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.
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.
When I last visited Zamboanga en route to Tawi-Tawi, I had a chance again to visit the Yakan Village in Upper Calarian, Zamboanga. The village is located just across the popular La Vista del Mar resort which can be reached by a jeep or a tricycle around 30-45 minutes from the city center of Zamboanga. Nothing much has changed since my last visit in 2007. The place still holds various yakan weaving souvenirs which is a famous draw both for local and foreign tourist.
A Yakan weaver doing her magic
It’s sad what Basilan had come to in recent days. In truth, there is more to the island than its wars. Basilan is home to the Yakan Tribes, also known as one of the finest weavers in our country. They have also become a victim of war, thus many of them have to move to neighboring areas of the Zamboanga Peninsula and abandon their homes in Basilan.