honor of Nuestra Senora dela Regla of Begang Barangay, otherwise known as Isabela City's "Little Cebu", a majority of whose residents originated from Carmen, Cebu Province. The Festival consists of several days of beauty pageants, street dancing, "budbud" (rice cake) eating and much merry-making.
  • Pascua (Christmas) - December 25 Celebration of Jesus Christ's Birth. City hall, churches, schools, streetlight post, houses, streets, commercial places, parks and most of the other places in the City are covered with lights, filled with joyous sounds and other Christmas Decorations.
  • Isra Wal Miraj - May 9 An Islamic event celebrating the nocturnal journey and ascension of Muhammad.
  • Eid al-Fitr/Hari Raya Puasa - (movable) An Islamic event commemorating the end of the Muslim fasting season.
  • Maulidin-Nabi - December 27 An Islamic celebration honoring the birthday of Muhammad.
  • Chinese New Year - celebrated every February (movable) mostly for the raucous noise-making, tikoy-eating marathons, and the much-anticipated distribution of "ampaw" by rich Chinese godparents.

History

Old Plaza Rizal and Plaza Misericordia, opposite Sta. Isabel Cathedral, old City Hall (Provincial Capitol) atop the hill at the background.

Politics

Basilan's strange politics has been dictated by its economics. Whereas only 25% of the island's residents originate from Christian tribes in the Visayas and Luzon, this group owns 70% of the island's arable agricultural land (private ownership or cooperatives as farmer beneficiaries). The Yakan tribe comprising 45% of the island's population has full control of local governments outside of Isabela and Lamitan cities. The Tausugs, Samals and Bajaus, forming 30% of the population, control nearly 90% of the island's rich aquatic harvest, while the minuscule Chinese segment of the population controls nearly 100% of all commodity trading and commerce activities, especially in the bigger cities.

This volatile mix of different ethnic and religious groups have defined political realignments in the island for most of its history. The Christian tribes, traditionally allied with the Tausugs, controlled Basilan politics until the 1980s, when the Yakans, aided by their almost absolute control of the hinterlands and the disappearance of the multi-national plantations, scored upset victories in electoral contests starting in 1988.

Of late, a strengthening Yakan-Tausug alliance, brought about by the arrival of the Tableegh, fundamentalist Islamic preachers schooled by extremist Middle-Eastern clerics in Syria, Afghanistan and Egypt, has forged a more or less solid Muslim front which has succeeded in thwarting Christian economic and political interests on the island.

Present-day Isabela City Plaza (formerly Plaza Misericordia; note the Rizal monument and Plaza Rizal in the background)

This political combine has since seen some in-fighting from two of the most formidable power blocks to have formed since the 2004 general elections. Both blocks went head-to-head in the 2007 local elections.

The Akbar block (Liberal Party - Atienza Wing), led by the late Wahab Akbar, 3-term Governor and alleged Abu Sayyaf co-founder, together with his wives, and his nephews and nieces, all of whom have been rewarded with a mayoralty post in all the Municipalities as well as the biggest electoral prize - Isabela City, which is under his second wife Cherrylyn Santos-Akbar. His first wife is currently the Governor of Basilan, Jum Jainuddin-Akbar. Wahab Akbar himself, was elected Congressman.

The Salapuddin Block (Lakas-CMD/Kampi), led by Abdulgani 'Gerry' Salapuddin, 3-term Governor, 3-term Congressman and 2-term Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, with his allies Hajiman Salliman Hataman of Sumisip and his brother, Anak Mindanao (AMIN) Party-list Representative Mujiv Hataman, along with a mix of Tausug and Christian leaders. To them, the 2007 elections proved to be a debacle as they lost in nearly all fronts, save for Lamitan City.

Both political coalitions are allied with the Administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In November 13, 2007, a few months after having been elected Congressman, Wahab Akbar himself was killed by a bomb blast that exploded as he was about to leave the Philippine's Congress Building in Quezon City. Allegations behind the apparent assassination were leveled at Salapuddin and Hataman.

Basilan Political Map (as of 2009)
  • GOVERNOR JUM J. AKBAR (1st Term, elected May 2007)

Governor: Jum Jainuddin-Akbar

Vice Governor: Al-Rasheed Sakkalahul

Provincial Board Members:

