Tag Archives: mindanao

BASILAN: YODO – You Only Die Once

real.deal

there goes the story of the fake ticket, fake ID and THE one real, palpable, so-near-i-can-breath-danger  type of D.A.N.G.E.R.
Prequel of this story here (anong sinabi ng twilight may prequel prequel pa ako nalalaman.hehe)

I arrived in Zamboanga City safe and sound. Flight went smoothly, and none of those  shady-armed-men-terrorists showed up to welcome me in the airport- to my delight. *Though they were very much present in my nightmares for several days prior to the flight; whew!

Zamboanga City is the jump off place for people coming from Manila to Basilan- the main destination of this whole backpacking trip. There are no direct flights from Manila to Basilan Island. i am not sure if theres an airport even.

the plan was to spend two days in Zamboanga before heading to Basilan. just enough time to settle and calm myself down from the whole idea of braving Basilan single-handedly, flying with fake identity and the thought of simply just being in western Mindanao.

since i am not the type of traveller(person in general) who is good with plans, i got stuck in Zamboanga for 7 days not because i was scared of Basilan(ulol) but because i enjoyed getting drunk and looked down to every night with new-found friends.lol

Jeez, chavacanos(not all) are a bunch of condescending bitches. Not a night of drinking passed by without them reiterating their superiority  amongst other pinoys(its the whole Spanish thing they say). in this case, i am the only “other pinoys”, i guess, since i am the lone non-chavacano in the drinking table. i, actually, did get their point the first time they explained it to me. i mean, all three of them took a shot in incessantly explicating the matter. just saying.

one night, while in the middle of a drinking spree, out-of-the-blue, they bursted into a chorus of Zamboanga’s anthem-patriotic much. But, hey, as long as theres free beer, theres no issue with me- i succumbed my lords(*on a game of thrones tone).

finally, after that night of drinking when i tried so hard(argh) to convince them that we are all equal(chavacanos, tagalogs)-which i failed miserably- i decided to stood up and be brave(Kalinga tribe reprezeeent! lol) and pursue that daunting task of travelling solo to Basilan.  YOLO. uhm. YODO. You Only Die Once. yeah, none of them wanted to cross to Basilan.

i woke up at 4:30am. Benj( friend/ host) walked with me to the jeepneys heading to where the port is. He wasn’t allowed by his partner to travel with me.

the jeep brought me down to the street next to the port. it was a looong walk-not sure if its the distance or the scare that started to well inside me.

this, back then, was the most sensitive trip i have gotten myself into. Basilan is pretty much known to all of the Philippines as the island you would not want to bring yourself to. heck, you wouldn’t even want to get near to( of course, unless a rifle is being poked at the back of your head then you should not fight back and just go) lol.

it is believed to be the home of local terrorists(aside from Jolo i think). this is one of those don’t-tell-my-mom’s destinations.

so breaking in to Basilan was like a top secret  agent’s mission-
critical,
sensitive and
insanely stupid.
yeah, what can i get from doing this aside from bragging rights? yeah, none. lol.

i wore worn-out shirt, basketball shorts and slippers. totally the vibe you get from your typical neighbourhood hobo. which happens to be my look even when dressed-up. =)

i arrived at the port 45mins ahead of what Benj told me was the boats scheduled departure time, 6am. yeah, am i excited or what!?

then a man approached me to my surprise horror bearing news that there was a fast craft/vessell thats about to leave and that its only 50pesos more expensive. (well, its very warm of Basilan to come up with these circumstances just to meet me ASAP.)
Aaah the warmth of friendliness… left me froze with terror. lol. i said to the man “uhmmm yeah, sure, why not chocnut”

i told myself,  if theres one time that i shouldn’t be exhibiting fake bravery then this is it. this is it pansit. but, yeah, my mind was already afloat, i said I’m taking it.

with utter carefulness- more like paranoia- couple of rules i made and observed: never make eye contact to anyone. no speaking. if asked, talk only in my broken bisaya, short and sweet in a hushed tone. always stick with group of people. no going to toilet. no camera. no phone. and DO NOT MAKE ANY SCENE(as much as i love attention, this was apparently not the place and time.)

