THE PROVINCE OF BASILANis an island province located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Its capital is Isabela City and is located just off the southern coast of Zamboanga Peninsula. Basilan is seen as one of the strongholds of the Islamic separatist group, the Abu Sayyaf. The province is in the middle of the western sub-triangle of the East ASEAN Growth triangle composed of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, bounded on the north side by Basilan Strait, on the east side the Moro Gulf, on the west side the Sulu Sea and on the south side the Celebes Sea.
The early settlers of the province were Orang Dampuan from New Guinea Papuan Tribes. Yakans are the descendants of the Orang Dampuans, known for their weaving ingenuity in making colorful fabrics with intricate geometric patterns, as well as elaborate weddings and festival. Then in the 14th century, traders from Borneo and Sumatra came and preached the Islamic faith.
Basilan used to be known as “Tagime” named after a datu who ruled a big part of the island before the Spaniards came. Basilan also had various names in the past, like “Uleyan” and “Matangal” derived from the mountains in the Island; “Puh Gulangan” meaning Island forest; “Umus Tambun” meaning fertile land; ”Kumalarang” derived from a river; “Bennuh Peggesan” before it was changed to “Basih Balan” derived from a weapon used by the natives in fighting with the Spaniards, known as “Pira” that is made out of “Basih” which means iron and “Balan” meaning magnetic. However, as years passed by the name was shortened to “Basilan”. Others say, the name of the place was derived from two native words ”basi” and “lan” which means the Iron Trail.
From 16th to 18th century, Spanish settlements in Zamboanga, Iloilo and Cebu are often plagued by the Moro pirates. Thus, a stone fort named as Fuerte de Isabela Segunda was built by the Spanish soldiers to guard the settlements. In 1936, Zamboanga became a chartered city including the whole of Basilan Island. But on July 1, 1948, Basilan became a separate city. However, Moro population led to a general uprising which blanketed the whole of Mindanao by the end of the 1960s. This led to the conversion of Basilan into a province on December 27, 1973 by virtue of the Presidential Decree No. 356 issued by the late President Ferdinand Marcos, and municipalities of Isabela, Lamitan, Maluso, Lantawan, Sumisip, Tipo-Tipo, Tuburan, Pilas, Tapiantana and Malamawi were also created. This was eventually reduced to seven municipalities later on.
In 2001, the six municipalities of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao Del Sur joined the Autonomous Region for Muslims in Mindanao (ARMM) in a plebiscite expanding the territory of the Autonomous Region.
The total land area of the province is 1,379 squares kilometers or 137,900 hectares. Land use is primarily used for agriculture and has a current population of 332,828 with unique and diverse cultures.
Approximately 55% of the people speak Chavacano; other dialects are Samal, Tausug, Joloano, Yakan, Maranao, Visayan, Tagalog and Ilocano. Yakan dialect however is mostly spoken and understood by the Yakan natives only. Likewise, english is also widely spoken by nearly all people in the more urbanized areas. Majority of the population are Muslim, 25% are Christians or has Roman Catholic faith particularly in the urban centers of Isabela City and Lamitan.
In terms of weather, the province is outside the typhoon belt and rainfall is evenly distributed the whole year. The average temperature is 26.6 °C.
COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY IN BASILAN
Agriculture is the main source of livelihood in the province with major products such as coconut, rubber and coffee. Other crops are palay, corn with an average production of 1.5 metric tons per hectares; cacao, cassava, black pepper and African palm oil.
The island’s rich bodies of water are an added investment in the city with tuna, squid, octopus, marlin produce and fishponds supply milkfish, prawns and shrimps. Weaving industry and tourism is also a plus gain for the province.
ART AND CULTURAL HERITAGE IN BASILAN
Yakans are widely regarded and recognized for their colorful costume with the tribal men wearing long sleeves close-fitting jacket, striped trousers, a long red sash called as "kandit", a headcloth called the "pis" and a small betel nut box at the waist. On the other hand the women wear jackets with black buttons and draped skirt over their trousers. They also wear accessories such as rings, bangles, earrings and a large comb.
Best buy for local and foreign tourists are the Yakan weaves, trinkets and souvenir items made of woven material and hammered brass or bronze pieces. It also has colorful beads, hand-painted wooden bangles, rings, handcrafted Yakan bags, table-runners, wall-decor, etc. S
You may also like to have a taste of the known "Basilan Brew" coffee in Lamitan town. Just 45 minutes away from the City proper.
MUNICIPALITIES OF BASILAN
Basilan province has one component city, six municipalities and 261 barangays. Isabela City is the only city and capital of Basilan. However, Isabela City is independent of the province and is actually part of the region of Zamboanga Peninsula:
NO. OF BARANGAYS
Hadji Mohammad Ajul
Alano White Beach Resort
This Resort is located in Malamawi Island. It boasts of powdery white sands, cottages, and other amenities.
It is the biggest waterfall and is the current mini-hydro power plant of Basilan.
Block 35 Falls
This is situated in the Menzi plantation.
The place is accessible via 45 minutes ride to Lamitan town.
Chapel of Peace, Calvario Peak
Located on the highland 400 meters high. This place is an excellent site for photo enthusiasts.
This shrine is situated in Lamitan and was built in honor of a Yakan leader.
Kaum Purnah Mosque
This mosque is located in Isabela. This village showcases Muslim culture of at least three tribes.
It has a 14-meter-high waterfall and is a proposed site for a hydroelectric plant. This River is also ideal for outdoor activities and photo enthusiasts.
The museum showcases the “Lami-lamihan Festival”.
Is the gateway to the province. It has a lighthouse, the Badjao and Samal cemeteries, and one can have a view of wild ducks. Tourists can also visit the Panigayan fishing village and have an actual experience of spearfishing. This is also where the Alanao White Beach Resort is situated. This resort is comparable to Boracay.
Situated between the capitol and the cathedral.
Provincial Capitol Building
This used to be Fort Isabela II which was destroyed during World War II. However, a new building was built and is now the seat of the provincial government, located in lsabela proper.
Sta. Isabel Cathedral
This is located in Isabela and has modern architectural design.
It is a natural resort for swimming, passing through coconut plantations, mini rice fields, and fishponds. It is only four kilometers away from Isabela.
Tablawan and Busay Waterfalls
This is located in Isabela and is ideal for picnicking and bathing.
The province is accessible thru Zamboanga City via conventional ferries which will take 1 hour and 45 minutes ride or single-hull fastcrafts for 45 minutes. The ferry docks at the port of lsabela.