1ST DISTRICT BOARD MEMBERS

1. Yusop Alano

2. Candu Muarip

3. Placido Jilhani

4. Miskuddin Tupay

2ND DISTRICT BOARD MEMBERS

5. Ronnie Hantian

6. Tahajid Latip

7. Munap Pacio

8. Nasser Salain

9. Reybert Santos. ABC

10. Aley Ahmad Fernandez, SK

11. Edwin Iklaman, PCL

Elections

Current realignments in local politics is reshaping Basilan's political landscape once again. In preparation for the coming 2010 Synchronized National and Local Elections, several political personalities have already manifested their intentions to run for certain positions. Increasingly, the various political colors are moving towards three major factions: the Akbar block, still formidable, albeit splintered and severely weakened from within after the assassination of clan patriarch, Rep. Wahab Akbar; the Hataman block, still a force to be reckoned with province-wide, although recent news have hinted at an estrangement between the Hatamans and erstwhile ally (as well as staunch Akbar foe) former Deputy Speaker and 3-time former Governor Abdulgani Salapuddin, who has not announced any political plans to date; and a third group composed mostly of Christian and Tausug politicians, increasingly seen as representing the vital swing-voters in the coming elections. It remains to be seen as to which National Political Party each of the three factions will eventually affiliate with, however.

Slain Congressman Wahab Akbar's 1st wife Jum Jainuddin-Akbar casting her vote during the May 2007 Elections. She eventually won as Provincial Governor defeating Former Deputy Speaker Gerry Salapuddin.

For the Gubernatorial post, three names have already surfaced, namely: incumbent Governor Hja. Jum Jainuddin-Akbar; Ungkaya Pukan Mayor and former Akbar ally Joel T.Maturan; and erstwhile Akbar nemesis Rep. Mujiv Hataman of the Party-list Anak Mindanao (AMIN). The Lone Congressional District of Basilan will be contested by familiar names as well: Hajiman Salliman Hataman, who was defeated by Wahab Akbar himself in 2007; Maluso Mayor Sakib Salajin, nephew of the slain Wahab Akbar; and, Lantawan Mayor and Wahab Akbar's niece Tahira Ismael-Sansawi.

Other local mayors, notably Cherrylyn Santos-Akbar (Lakas-Kampi-CMD)of Isabela City and Roderick Furigay (LDP)of Lamitan are eyeing the same post. Although, whereas Furigay is said to be a shoo-in for Lamitan in 2010, Isabela City's mayoralty post, is hotly contested with at least 3 other major candidates vying for the same plum position. The names of Alan Ritchie B. Biel (Independent), son of assassinated Mayor Luis R. Biel II; City Council opposition stalwart Arnulfo Dans of the Liberal Party (LP), brother of former Governor, Congressman and LP-NECO Member Alvin Dans; and businessmen Edwin Pantaleta of the Nacionalista Party (NP), have thrown their hats into the political arena for Isabela City's top post.

Locally, the advent of election season has once again witnessed a spike in criminality, most noticeably the rise in kidnapping incidents, assassinations and ambuscades. Specifically, on January 29, 2009 at 5:00pm, Al Barka Mayor Karam Jakilan was felled in an ambush, together with two of his personal bodyguards. Earlier, a slew of assassinations from both the Akbar and Hataman camps, most prominently, an Akbar henchman and two Hataman cousins, has commenced early in 2008. Also, the spate of kidnap-for-ransom activities have been widely observed to peak as election season nears.

In the last five Presidential Elections, Basilan has voted for Ferdinand Edralin Marcos (1969), Corazon Cojuangco Aquino (1986), Fidel Valdez Ramos (1992), Joseph Ejercito Estrada (1998), and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2004), all of whom won in their respective bids. Similarly, Basilan's Vice Presidential choices, namely: Fernando Lopez (1965), Salvador Laurel (1986), Joseph Ejercito Estrada (1992), Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (1998) and Noli De Castro (2004), also won in all election contests, making it one of the most accurate bellwether provinces in Philippine politics today. Sen. Manuel Roxas III was Basilan's Senate top-notcher in 2004, while Sen. Loren Legarda was number one in 2007.

Basilan has figured prominently in a number of election-related issues, foremost of which is its inclusion as among the Provinces (together with Cebu and the rest of the ARMM Provinces) where, allegedly, current Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo instituted wholesale election fraud to win the 2004 Presidential Elections. The ensuing imboglio, dubbed the "Hello Garci" Scandal, included several mentions of Basilan and its late Governor Wahab Akbar, in taped conversations purportedly between President Arroyo and COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

Local elections have been widely fraught with massive cheating, vote buying and fraud as well. Albeit, blame could not be reserved to one group or political block alone as this has been observed to be "common practice" across the political spectrum. Hopes for a much improved and effective delivery of the vote is expected in the next scheduled elections (May 2010), as the COMELEC is set to fully automate the vote counting and canvass, as stipulated by law.

Local government units

Basilan Population Centers

Basilan is subdivided into eleven municipalities and two cities.

