Basilan is a true island paradise. It is bountifully blessed with natural riches. Thus, many early travelers and merchants called it an ‘Island of Hope.’ This province is bestowed with various traditions and cultures. It is rich in aquatic resources. Because of its natural riches and strategic geographic locations, it was considered as the trading center of Mindanao back in the previous centuries.
The island province is part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It is situated at the southern coast of the Zamboanga Peninsula. It is so far the most northernmost and biggest among all the main islands of the Sulu Archipelago. Basilan is surrounded by the Sulu Sea at its northwest, the Basilan Strait at its north, the Celebes Sea at the south, and the Moro Gulf at its northeast.
The climate is ideal. March to May are hot and dry months when temperature reaches an average of about 22°C. June to October are rainy months. November to February are cold. Luckily, the island province is not within the typhoon belt of the Philippines. Thus, it is always spared from any destructive typhoons, though heavy rains and other weather disturbances could bring about adverse weather conditions.
There is a kilometer-wide channel opening Isabela (provincial capital) port. It is lined by Samal and occasional Samal houses on stilts. Right across that channel is the Malamawi Island, the logical gateway to Basilan. Malamawi Island has the only lake found in Basilan, flooded with wild ducks. It is also home to a fishing village called Panigayan, which is touted as a perfect spearfishing destination. Basilan is predominantly Muslim, but at the heart of Isabela City could be found an old Catholic church, Santa Isabel Cathedral.
Other tourism sites within the province are getting more popular these days. Kumalarang River has a 14-meter high waterfalls that is perfect for outdoor recreations and photo sessions. Sumagdang Beach is a natural resort ideal for swimming. It is easily accessible via buses, jeepneys, or even tricycles. Tablawan, Busay, and Balagtasan Waterfalls are picturesque as well as ideal for swimming and sight-seeing. Alano White Beach Resort is dubbed as Basilan’s own Boracay without all the latter’s commercial trimmings.
Many festivals are also held in Basilan. Basilan Day tops the list. The event is held every March 7 to commemorate the foundation day of the island province. Lami-Lamihan Festival is a premier festival coinciding with the feast day of St. Peter on June 29 in Lamitan. The festival is participated by Yakans who come in their full regalia. Cocowayan festival is Isabela City’s yearly weeklong commemoration of its cityhood.
How to get there
Basilan is reached from Zamboanga, where there is regular 60-minute air flight from Metro Manila. There are ferry rides connecting Zamboanga and Basilan.