Ahmad Sampang ibnu Hajiri, MD

A Personal blog by a Tausug medical student (now a doctor!) from Sulu and the stories that inspired him.
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From an American-built lighthouse to a Tausug-built Masjid.

The search for the missing “Eye-Fall tower” did not take me long to finish for three reasons: 
  1. I already know where to look for it (the wharf in Jolo); 
  2. The people in that community are pretty friendly; and 
  3. The Sulu National Museum gave me all the answers. 
What I just did then is visit the place and confirm the site where it still stands now, talk with the people around, link the stories and tadaa! Mission accomplished!

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present to you all, the Sulu Parula (Parola), then and now…

The Sulu Parula (Parola) and the Block House

This is one of the oldest photos linked to our missing structure: the Sulu lighthouse, commonly known to the locals as the “Parula”. This photo of a building IS NOT the actual parula, but actually the "office" of the coast guards known to most as the “Block House”. This photo can also be found in one of the photo archives in the Sulu National Museum at Capitol Hills, Sulu. There were some other similar phtos taken by Mr. Chester A. Cabel from Chicago in 1920s. I found an online copy here: http://www.goto4winds.com/photos2.html. All rights are reserved to the rightful owner of the photo…

The actual parula, according to the locals, was a tall tower made of metals (imagine a smaller version of Eiffel tower) with that usual "bulb-like" light at the top. But this parula rusted in time and that light had long stopped functioning. And so, the Philippine Coast guards decided to destroy that parula and constructed a new lighthouse to replace it in 2011. Unfortunately, nothing remains of the "Eye-Fall Tower" that we were looking for. :(

In 1900s when the Americans came to Jolo, there were already lighthouses and signal stations made of wooden planks constructed by the Spaniards. These were built to guide their boats and ships to the Jolo Wharf inside the so-called "walled City". It was during the Americans reign that these lighthouses were reconstructed with metals and replaced the "offices" nearby into concrete cements which were then called "Block Houses". There were other parulas and block houses in that same wharf before but this is the only one that remains standing until today.

It was said that every dusk when the sun started to set in the vast Sulu Sea, an assigned officer will climb up the tower and light the parula using fire. When the Americans left Jolo there were Muslim “costudians” who did the job and kept that light burning, until it was replaced by another electricity-operated lighthouse nearby.  Then in 1970s during the Battle of Jolo, the building was abandoned and the parula remained unmanaged until the end of the Marcos Regime.

Masjid Shariful Hashim

Masjid Shariful Hashim in March 2009;
 Photo by Neldy Jolo in his blog: Sulu Lens
In 1999, the residents of walled city, Jolo, Sulu and those living nearby the extended Sulu Sea Port decided to build a Masjid in the wharf. The locals would remember this time as "Ha waktu pa hi Maas Misuari" (It was during the time of Maas Nur Misuari). This is for the benefit of those travelers to and from Jolo, to lessen the hustle of looking for places to pray before their trip to Zamboanga (which are usually right after Eisha Prayer) and other places, or upon arriving from the same places (usually 5AM, right on Subuh prayer). There is also an increase in Muslim population in the area that the need for a masjid had become a necessity already.

That masjid is now known as Masjid Shariful Hashim and it was built right where the remaining block house once stood (and is still standing). The builders decided not to destroy the old building and instead turned it into a “room” inside the masjid; a uniquely designed, octagonal-room with a single post at the center of it. During the first construction of the masjid, there was no second floor yet (the room for the women). It was only in 2010 or 2011 that the masjid was reconstructed and expanded with the efforts of the locals. That was the same masjid where me and my classmates in madrasah prayed, and took some short naps while waiting for our afternoon classes to begin.

Here are more photos: (all photos taken by Anak Iluh, May 2013)

Today, the lighthouse-turned-masjid still stands with great pride of its history (and while we, the Tausugs who pass by that building every other day are well unaware of it). That building which served as a guiding light for sailors in Sulu then, is now serving as another guide to the same people towards a brighter light in the hereafter (for Ibadah: worship).

And this ends our adventure of searching the missing Parula/lighthouse/Eye-Fall tower and the Block house of Jolo.


Acknowledgments and Disclaimer

I am deeply grateful to the Sulu National Museum, to Ms. Criselda Yabes and her novel, to the Imam and the other ma’muwms in the masjid that I have talked to; to kah Neldy Jolo for giving me permission to post his photo of the masjid in 2009 (and also the encouragements); to all those who answered my never-ending questions about this parula online (in forums, FB groups, etc). And lastly to the Ever-Enlightening and Graceful Allah who always show me the right way, in various subtle ways :-D

This research is not sponsored by any individual, group of persons, or company (oh how I wish it was that way!) but only done by the authors personal interest (and invisible sense-of-duty to do so). Feel free to share, re-post, copy so long as ALL CONTENTS WILL NOT BE EDITED AND ALL CITATIONS WILL BE MENTIONED ACCORDINGLY (esp. the photos and links herein).