Isabela City, (pop. 87, 985) located on the northern shore of Basilan Island facing Zamboanga City, is a component city and capital of the province. Isabela City votes for provincial officials, shares its tax revenues with the province, and continues to be under the jurisdiction of Basilan for the administration of provincially-devolved services and functions. But for the administration of regional services, the city is part of the Zamboanga Peninsula Region despite the rest of Basilan being under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Basilan used to be part of Western Mindanao (the former name of Zamboanga Peninsula), but in a recent plebiscite the residents of some parts of Basilan opted to join ARMM, with the exception of Isabela City (and Lamitan). Called Pasangen (the rough English translation of which is "town") by natives, it hosts the Basilan Provincial Capitol and much of the Municipal Offices of its neighboring municipalities.

Lamitan City (pop. 82,075) likewise became a City in July 2007, although it remains within the ARMM. It is located on the northeastern coast of Basilan, where most of Basilan's plains are situated. The only remaining opposition stronghold against the Akbar dynasty, Lamitan is experiencing a renewed economic vigor that continues to power the rest of the province's otherwise lackluster growth. A November 18, 2008 decision of the Supreme Court, however, effectively voided the law converting Lamitan to a City after the League of Cities of the Philippines filed a petition earlier in the year. A December 22, 2009 Supreme Court ruling effectively returned Lamitan's cityhood status.

The other five (5) original Municipalities are: Maluso (pop. 48,175), located on the island's southwest, this area is facing the bigger island of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi further south, its busiest trading port is located at Port Holland and Maluso Townsite; Lantawan (pop. 28,978) is located on the island's westernmost area, and is mostly an agricultural area for copra and rubber production, its biggest population concentration is located at Tairan, and has no major port; Sumisip (pop. 58,423) is the biggest municipality in terms of land area, and hosts what used to be the biggest rubber plantation (Sime Darby) in the Philippines; Tuburan (pop. 26,498) is located on a peninsula on the extreme eastern part of the island, one of the least developed municipalities and severely devastated by the decades-old armed conflicts plaguing the island; Tipo-Tipo (pop. 26,548), the last among the original municipalities created by Presidential Decree, courtesy of President Ferdinand Marcos, is located on the island's southeast coast, also mostly undeveloped and witness to much of the running gun-battles on the island.

The latest six (6) municipalities[2] are creations of the regional legislature of the ARMM, to wit: Akbar (pop. 21,312), separated from Tuburan municipality, named after a political strongman, the late Congressman Wahab Akbar; Hadji Mohammad Ajul (pop. 26,132), also from Tuburan, named after the first mayor of Tuburan; and, Al-Barka (pop. 26,229) and Ungkaya Pukan (pop. 30,472) municipalities which were separated from Tipo-Tipo, the latter having been named after the grandfather of its present mayor! In 2008, the municipalities of Hadji Muhtamad (pop. 20,292), named after the father of late Cong. Wahab Akbar and separated from Lantawan, and Tabuan-Lasa (pop. 13,384), separated from Sumisip, were similarly created.

All six (6) new municipalities were created without the consent of the Philippine Congress, and according to some accounts, said municipalities do not reach the basic requirements for the creation of a separate Municipality (i.e.: 50 km². area; P2.5 million income; 25,000 population) under the Philippines' Local Government Code. (Ref. Recent Supreme Court rulings nullified the creation of Shariff Kabunsuan Province, created by the same ARMM Regional Assembly, reverting it to the 1st District of Maguindanao Province; Lamitan City has likewise since been reverted to Municipality but as of December 2009, the Supreme Court favored the decision of converting it as a City)

City/Municipality Mayors No. of
Barangays
Population
(2007)
Isabela City[1] Cherrylyn Santos-Akbar
45
87,985
Lamitan City Roderick H. Furigay
45
82,075
Sumisip Haber A. Asarul
30
58,423
Maluso Sakib A. Salajin, Al Hadj
20
48,175
Ungkaya Pukan Joel T. Maturan
12
30,472
Lantawan Tahira Ismael-Sansawi
25
28,978
Tipo-Tipo Ingatul Lukman J. Istarul, Al Hadj
11
26,548
Tuburan Durie S. Kallahal
10
26,498
Al-Barka Karam S. Jakilan (deceased Jan. 29, 2009)
16
26,229
Hadji Mohammad Ajul Talib G. Pawaki
11
26,132
Akbar Alih A. Salih
9
21,312
Hadji Muhtamad Anwar S. Abdulmajid
10
20,292
Tabuan-Lasa Muctar Junaid, Al Hadj
11
13,384
1. ^  Administratively part of Zamboanga Peninsula region.