i ran to the boat- ran pa talaga- because it was about to board and sail. i went straight to a vacant seat in the corner. there i seated( honestly i wasn’t really sure if i would sit, or jump out of the boat- my brain was confused. but, yeah, my heart on the other hand, was so sure to jump out of my body)

since this was a secret mission, my priority(for my dear life) was not to attract any attention. be discreet, blend in and play it cool.
failed.
hence, i stood out like a sore thumb because i sweated like a pig.

i tried earnestly to composed myself. and i did it by listening to Snoop Dogg’s Young, Wild and Free. i listened to it a couple of times. though i restricted myself from breaking to a Hip Hop swaggin dance( which i am prone to do whenever i hear it blasted on the radio)

“Livin’ young, wild and free” i hummed. it worked like a charm. =)

it was a smooth sail. sea was placid. sky was clear. sun’s soft morning rays felt warmth to the skin. it was a subtle morning(of course that is we discard the case of my then-troubled-heart which almost jumped-out not only from my body but from the boat altogether.)

an hour passed and from afar, the outline of the famed and feared zone started to take shape. it was mostly flat terrains. the sleepy island’s silhouette was accentuated with fine gloomy streaks of fog.  the sight was serene and tranquil. least words one would associate Basilan with. there was a definite calmness in the air.

shady silhouette

i started to contact Basilan’s Tourism officer that was assigned to meet me in the pier. we had a lengthy phone conversation the night before and that actually sealed the deal. it is safe he guaranteed and that he will be inside the pier waiting for me the next day.
i phoned him.
no answer.
the.guy.did.not.answer.my.phone.call.

*my most feared scenario is, actually, to alight from the boat, walk to the arrival area and have no one to fetch me. if this happens in a different place i will not even be bothered but this is Basilan. that would make me feel like im a meat thrown inside a cage of mad dogs with thick saliva drooping from their mouth.

you know how it is the arrival area, all eyes on you. in this case, even terrorist eyes could be on you. even terrorist eyes hunting down for their next victim could be on you. even terrorist eyes hunting down for their next victim wearing dark glasses, sahal, belt of ammo and an ak-67 could be on you. ohboy, my wild imaginations fukced me straight up with a devilish grin.

my then-calm composure brought about by the cool Sulu Sea air, subdued summer sun, and the landscape that has peace written all over it was suddenly unrattled again.  i decided i will not alight the boat unless i received a text or call from the tourism guy. id rather stay in the boat and go back to Zamboanga City and just lie about travelling around Basilan altogether. haha. but the tourism guy, Jason, finally texted.

and it was all good vibes from then on.
*well, except for the lady guide who hinted was expecting a treat because apparently the previous visitors were of affluence. they feasted on thousand worth of seafood  etc. i said, the only seafood she can expect from me is a fancy fried fish(daing na bangus). very fancy, eh? (yes, they are my good friends Nik and Ton. its not their fault that they are rich. and its my fault that im “under-privilege” lol. yes, i know that. demmit)

it was a rollercoaster of feelings this travel experience caused me. the high highs and looow lows were so extremes. from disturbing to delightful.

the beach in Malamawi Island is definitely amongst my top beaches in the Philippines alongside El Nido’s and Babuyan’s Sabang. Though i must say Malamawi has way more “ooomph” and ANGAS(not sure if theres an english translation).  I mean, the lifeguards here don’t carry rescue cans, they carry rescue guns! and by guns… i meant those things that fire.

Basilan(Isabela) is a city marred with terrorism and violence. A place condemned with a long history of bad press which is utterly wrongful/unjust for the friendy people and the stunning island place. Its a shame that Basilan graces frontpages of newspapers wherein its more suited for travel magazine covers.

