A Basilan Exploration

(Short Post)

Last September 8, 2011, I went to the island Province of Basilan to attend a Mass Graduation Ceremony for our First batch of Literacy classes (our foundation’s beneficiaries are mostly adults, women, elderly and out-of-school-youths who were illiterates). It was indeed a double-excitement for me; an incident I have always wanted to experience. Aside from the excitement of attending the mass graduation of our first batch of Adult learners, it was also my very first time to be in Basilan.

Basilan is a small island south-west of Zamboanga Peninsula. You can ride a fast seacraft and arrive in Isabela City, Basilan 45-minutes later. It is so near that you can see the other island by simply looking out the window from inside the seacraft. Unlike Sulu, my homeland: it would take at least 8 hours of sea travel in regular sea vessels. Yet still, in my twenty years of life, I have never ever stepped my ever-so-travelling feet on that island. And I have always been wondering how people lived and how does the cities (Isabela and Lamitan) looked like. And I am about to discover that excitement!

Arriving in Isabela City at about seven in the morning, the small city welcomed my eyes with scenes that seemed more evocative than foreign. I am now looking at a city unknown to me, yet still feel familiar; like I have already been here. So nostalgic that it just felt like home. (Of course it’s not, because Isabela City is quite cleaner than Jolo; and it has Jolibee. hehe). We spend no less than five minutes in Isabela port when our group decided to go to Lamitan City (where the event will be held) via land-track. Too bad, I was not given a chance to explore the city. And so, off we go to Lamitan.



The road to Lamitan was cool; still full of nice views. I especially enjoy looking at the vast Rubber Tree Plantation (It is a PLANTATION because there were so many trees planted. Right?). The very first landmark I knew that I am already in Lamitan City is the Central Park with a Statue of a Man (a Datu-like statue with a blue badju). An epitaph scripted under him says “Datu Kalun (Pedro J. Cuevas), Founder of Lamitan”. (I later found out the central park was called Datu Kalun Park (of course). And so, I welcomed myself to Lamitan!

We attended the Mass graduation which started in 9:30 AM, and ended at noon. There were more experiences that time: I meet a great number of Yakan people, they were so much hospitable and humble in their own ways, with their cultural Yakan attires they proudly wear. (InshaAllah I might write about the Yakan Attire). They speak in their local dialect, the Yakan Dialect which totally new to me. I have a number of Yakan friends, but I seldom hear them talking. I can recognize if it’s Sinama or Tausug. But this one is really different. Alhamdulillah, most of them can understand or speak Tausug. And so, as I presented my opening remarks in Tausug, I felt relieved that they can understand my greetings to them.

The whole Mass Graduation would be a whole new story to tell. It was filled with the excitement of our adult learners of being recognized as new ‘graduates’ (it is their first graduation as fully-accomplished literates, MashaAllah!). There were also the honor students who received their awards, medals and certificates as distinguished adult learners. Some were teary eyed; and most of them beaming with eyes, for finally, they can no longer be called illiterate. They are now a group of new and successful adults who can read and write. (All praise to Allah who made this project possible.)

I went back to Zamboanga after exploring Lamitan City. I was not able to explore all places because I was afraid to be left behind by the last sea trip in Isabela. But InshaAllah, after the short visit to Basilan, I will surely return someday. And even how short-lived my Basilan Exploration was, I still came to adore the humble island: both its people and its places.

Basilan is now a part of my undying inspiration as young Muslim, fighting for Peace and Development for our community!
These are among our 1200 Adult learners in Basilan who graduated last Sep.8, 2011



[Note: I don’t have much photos because I don’t have a camera that time. I will find ways to get some photos from friends in Basilan InshaAllah]

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