By Meryl Grace Agudelo
We left the city at breaking dawn on-board Annika Gayle. Our one hour travel was filled with mixed emotions of excitement and apprehension. We all have stories and perception about Basilan—most of which we’ve heard from friends, validated or unvalidated, over time these stories found its way to make us constantly fearful of exploring the place. I insisted to stay at the upper deck of the boat, even if it means standing all throughout the trip, so that I can have a better view of the surrounding islands.
The fishermen line themselves up early morning, sitting through the waves and tides, hoping to have a good catch.
Basilan is a melting pot of ethnic groups such as Yakan, Badjao and Tausug. As we approach the port of Isabela City, we passed by this small water village of Badjaos. At that moment, I feel like entering a whole new dimension with immense simplicity. A quiet morning with a view of people doing their regular routine—I appreciate its stillness.
There are many foods to choose from in their market, a long stretch of various fishes, native goodies and the like but we were just too lazy to carry some and ‘cook’. Quick trivia, in this part of the country hindi uso ang weighing scale, because they don’t sell fish by kilo, they sell them by stack. Abundance is the term, they don’t really mind losing a gram or two because they can readily get a supply whenever they want. We reached Isbela at about 7:30 in the morning, from the port we went straight to this happy place called Jollibee, the sole branch in the area and grab some chicken joy! Classic!
I know two ways of reaching the white sand resort in Malamawi. First and the easiest way, rent a water vessel. There are several bankas available in the port which you can hire for Php 1,000, they will bring you to and from the resort. Second is the conventional way of reaching the resort (the route we took), from the port of Isabela you can take a banka that will bring you to Malamawi, how much? Php 5.00. Its cheap because it follows the jeepney principle, anim sa kanan at anim sa kabila (six on the left and six on the right). We patiently waited for the banka to get enough passengers.
On extreme circumstances, you may try this.
As we reach Malamawi, we hired Habal Habal for Php 25 per head, each motorcycle can accommodate two people or maximum of three. It will take you about 20 minutes to reach the white sand resort. The road going there is mostly cement, so you don’t have to worry so much about the ache of traveling on unpaved roads.
After all is said and done, we reached our destination—naturally we were in awe when we saw this.
I spoiled my eyes with hues beautifully placed together—‘the smell of the air, the open sky and the ever-inviting sea made room for everything in my life.’ Yes, mapapaemote ka sa ganda!
While we were in the resort I took a short walk alone on the shoreline. I noticed this local who was fishing since we arrived, from afar I thought it was his fishing paraphernalia tied around his waist, but as I came closer I realized that they were fishes neatly tied next to each other. Living simply.
I politely asked Kuya if I can take photos of him and his catch, and he readily said yes. I ended the conversation telling him ‘sobrang ganda ng lugar niyo, Kuya. Salamat po sa picture.’ (You’re place is so beautiful. Thank you for the picture).
We spent the whole day in the island and I couldn’t care any less about the stories I have heard before this trip. I look at the sea and the sky and the serenity surrounding me, I am thankful that I went on as planned. Many of us believe that we live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world and indeed we are. I have seen it right before my eyes.
When we tried posting a photo of Malamawi online, people appreciated it so much. Others were so thankful for allowing them to have a glimpse of its seascape. But there are also some of us who started bashing the island, telling us that we are lucky to come out alive and congratulating us for being too brave and fearless. If you truly believe that we are a country filled with immense natural beauty then the least we can do is to refrain from destroying its reputation. Remember that even the slightest ill phrase you tell about the island in the Philippines is tantamount to speaking ill to the entire nation where it belongs.
I understand where your fears are coming from, but I think we should draw the line between cautioning and disparaging Malamawi or Basilan as whole to people. It is part of the Philippines as much as any other islands in the archipelago, we ought to give the respect and appreciation it deserves.
Before we went to Basilan, we did a little research about the island through pages available online. I can’t help but notice how the people who have been to the island label their albums ‘don’t tell my mom I went to Malamawi’ or ‘Don’t tell my Parents I’ve spent a day in Basilan’, I on the other hand will tell my family that I have been to Malamawi and I will describe to them every spec of its beauty.