"I was conditioned to embrace the mindset that Basilan is dangerous everyday of my life—and I couldn't win the fight anymore. I lost the psycho-war."

[BASILAN, PHILIPPINES]  I don't blame the mainstream. The popularity and the hype the mainstream is enjoying, I think, is a destiny. I'm referring to the standing of places in terms of tourism. Though some LGUs have also done everything they can to transform their places the way they wanted, many places achieved a high level of popularity not because of the works of their local leaders but because the place captured the hearts of many (congratulations to the LGUs who were able to transform their places into a tourism hub).

[BASILAN] ► HELLO! WELCOME TO BASILAN!


In the far south of the diverse Philippine archipelago, there's an island that has penetrated the mainstream Filipino pop culture. It has carved its own niche on the face of mass media, and of common belief—in a negative sense though. Known as an island for terrorists and insurgents, Basilan is infamous.

Basilan's infamy

We've heard and read so many stories about this island. Stories of poverty have been broadcast in the airwaves. Terrorism, abduction and civil war dramas, at a certain point, have become synonymous to Basilan. Its share of infamy is mainstream that most Filipinos, I assume, would not dare save a precious day spending holiday in this island. The LGU, I think it's safe to say, didn't want this island to be this way. The unfortunate situation was destiny they never asked.

I visited Basilan bearing that common belief in mind. The extremely unpleasant image of Basilan has found its way into my heart. Extrinsic factors have conditioned my way of thinking. I was nervous. I was paranoid.

I've been to places labelled as dangerous like ▼ #TINEG

#TINEG


(a remote town in ▼ ABRA PROVINCE

ABRA

tagged by a newspaper as the murder capital of ▼ CORDILLERA

CORDILLERA ADMINISTRATIVE REGION


couple of years ago), Southern Thailand (for relatively frequent bombings it has experienced the past decade) and Maguindanao (as home to some members of an Islamic separatist movement) but when Basilan lurks to my consciousness, it would be a different story—there'd be high chances of losing my well-kept courage.

So who gave me the courage to visit Basilan? 

I say it again, my fear of visiting Basilan is relative. Mass media has conditioned my mind and unfortunately, even my own culture has made me believe that Basilan is not a safe place for Ilocanos—that outsiders will be abducted there. 

All of my relatives, friends, co-workers and colleagues warned me of visiting Basilan. No one ever supported me to pursue a leisure travel to Basilan. See? Everyone in the place where I grew up thought Basilan was, and is, a dangerous place. Who am I to go against the flow? I mean, I'm not judgmental and as much as possible, I don't want to think Basilan that way. But I tell it again, I may not easily conform to those local beliefs but when an intangible has been embedded on the norm and culture of a place where I spend my life daily, it would be hard for me not to be influenced. I was defeated. I gave in. I judged Basilan to be generally dangerous because my culture and my daily way of life have trained me to believe the way they wanted me to believe. I was conditioned to embrace the mindset that Basilan is dangerous everyday of my life—and I couldn't win the fight anymore. I lost the psycho-war. I embraced the culture—Basilan was, is and will be dangerous.

To answer the subtitle before the foregoing paragraph, I would thank destiny for this. My friend from ▼ #VIGAN

#VIGAN


went to Basilan for good three years ago because her husband was from Basilan. Knowing someone from Basilan escalated my level of courage.

Without the knowledge of my parents, friends and relatives, I acted like a prodigal rebellious son and pushed my discreet plan of visiting Basilan. I've read several blog posts about Basilan with titles like "Don't tell my mom I visited Basilan," or "Don't tell my wife I went to Basilan" and it's easy to think it's just a made-up title to attract readers. Now, that blog title is already happening to me and I have to swallow my pride. I swallowed my old judgmental thinking because it also happened to me. A lot of bloggers have overused that title so I'm not going to use it anymore though.

It's cliché, but it's really unplanned

When travel bloggers say "unplanned trip" or "unplanned adventures," I know it would be so cliché because I've read these lines countless times. The reality is, a wise and smart travel blogger plans his trip and itinerary. I'm not saying I'm a stupidly reckless travel blogger. I planned this trip, but the Basilan side trip was a random pick so basically, I didn't know what to do and where to go in Basilan.

Before this trip, I booked a flight to Zamboanga City without Basilan on my itinerary. Yeah, I know Zamboanga City is the gateway to Basilan but I had more than enough options in mind so Basilan wasn't a priority. But as I said, the presence of a friend in Basilan renewed my courage to reconsider visiting the place even just for a day. I had no plans to explore it. For me, a reunion with a friend after three years would be enough.

The untold economic progress

Basilan province is an archipelago. The main island is called Basilan island. Dozens of smaller islands surround the main island. I'm a geography freak so I was amazed when I learned that Basilan has two cities. Speaking of cities, their presence signify that there is a promising economic activity in the province. City status is a sign of progress. For a small island province like Basilan, it's amazing to think how it maintained to handle a sustainable economic progress in spite of its small area and population. This may signify that the people of Basilan (of these two cities in particular) have the money to spend. The businesses in Basilan would not survive if the people are poor.

[LAMITAN] ► THE CITY HALL OF LAMITAN

[ISABELA] ▬ THE CITY PUBLIC MARKET OF ISABELA

[ISABELA] ► A JOLLIBEE BRANCH IN ISABELA CITY, BASILAN


If the population of a place is big, it means businesses may still survive even half of the population is poor because the other half is still a huge market of consumers (say for example, 1 million: 500,000 thousand are poor, 500,000 have the money to spend, so 500,000 is still a huge market for a city to sustain busineses). 