Come on Mindanao, let’s give peace a chance!
Visit this side of the country if you can. its worth it. and because YOLO – you only live once( and that once can end here. lol)

*this trip was mid 2012
*the Zamboanga peeps are good friends. well, unless they change their minds after reading this. bunch of fun, cool people. hehe
*Nik and Ton are not your typical rich conyo travelers. hehe
*the guy from the Tourism office Jason Arcan is a very cool guy. everyone travelling to this island should look for and get him as guide.
*and you should give generous tip.
because, i did. generously. of course, but thats on  my standards. lol

that ass is me. adjacent is catholic church bombed several times already.
pristine sands
white sandy beaches

backpacking.Mindanao

the story started with a free ticket, a fake ID, and one poor, adventure”ful” ass. yes, thats mine me.

i never intended to visit this side of Mindanao. eastern side.

plainly because its the favorite setting of news men when reporting on kidnappings and bombings. and as much as i would want to appear on tv or newspaper, well, certainly,  not on these circumstances.

but, during one stormy afternoon. Nic of www.pinoyontheroad.com gave away his round-trip ticket to Zamboanga. and being the happy-go-lucky cheapskate, adventure”ful” ass that i am. i said yes, even before my brain comprehended what it entailed. you know, like, actually, going to this side of Mindanao and be, physically, in those backdrops  i only see on Tv Patrol.

since i am not fully knowledgeable about the geography of  this part of the country, i googled some maps and to my surprise horror, Zamboanga city is apparently 1 centimeter away from Basilan, an inch away from Jolo etc etc.

scared? terrified.

i kept this trip a secret since i do not want anyone to worry about my travel stupidity. you know, incase, there are, actually, people who feel that way.

all i said at home was i’m going out for a shoot and hike in Bicol. and that i’l be gone for a few days.

the day before the travel, my stupidity, apparently, started to kick in(mala “Liu Kang’s flying kick). and it did scare the hell out of me.

after all, it is the first time i am travelling with a different name and a fake ID to a place i had only seen glimpses of during 2-minute-Newsflashes or excerpts from TV Patrol or sometimes on a front page of a newspaper. not very enticing, right?

but i knew that if i let this opportunity pass by, i will never be able to get myself there, ever.

and since i love giving myself a good scare, at times. i single-handedly braved this trip.

i had two options Zamboanga-Basilan-Tawi tawi and Basilan-Zamboanga-north-west-south Mindanao. i followed the latter.

so how did it go, you say? well, i am back in Manila and still alive, obviously, so thats good news… right? oh yeah, of course it is. =)

few highlights:

-the airport scene that played in my head prior to my flight wherein some suspicious men with shades and sahal would follow me and my every move until finally cornering me outside the airport in Zamboanga didnt actually happened. buang.

-was able to fly with a different name and a fake ID. i dont advise this though =)

-zamboanga is the sh*t. i would walk in the streets back to my hostel past midnight, drunk, its safe.

-even my new-found friends in Zamboanga got scared to go with me in Malamawi in Basilan.

-Merloquet falls is charming. Malamawi is the best beach in the south( but thats just me). Tinuy-an Falls looks better in photos(opinion ko lang din yan). Had a good swim in Hinatuan enchanted river. failed to get awed by Glan… for the second time.

-dont camp by the beach when a storm is brewing.

-Greenwindows dormitel in Davao is the best backpack accomodation in the PI( wasnt paid to say that, but if you guys are reading this, i wouldnt mind a free sleep next time.) affordable at 188. its clean. safe. airconditioned. =)

-buses in western Mindanao are better than those on the eastern side.

-10,000pesos is enough to circumnavigate the main island of Mindanao( ala true blue explorer.lol)

-satti is delicious. and so is knickerbucker.

-slept in a bus for several nights to save on accomodation. sayang. pangBeer din yon. lol

-things will not always go smoothly. there will always be that one stranger who will fukc things up.

-if you want friends, first, be a friend.