Noted Basilan people

History and politics

  • Lakan Ipentun - first recorded Yakan Chieftain of Kumalarang, visited Chinese Emperor Yung Lo, and proclaimed a vassal King ("wang") of the Chinese Empire.
  • Datu Bantilan — Tausug chieftain, former Sultan of Sulu, established a Tausug kingdom (Maluso) on the island.
  • Datu Kalun (Pedro Cuevas) — Cavite native who married a Yakan princess and subjugated Lamitan.
  • Juan S. Alano — Bulacan native, Commonwealth Assemblyman of the Moro Province of Mindanao (1936-1946), first Congressman of the Province of Zamboanga (1946-1949), authored the Charters of the Cities of Zamboanga and Basilan, became the Grand Master of the Freemasons in the Philippines in 1961.
  • Nicasio S. Valderroza — Bulacan native, first Mayor of Basilan City (1948-53), also among the first Mayors of Zamboanga (1937-1939), Baguio (1939-1944), and Davao (1944-48) cities.
  • Lenora Alano-Rivera - daughter of Juan S. Alano, co-founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, established the first Girl Scout Chapter in Mindanao.
  • Leroy S. Brown — The longest-serving Mayor of Basilan City (1954-1975), presided over the rise of Basilan City into first-class status during his term, and was a member of the 7-man junta which governed the Philippines' Nacionalista Party.
  • Regino C. Hermosisima, Jr. — Supreme Court Justice, presided over the Aquino-Galman double murder case as a Judge at the Manila RTC. Chairman Emeritus of the Philippine Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA).
  • Ulbert Ulama Tugung — Tausug leader, eventually became the first Regional Governor of the defunct Lupong Tagapagpaganap ng Pook (LTP), special administrative arm for the Muslim provinces.
  • Asan Camlian — The first Muslim Governor of Basilan, appointed by President Ferdinand Marcos, and subsequently won his seat under Marcos's KBL.
  • Louis Walton Alano — OIC Governor of Basilan during the Revolutionary Government of President Corazon C. Aquino (1986-1988), currently the Deputy Governor for Christian Affairs of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
  • Alvin G. Dans — Variously a Provincial Governor, Congressman, Undersecretary of the DILG, and Philippine Postmaster General.
  • Candu I. Muarip — First Yakan politician to be elected to high office, he was appointed Cabinet Secretary for a month during the short-lived Revolutionary Government of Corazon Aquino; he has since been elected Congressman twice, and is a Provincial Board Member
  • Perfecto "Toto" Antonio, Jr. - Provincial Board Member, a descendant of Datu Kalun, a National Board Director for the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines for several years, last Christian to be elected to a Provincial office (2004).
  • Gerry A. Salapuddin — Former MNLF Commander, schooled in Sorbonne University in Paris, France, became three-term Governor, then three-term Congressman, in the last two of which terms he was elected Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
  • Wahab M. Akbar — Former political kingpin and dynast, three-term Governor, elected Congressman in 2007, killed by a bomb blast at the entrance, southwing of the House of Representatives in November 2007.
  • Luis R. Biel II - first City Mayor of Isabela, nursed the new City through its first few years, established the Cocowayan Festival in 2002, assassinated by a lone gunman at City Hall on March 3, 2006.
  • Antonio Francisco Cartagena - first Filipino-American Mayor of Walnut City, Metropolitan Los Angeles, San Gabriel Valley, California, USA.[3]
  • Roseller Barinaga - Long-term Mayor of Dipolog City and three-term Congressman of the 2nd District of Zamboanga del Norte, of Cebuano parentage, a graduate of Basilan City High School, class of 1955.
  • Romeo Jalosjos - 3-term Congressman of the first District of Zamboanga del Norte, born in Latuan, Isabela
  • Dominador Jalosjos — Mayor of Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte, born in Latuan, Isabela City.
  • Cynthia Jalosjos-Carreon — Congresswoman of the first District of Zamboanga del Norte, born in Latuan, Isabela City.
  • Cesar Jalosjos — Congressman of the third District of Zamboanga del Norte, born in Latuan, Isabela City.
  • Theresa M. Alano — Assistant Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
  • Athena Dans — Commissioner, Bureau of Customs (BOC).
  • Roberto Reynera — Chief, Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG).

Entertainment

  • Leni Alano-Cabili - Movie Actress and Singer, 1965 FAMAS Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Daigdig ng mga Api", also sung the original recording of the popular Visayan song "Usahay".
  • John Estrada — Movie and TV Actor, starred in a number of roles both as leading man and villain, currently on contract with ABSCBN TV2 Manila
  • Sammy Lagmay — Movie and TV Actor, comedic talent featured in a number of TV sitcoms
  • Josephine Estrada — Movie Actress from the 1970s
  • Myra Ursula Bucoy - TV Variety Show Host, ABSCBN Regional Network Group "Zambo Jambo"
  • Jamju Alano Rivera - TV Variety Show Host, ABSCBN Regional Network Group "Zambo Jambo"
  • Cecile Licad — world-renowned Concert Pianist, lived in Basilan for some time with her father Dr. Jesus Licad, who helped establish Basilan Hospital (now J. S. Alano Memorial Hospital).
  • Alain Echem — Lead vocalist of Frio.
  • Jennifer Violet Alano-Colet — 1989 Miss Globe International first runner up
  • Lesley Jean Rosebel Sanson - 2003 Miss Philippines-Earth Fire