The case of Basilan is just amazing. It has two cities in spite of its small population. This may signify, among other factors, that the people of Basilan are relatively richer compared to other provinces. To sustain the city status of Lamitan and Isabela, the small population should have the money to spend to allow businesses in their cities to survive. If none has the capacity to spend money, businesses would die, hence, lesser economic activity. Based on the theory I presented, Basilan's small population is relatively richer compared to other provinces.

To support my theory above, Basilan, although classified as a 3rd-Class Province in terms of gross provincial income, has one of the lowest incidence of poverty in the Philippines (26.19% of the general population), ranked 20 among the ▼ PHILIPPINES

PHILIPPINES


' 81 provinces (in comparison, Maguindanao which is ranked last at number 81 has a poverty incidence of 44.24%). The gap between Basilan's rich and poor residents are 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). Source.

The Untold Hospitality

Before I visited Basilan, I thought the people are not welcoming to visitors. As I mentioned above, I've been conditioned to think that the people of Basilan are dangerous. I know it's so unfair for me to think that way but as I said, I lost the psycho-war.

Upon reaching Basilan, I was fetched by my friend at the pier. Everyone at the pier didn't care about me. I mean, visitor or not, they have their own businesses to do. So the belief in our place that outsiders aren't welcome in Basilan is a myth. I reached Basilan safe and sound.

[LAMITAN] ► PORT OF LAMITAN


Reaching the house of my friend was a memorable moment. They even prepared the best dish for me because they were anticipating my arrival. It was so touching. I felt so welcomed.

I also visited the tourism office and guess what? The tourism officer herself, Ma'am Corazon Arriola, offered to tour me around Lamitan City. What a nice place is Basilan!

When I went to the city of Isabela, a LGU employee under the tourism office of Lamitan served as my tour guide for free! Thank you Alvin Ofamin. 

[LAMITAN] ► HAMMOCKING AT MY LOCAL HOST'S HOUSE

[LAMITAN] ► WITH CORAZON ARRIOLA (TOURISM OFFICER), JANUARY ZANORIA (MAYOR'S CONSULTANT) AND ALVIN OFAMIN (TOUR GUIDE FROM THE TOURISM OFFICE)


I met many people in Basilan and they were more than happy that I visited their place in spite of the bad image portrayed by the mainstream media. They welcomed me cheerfully. I couldn't ask for more. These stories of hospitality were never heard by me, untold, but I experienced it myself. 

The Untold Beauty and Culture

Lamitan City is the center of Yakan culture in the Philippines. I would have never known about this beautiful tribe if I didn't visit Basilan. The mainstream media rarely (or never) featured stories about the beauty and culture of this island province. 

Because of my limited knowledge of Basilan, witnessing the beauty and culture of this province made me think I was a bad man because of the wrong and unfair notion I've put into my system.

You know, we visited the market in Lamitan where I tasted the local food prepared the traditional way. I also visited Princess Lily Cuevas (a Yakan royal blood) and she welcomed me in her house with open arms. I've seen how beautiful the Yakan weaving was. Princess Lily showed to me all her Yakan fabric collection and their traditional musical instruments.

[LAMITAN] ► A WONDROUS VIEW THAT WELCOMED ME IN LAMITAN

[LAMITAN] ► LAMITAN'S VERSION OF KALESA

[LAMITAN] ► BULINGAN FALLS

[LAMITAN] ► CALUSUGAN BEACH IS A SECLUDED BEACH IN BASILAN

[LAMITAN] ► PALM BEACH A.K.A. PEOPLE'S BEACH


The people I met in Basilan treated me like a king. They showed me the natural beauty of their island while making it sure I was comfortable. I've seen the Palm beach and the secluded Calusugan beach. I also witnessed the beauty of Bulingan falls untold by mainstream media.

In the city of Isabela, we did a walking tour in the downtown and the beauty of its history unfolded before my eyes. 

Ending Words

Basilan is not perfect. It also has its flaws; and its beauty unseen by general public made this island province out of the good mainstream. However, just a thought, why achieve a mainstream status in tourism if this island could be better labelled as an exciting exotic destination? Are you willing to go exotic? Basilan is ready to surprise you with its untold stories. Discover it yourself. | end |

NOTE: If you wish to explore Lamitan City, contact their tourism officer Corazon Arriola at 0917-557-7874.

03 AUGUST 2016: PHOTOS OF UNTOLD HOSPITALITY IN BASILAN
BASILAN PROVINCE, PHILIPPINES

BASILAN PROVINCE

[BASILAN ► HELLO! WELCOME TO BASILAN


► FOOTNOTES, DISCLAIMERS, ACKNOWLEDGMENT, ETC

[1] This post was filed under the category "Special Features." There is a section below where you can see other related posts from this category.

[2] All maps I used on this post are from Google Maps.

[3] All photos are mine.

[4] The insights, condition and name of places or properties I mentioned here are based on the facts and situation on the day of my visit. Take note that you may have a different experience when you try or see the properties or places mentioned here. Names of places and properties may also change by time so it's not my responsibility to update all the information on this blog because once published, I already consider it an archive and I won't update my narratives because I want them to become my references of what have happened in the past. I'm very particular of the dates because I want my amazing readers to understand that I am writing stories based on my perspective and insights on the day of my visit. You can see dates almost everywhere on this blog. Exempted from this rule are my travel guide posts that need to be updated.

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EDMAR GUQUIB, Travel Blogger
EDMARATION #TownExplorer




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EDMAR GUQUIB

Born and Raised in Vigan, Philippines. Hardcore Ilocano. Genuine Bigueño. Sucker of Long Land Trips. Loves the Highlands. Professional Nurse on Weekdays. Coffee Addict. Travel Blogger in Between. For sponsorship, advertising, event invites and collaborations email me at edmaration@gmail.com.

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