-i dream of time when people would go to Mindanao without hesitance, just pure excitement.

amoy.durian


sarap ng bakasyon sa gensan. isang linggo na kami at di pa din naman kami tinataboy sa bahay ng barkada namin. at dahil pare-pareho kaming makakapal ang mukha, patigasan at walang gumagalaw pabalik sa manila. bakit nga naman hindi, libre ang chibog, libre ang libot, libre ang alak(Absolut at Domecq 1820..lol, gabi gabing lasing)… at unlimited na Balbacua(visayan bulalo) isang drum yta yon isinalang. at isinalang ng dalawang araw. sarap!(buong barkada e nagluluto) kaya ayos lagi ang kainan.

kaso lang, biglang nagkaroon sila  ng affair sa simbahan para sa tatlong araw, retreat daw, nun weekend na yon. at dahil kasali silang mag-asawa, at iba pa namin barkada,  pati kaming bisita . inubliga na din. boom.

bago pa nila ma-ispell ang R.E.T.R.E.A.T. nag-impake na ako agad sabay banat na kailangan ko ng bumalik ng davao at dun na lang sasakay pauwi ng manila. sinabi ko na lang may biglaang lakad din. nyahaha. lol

at dahil kasama ko pa ang isa pang magaling… at di pa din nman talaga psyched na bumalik ng Manila. desisyon na lang palipasin muna weekend sa davao at kumuha na lang ng flight ng lunes..fx papuntang Davao(around 200 yta)
pagdating sa davao, nangungulit yon mataba  na may nakita daw sya sa airport na ad na less than 200 per night accomodation dun na lang daw kami. magaling! kaso ni address at kahit pangalan e di man lang nakuha. ang naalala lang ni mokong e yon presyo. hayup. U ALREADY! haha

i dont know how exactly we got the hotel info but somehow we did. think we phoned airport and asked one of the officer about the certain ad. and gooodgod she was kind enough to walk through the arrival area to hunt for the wall ad. Greenwindows Dormitel, 188/night/pax.

we arrived in the building around noon and, damn, it didnt look somewhere you could get a 200-peso-overnight-accomodation at at all. free wi-fi, floor to ceiling windows, locker, pantry, at airconditioned pa oohlala. definitely, the best accomodation, for that amount, in all of my travels in Luzon,Visayas and Mindanao. its like one of those sleek backpacker dorms that abound in the backpacking state of Thailand only half the price and minus the westerners. haaangmura talaga!

i planned to travel the next day to Surigao to check-out  Tinuy-an falls and Hinatuan river. both very picturesque as shown in pictures.

as i was unpacking my stuff that night, getting ready to hit the sack early. one of our bunkmates asked us to go out for the night, it was a friday. and you know, my tolerance to alcohol invites is as strong as Cali shandy(lol, meron pa ba nun..hehe) so instead of hitting the bed, we hit the bars. its not Matina Town Center, but its also a complex of bars and clubs( forgot the name). night passed like a blur.

i woke up in my bunk around 10am next day with a bad, mean, hangover. i let go of the 6-hour bus ride to Surigao and spent the whole day nursing my hangover instead. ate in my favorite Penongs and pampered myself with a massage.

i planned to spend the next day in Canibad beach in Samal Island. its on the far side of the island opposite to Blue Jaz and Paradise. but that night, we got drunk again. same same. skipped the trip and spent the whole day walking around the city taking pictures instead. checked out Aldavinco and got myself one of those indian shirts(white&pink).

i was not in the mood to really explore the city on that trip anyway. since i was able to do that with my family on my last visit a couple of months back. plus, the weeklong  roadtrips around Saranggani, Gensan, South Cotabato and Davao had taken its toll on my body.

the impromptu Davao trip was a welcome surprise to capped off my January trip which started in Cebu on the first week of January(right in time for Sinulog), Siquijor, Dumaguete then the South Mindanao leg.

i miss travelling. could it be that the travel bug that has bitten me in the last couple of years had finally  lost its sting? my birthday just passed and it was my first time in 8 years to spend it here in Manila. supposed to go on a trip somewhere in Luzon(budget constraints) but nothing seemed to catch my fancy. hmmm

 

***Greenwindows dormitel is minutes away by foot from Peoples park
Penongs is beside Peoples park.
surprised to know that most of the restaurants dont allow customers to eat Durian inside restaurant premises
indian shirt at P180