See also

External links

Official Website: http://www.basilan.gov.ph

Notes

  1. ^ http://www.wunderground.com/global/stations/98836.html
  2. ^ Early Mapping of Southeast Asia at Google Books
  3. ^ "Antique, old, rare and historic Maps & Prints of Southeast Asia". Bergbook.com. http://www.bergbook.com/htdocs/Cache316.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  4. ^ "OCEAN THERMAL ENERGY POTENTIAL SITES". Department of Energy (Philippines). http://www.doe.gov.ph/ER/ocean_thermal.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  5. ^ "OCEAN TIDAL ENERGY POTENTIAL SITES". Department of Energy (Philippines). http://www.doe.gov.ph/ER/ocean_tidal.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  6. ^ {{cite web |url =http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3?s=63889&refer=&units=metric = |title =Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Basilan, Philippines | publisher=Weatherbase | year=2009 | accessdate=2009-01-21}}
  7. ^ "Philippine National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB)". Nscb.gov.ph. http://www.nscb.gov.ph/. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  8. ^ a b c Philippine Department of Tourism
  9. ^ "NSO Basilan Quickstat". Census.gov.ph. http://www.census.gov.ph/data/quickstat/region15/qs15010701.html. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  10. ^ "NSCB - Active Stats - PSGC Interactive - Province: BASILAN". Nscb.gov.ph. http://www.nscb.gov.ph/activestats/psgc/province.asp?provcode=150700000&regName=ARMM%20-%20Autonomous%20Region%20in%20Muslim%20Mindanao. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  11. ^ "The Prelature of Isabela de Basilan". Cbcponline.net. http://www.cbcponline.net/isabela/. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  12. ^ "All-weather road to unlock Basilan's potential, The Gem Program. April 2, 2007.
  13. ^ "Basilan rubber sector eyes rebirth". GMANews.TV. 2008-05-28. http://www.gmanews.tv/story/93962/Basilan-rubber-sector-eyes-rebirth. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  14. ^ Philippine Information Agency (2008-05-12). "Isabela coconut farmers get incentives from PCA". Press release. http://www.pia.gov.ph/?m=12&fi=p080512.htm&no=18. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  15. ^ "Basilan - A Province To Be Watched". WOW Philippines. http://www.wowphilippines.com.ph/explore_phil/place_details.asp?content=description&province=114. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 

References

  • Philippine House of Representatives Congressional Library

Coordinates: 6°34′50″N 122°02′16″E / 6.58056°N 122.03778°E / 6.58056; 122.03778


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Basilan is an island province of the Philippines in Mindanao, just off the southern coast of the Zamboanga Peninsula. Basilan is the biggest and northernmost among the major islands of the Sulu Archipelago.

Alano Island Beach Resort, on Malamawi Is., Isabela City, Basilan
Alano Island Beach Resort, on Malamawi Is., Isabela City, Basilan

Understand

Basilan has a variety of natural tourist spots that dot the island's pristine beaches and cool inland resorts. Basilan has gradually evolved into a charming, even surprisingly hospitable, place to relax and enjoy a laid back, stress-free vacation.

There are three main ethnic groups; the Yakans and Tausugs are predominantly Muslim, while Chavacanos are primarily Christian. The lingua franca is Chavacano, a Spanish creole dialect, understood by more than 80% of the population. Tagalog/Filipino and English are also widely spoken and understood.

Get in

Access to the island province is usually through Zamboanga which lies 17 nautical miles (narrowest point of the Basilan Strait) due north. From there, a boat ride of 1 hour and 45 mins (for conventional passenger ferries), will take you to Isabela and Lamitan. The fare ranges from Php20 (student and senior citizen's discounted fare on some conventional ferries) to P70 (first-class w/ aircon).

