The island of Basilan interestingly has two major cities. There’s Isabela de Basilan, now the center of commerce and trade. Then there’s, Lamitan, the government seat of Basilan province. In 2017, the provincial capital was transferred from Isabela de Basilan to Lamitan City as it is formally part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). In terms of tourism, one of the main highlight for a visit in this city is to learn more about the Yakan tribe, one of the first original inhabitants of the island of Basilan.
Go places where you least expect yourself to be. Basilan isn’t really on everybody’s bucket-list of travel destinations especially with the stigma attached to the province. But the pandemic has changed the way we travel. Why not go to places where you’ll see less tourist yet still enjoy equally wonderful attractions? Isabela de Basilan’s just got the right mix of natural wonders, variety of culture and plenty of halal goodness.
I experienced Basilan and it was a splendor of sumptuous seafood and flavorful halal dishes, uncrowded natural wonders and a melting pot of culture from people brimming with hope and promise. I think more than a decade a apart since my first visit was enough to see how Basilan has changed. I’m not here to erase the stigma that has attached to the province (as in with any other places) but to highlight the other side which not many people have seen yet. If you’re willing and have an open mind, a couple of cities in Basilan, namely Isabela de Basilan and Lamitan, are ripe and ready for tourism.
For a coffee-lover like me, riding to the coffee capital of the Philippines, Amadeo, Cavite was more than just a trivial endeavor. Just being at one of the country’s largest coffee producer and tasting it’s famous “pahimis” blend was enough to pedal my way to Amadeo. Besides, it’s just short of 30km from Biñan where I’m staying. For this ride, I took the Davilan road to Silang, Cavite to Amadeo then a sidetrip to Tagaytay on my way back.
I catch my breath as it escapes me. It’s getting shallow. I knew I’m almost at the edge of my capacity to pedal. So I stop. They call this stretch “2 kilometers of Pain”, now I know why. First time I passed through REVPAL was coming from Tagaytay side. I was screaming with exhilaration as I descend these slopes from Mt Sungai. Going the “reverse” way and negotiating up to 15% gradient (9 degrees) incline was a different experience altogether. But hey, we’re here for the thrill right? Like any other cyclist, we’re always trying to test our mettle. Am I? I’m really here for the sightseeing.
Staying in Biñan, Laguna offered a more pleasant provincial scenery than I was staying in Metro Manila. While not entirely rural, our side of Laguna borders Carmona, Cavite which still have plenty of open spaces and nature spots. It gave me opportunity to explore nearby areas by bike. One biking destination here enjoyed by locals is called Davilan. Still part of Carmona, the place has challenging uphills called Davilan Ahon, the wide open wilderness-like Davilan Park and a rough trail leading to a refreshing pool of water at Pasong Buhangin.
Being cooped up the the city because of limited mobility can get really weary. We all need a dose of nature once in a while. I was glad when a community of yogis in our studio decided to organize a day tour at nearby Mount Purro Nature Reserve in Calawis, Antipolo. A nature escape just a couple of hours in the metro with an added those of yoga. Enjoying a day of camaraderie on hikes, river treks and chill.