  • Isabela-Zamboanga-Isabela Route (1 hr, 30 mins)

M/V Stephanie Marie - ISA-ZAM: 6:45am/ 12:45pm; ZAM-ISA: 9:45am / 3:45pm

M/V Ever Sweet - ISA-ZAM: 9:30am / 3:30pm; ZAM-ISA: 6:30am / 12:30pm

M/V Estrella del Mar - ISA-ZAM: 10:00am / 4:00pm; ZAM-ISA: 7:00am / 1:00pm

M/V Princess Nicole - ISA-ZAM: 6:50am / 12:50pm; ZAM-ISA: 9:50am / 3:50pm

  • Lamitan-Zamboanga-Lamitan Route (1 hr, 30 mins)

M/V neveen - LAM-ZAM: 3:00 pm ; ZAM-LAM: 7:00am M/V Trisha Kerstin - LAM-ZAM: 7:00am ; ZAM-LAM: 3:00 pm

  • Maluso-Jolo-Maluso Route (6 hours)

(outrigger boats called "palakayas" leave at irregular intervals)

Basilan joined the "Western Philippine Nautical Highway" through the construction of three (3) new Roll-On-Roll-Off ("Ro-ro") Ports located in the cities of Isabela and Lamitan, and in Port Holland, Maluso. A regular four door sedan is charged Php2,500.00 per trip, a Van/Light Truck Php3,500.00, while bigger trucks/heavy equipment may go up to Php5,000.00 per trip.

Basilan is served by several light plane landing fields located in Isabela (2), Lamitan (1), Maluso (1), Lantawan (1) and Sumisip (1), all of which were constructed and maintained by the multi-national plantations and have since been turned over to the Farmer Beneficiary Cooperatives.

See

"Nature Spots"

  • Kumalarang River – It boasts of its 14-meter high waterfall, a proposed site for a hydroelectric plant.
  • Tabiawan and Busay Waterfalls – Found in Isabela, a good site for picnics and bathing.
  • Balagtasan Waterfalls – The biggest waterfall on the island where the Basilan mini-hydro power plant is situated.
  • Sumagdang Beach – A natural resort for swimming. They have coconut plantations, mini rice fields and fishponds. It is 4 kilometers away from Isabela town proper and accessible by bus, jeepney or tricycle.
Houses on stilts, Malamawi Island, Isabela City, Basilan.
Houses on stilts, Malamawi Island, Isabela City, Basilan.
  • Malamawi Island – The main natural attraction of Basilan. Here, a lighthouse guides ships and vintas to the channel. Here can also be found the traditional final resting places of the nomad sea-faring Badjaos and Samal-Luans-Banguingui. It also boasts of the only lake in the province with wild ducks. Also found in Malamawi is the Panigayan fishing village where spearfishing is recommended and the Alano Estates' Bird Sanctuary atop Mts. San Juan and Comunal.
  • Alano White Beach Resort - also found on Malamawi Island, with powdery white sands, day-cottages, and other amenities usually for domestic tourists and local patrons, is widely touted as Basilan's own Boracay minus all the commercial trimmings.
  • Sunrise/Lanote Resort Row - still undergoing extensive infrastructure upgrades, this area will soon host what locals call the "Resort Row" of Isabela City. Already home to at least 3 fully functional inland resorts (The Farmland, EN4Es, and Biel Pool Resort)...no less than four more are slated to open along the same road in the next few months.
Bulingan Falls, Lamitan City, Basilan.
Bulingan Falls, Lamitan City, Basilan.
  • Bulingan Falls - a mere 15 minute ride from Lamitan town, will bring you to the natural wonder that is Bulingan Falls, where one can enjoy the magical waterfalls during day picnics with family or friends.

"Churches and Religious Shrines"

  • Chapel of Peace, Calvario Peak, Isabela City – An excellent site for photo enthusiasts. Perched 400 meters above sea level and 15 minutes from the town proper.
  • Santa Isabel Cathedral, Isabela City – An art deco cathedral with a mosaic altar reminiscent of Roman-Byzantine cathedrals, named in honor of the patron saint of Isabela.
  • Monte Santo Shrine - located atop Mt. Ubit in Lamitan City, is a pilgrimage site for devout Catholics who visit the shrine for the traditional "13 Stations" during Holy Week.
  • Kaum Purnah Mosque, Isabela City – An old and imposing mosque, the sight of which greets visitors on board ferries as they sail the channel into Isabela.

"Historical Sites"

  • Datu Kalun Shrine, Lamitan – Built as a tribute to a famous Yakan leader, it is a triangular park located at the heart of Lamitan City's bustling downtown.
  • Museo ng Lamitan – Showcases the color and highlights of the Lami-lamihan festival. It also serves as the information center for the development of Lamitan City.
Basilan Provincial Capitol, former site of Fort Isabela Segunda, Isabela City, Basilan.
Basilan Provincial Capitol, former site of Fort Isabela Segunda, Isabela City, Basilan.
  • Basilan Provincial Capitol - site of Fort Isabela II, the original Fort was bombed and destroyed towards the end of World War II, having been used by the occupying Japanese forces as a munitions dump. A newer Capitol Building was built on the spot where the old Basilan City Hall stood after it was burned in the early 1990s. The new building is a celebration of Muslim and Christian influences which shaped modern-day Basilan, and still occupies the highest point of the City proper.
  • Isabela City Plaza (formerly Plaza Misericordia)/Plaza Rizal - as with every traditional Filipino town, the twin plazas of the City (formerly Plaza Misericordia) and Plaza Rizal, has remained at the very center of Basilan's socio-political scene to this very day. Political rallies, civic events, local programs, night-time entertainment and religious pageants are still held in and around the plaza...which also features an obelisk with the statue of Jose Rizal, a public stage, and a relief map of Basilan island on Plaza Rizal, and a fountain, skating rink, botanical garden and outdoor cafes on the City Plaza.

Do

"Fiestas and Festivals"

  • Araw ng Basilan - celebrated every March 7 to commemorate the Anniversary of the Province of Basilan.
  • Lami-Lamihan Festival - the island's premier festival, is celebrated during the Feast of St. Peter (Fiesta San Pedro) on June 29 in Lamitan City. The Festival is highlighted by the participation of the Yakans who attend the festivities in full regalia, selling wares and produce brought in from their farms in the interior.
  • Cocowayan Festival - Isabela City's annual commemoration of its Cityhood, is a week-long series of activities culminating in the annual Street Dancing parade on April 25.
Queen Elizabeth of Portugal, canonized as Sta. Isabel de Portugal, patroness of Isabela City, Basilan.
Queen Elizabeth of Portugal, canonized as Sta. Isabel de Portugal, patroness of Isabela City, Basilan.
  • Fiesta Santa Isabel - celebrated every July 8 by the residents of Isabela City, in honor of its Patroness Saint Elizabeth of Portugal (Span. Sta. Isabel de Portugal), the focal point of the Fiesta celebrations happen around the Sta. Isabel Cathedral located at the center of Isabela's poblacion. This is highlighted by a Procession and Novena Masses, the traditional Bella Isabela Beauty Pageant, marathon, regatta and other activities organized primarily by the Diocese of Basilan and the Prelature of Isabela and its lay organizations the Catholic Women's League (CWL) and Knights of Columbus (KofC).
  • Semana Santa (Holy Week) - March/April (movable) A city procession known as the Santo Entierro (Holy Funeral) on Good Friday highlights the observance of the season of Lent. Celebrated in most parish churches in the city and in the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the Santo Entierro is a procession of Christ's images, many of the Stations of the Cross, along the city's main streets, depicting his last hours before, during, and after the Crucifixion.
  • Flores de Mayo - May 1 - 31 A religious feast celebrated in all Catholic churches in honor of the Virgin Mary. Little children in white gala dresses walk up the altar to offer flowers to the image of the Blessed Mother, as the Catholics call her.
  • Fonda de Barangay or Fiestas del Barangay - Week-long celebration in the Barangay/Barrios honoring their patron saints. The celebration usually starts with novena masses held every day for 9 straight days prior the feast day of the patron saint. every night, the barrio is lit up for celebration and merry-making that includes pageants, trade fair, parade, cock-fighting, carnival, musical competition and "baile."
  • Pascua (Christmas) - December 25 Celebration of Jesus Christ's Birth. City hall, churches, schools, streetlight post, houses, streets, commercial places, parks and most of the other places in the City are covered with lights, filled with joyous sounds and other Christmas Decorations.
  • Isra Wal Miraj - May 9 An Islamic event celebrating the nocturnal journey and ascension of Muhammad.
  • Eid al-Fitr/Hari Raya Puasa - (movable) An Islamic event commemorating the end of the Muslim fasting season.
  • Maulidin-Nabi - December 27 An Islamic celebration honoring the birthday of Muhammad.
  • Chinese New Year - celebrated every February (movable) mostly for the raucous noise-making, tikoy-eating marathons, and the much-anticipated distribution of "ampaw" by rich Chinese godparents.

"Leisure"

A number of Internet shops/cafes can keep you fully connected with the rest of the world 24 hours a day, and the usual charge is at P15/hour.

In the meantime, you may go around Isabela City on foot, by tricycle (minimum fare is P10/person), or by jeepney (set routes, P7/person), or you could hire a number of private taxis/multicabs (P150-P200/hour). The Bus to Lamitan will set you back P45. Vans may likewise be hired at P1,500-P2,000/day.

Check out the Menzi Rubber Processing Plant and be prepared to be assaulted by an assortment of smells and odors which you would have wished you never got the chance to experience! =)

Also, the Night Cafe Barbecue Grille all along Dr. J. W. Strong Boulevard facing the Isabela Channel, a string of "halal" barbecue stands will give you interesting sights, sounds and smells.

For the more adventurous types, a guided tour of the now-abandoned house of terrorist group Abu Sayyaf leader Khaddafy Janjalani can be had for a negotiated price. The house of this notorious terrorist leader sits on a neighborhood basketball court which is right in front of the main gate of the Philippine military's Brigade Headquarters! (A sidetrip to Abu Sabaya's also abandoned house on Malamawi Island can likewise be negotiated.)

For family fun, you may check out the Sumagdang or Alano White Beach Resorts, or spend time at the RAFCER or D'Biel Bowling centers, or haul the kids to The Farmland, ISAWAD (Cabunbata and Balamban) or Biel Pool Resorts.

For the more vocally well-endowed, you may visit any of the number of videoke bars and restaurants which dot the city's landscape like mushrooms after a particularly severe thunderstorm.

Its generally safe to go around the city, even for Caucasian/East Asian tourists, but it is advised to bring along a local guide, just to make sure.

Isabela City Pasalubong Center, Isabela City, Basilan.
Isabela City Pasalubong Center, Isabela City, Basilan.

A definite recommended "buy" would be the intricate Yakan weaves, trinkets and souvenir items usually made of woven material and hammered brass/bronze pieces, with colorful beads and hand-painted wooden bangles, rings, and handcrafted Yakan bags, table-runners, wall-decor, etc. Be sure to visit the Isabela City Pasalubong Center for authentic Yakan craft (1/F, J. S. Alano Zenith Bldg., J. S. Alano St.). Since you're already in Basilan, don't miss out on the "Basilan Brew" coffee available in nearby Lamitan town (only 45 minutes from Isabela City). A number of retail establishments may likewise be visited before 6:00PM (traditional closing time).

  • Isabela City
Their Excellencies Kristie Kenney and Peter Sutherland, Ambassadors of the USA and Canada, in a rare visit at Jollibee's 500th branch. Together with them are the Ambassadors of Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK.
Their Excellencies Kristie Kenney and Peter Sutherland, Ambassadors of the USA and Canada, in a rare visit at Jollibee's 500th branch. Together with them are the Ambassadors of Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK.

Jollibee

Lolo Jose Grille and Restaurant

Font's Restaurant

JJ Twin's Pavillion

Mon's Kitchen

Emerald Cafe

Eathel's Burger Joint

Trisha's

  • Lamitan City

Chi-Chia Grille and Restaurant

Nalamar Family Entertainment Complex

Sumptuous local delicacies may likewise be sampled. Not to be missed are hearty Muslim dishes such as "tyula itum", "pianggang manok", "baulo", "kulma", etc. Certain Yakan festivities likewise prepare a pyramidal "dullang" with the delectable mountain rice "sappul

Sleep

A number of Hotels, Resorts and hostels likewise dot the City of Isabela.

These include:

The Farmland Resort, Lanote, Isabela City, Basilan.
The Farmland Resort, Lanote, Isabela City, Basilan.

The Farmland Resort (Lanote),

Anson's Hotel (Sumagdang),

Hotel Royal Issra (Marketsite),

Casa Rosario (Port Area),

Basilan Hostel (Eastside),

Buwalan Beach Resort (Sumagdang),

ISAWAD Pool Resort, Cabunbata, Isabela City, Basilan.
ISAWAD Pool Resort, Cabunbata, Isabela City, Basilan.

ISAWAD Pool Resort (Cabunbata),

Basilan Hotel (Isabela Proper), and

Grino House (Menzi).

Talk

The lingua franca is Chavacano, a Spanish creole dialect, understood by more than 80% of the population. Tagalog/Filipino and English are also widely spoken and understood.

"Basic Chavacano Translations"

Yes - Si!

No - No!

Good morning! - Buenos Dias!

Good Afternoon! - Buenas Tardes!

How are you? - Quetal 'tu?

Here - Aqui

There - Alla

I'm hungry! - Con hambre yo!

I'm sick! - Infermo yo!

Help! - Ayuda!

Where can I eat? - Donde yo puede come?

Where is the Hotel? - Donde el Hotel?

Where's the toilet? - Donde el CR?

Where can I have fun? - Donde yo puede man gimik?

How much is this? - Cuanto 'ste?

How much is that? - Cuanto 'se?

Its too expensive, can you give me a discount? - Bien caro, tiene pa rebaje?

When does it (do we) leave? - Cuando 'quel (kita) larga?

Thank you! - Gracias!

  • Hja. Gigi Carama-Junudi, Basilan Provincial Tourism Officer, Provincial Capitol Building, Isabela City, Basilan.
  • Jayson Tubil, Isabela City Tourism Officer, Isabela City Hall Complex, Isabela City, Basilan.
  • Pilar Raga, Guest Liaison Officer, "Isabela City Pasalubong Center", Basilan Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Inc., J. S. Alano Bldg., J. S. Alano St., Isabela City, Basilan.

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