This post is dedicated to the People of Sulu.

Disclaimer: the use of the term “Eye-Fall Tower” was not coined by Anak Iluh (the author of this post) in this blog. It was first mentioned in the novel “Below the crying mountain” by Ms. Criselda Yabes and thus the author reserves the sole ownership of the term. (Don’t get me wrong guys, I know how it feels to get “robbed online” :)

Until our next “Hidden History Adventure”!
Salam Kasilasa!
==This is an old version of the "Meet Ahmad" Page.=== updated May 10, 2015

Ahmad is a proud (yet humble)young Muslim Tausug.
He was born in the small, small town of Jolo in the far, far island of Sulu.
(Trivia: of all 5 siblings, he was the only one born in their humble home)
He loves books, and pens, and papers (he claims that he cannot live without them).

He loves to write (even though he's not really good at it).
He loves to read stories (and pretend he can write one someday).
He loves to share stories too (and jokes, but they are all too corny).
He loves to shoot photos (even though he don't have his own camera).
He loves Tausug Food (and anything Halal).
He loves the sea (it's part of his life).
He loves to swim (just the regular freestyle swims, I swear!).
He also loves to travel (and climb mountains :)
He loves to dream (oh, the endless and impossible dreams).
He loves to sleep. (Even though... Yeah, he really loves to sleep).
And he always pray and try hard to become a better Muslim each day. To be able to help a lot of people when the right time comes, in shaa Allah.

He grew up running around chased by dogs, and cats and chickens and ducks (yes, those icky, angry, wet ducks!). He would reminisce those times when he was just busy flying kites, throwing slippers, playing pebbles and making paper kites and paper boats, or helping her mother clean their school's library. He loved to get drenched in the rain. And he's really bad at climbing trees (and never knowing how to get down again) and shooting slingshots (he always end up hitting his own hands). He always wonder with the marvelous creations around him: the moon and stars above, the trees and mountains below, the sea so vast and the sky more wider. He would often lay on the grass listening to birds sing, or watching the sun set, cherishing the cool winds touching his dark brown skin. He will always love life in the provinces more than any day in the noisy, busy city streets.

He grew up without a father when he died 16 years ago. Yet Alhamdulillah. he was blessed with a great mother who made each day of his life colorful and full of light (her name is Misba, which is the Arabic for "lamp"). He has four brilliant siblings, two great, beautiful, generous, and loving (*insert more adjectives here*) elder sisters and two cool, creative and dependable (weh?) younger brothers. Ahmad always love each moment when the six of them (their mother and the 5 siblings) are complete and will always yearn for yet even just another day that it will happen again (Ameen in shaa Allah). And he knows that it will be greater if they will finally  meet their father, Engr. Hajiri in jannah some day (Allahumma Ameen :) 

A proud product of Kasulutan Elementary School and MSU Sulu Laboratory High School where he started loving the subjects Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and History. He hated Biology the most then. And until now he never knew why he ended up finishing and loving the one he hated most later in his life :) And so he learned that life is indeed full of mysteries (naks).

And have you noticed? He just loved using parentheses (you know, his mind is always in a state of clutter, so a lot of ideas come out while working on something else. No, it is not good)

He finished his undergraduate course in Mindanao State University-Main Campus, Marawi City with a not so good story (he almost missed his graduation, y'know!). His course? Oh, you won't be amazed. It's just the science of studying animals (like you and me). Try Google-ing it. Ahmad is now studying in University of the Philippines College of Medicine, trying as much to survive in the world of Medicine, yet always being inspired by the wonderful stories he hear and the experiences he had in the renown Philippine General Hospital everyday. He would at times write about those experiences in his journals, and seldom would publish them here in this blog. No, he is not as good as his brilliant classmates but he gets by with the hardships in school and survive exams alive somehow. Alhamdulillah.

And now he is dreaming of becoming a good doctor someday, not a rich one, but someone who had just enough (skills, and knowledge and resources) to help his family, his fellow Tausugs, his fellow Muslims, and those who are in need. He also dreamed of publishing his own "meaningful" novels.

Up until today, he is still looking for his purpose in life (naks! wag kayo maniwala dito, Pagala-gala lang siya ngayon...)

And lastly, he is indeed grateful to you that you paid a visit to this humble blog of his :) It is not much of a read, but he says: "Magsukul tuud" (Thank you so much).

You can email him your concerns here: anakiluhmd(at)gmail.com


(in short: Nahihirapan pa rin ako gumawa ng sarili kong ABOUT ME page. ahahaha
Pasensya na sa napakaraming errors... Mapa-Spelling man o Grammar, pagtiisan niyo na, hindi naman ako ganun kagaling eh. hehe)

Know more about me in:
Checkout my posts in BUBBLEWS.com!

Years back when I was still in High school and studying in one of the Madáris (Madrasah: Islamic Schools) in Jolo, Sulu, there was this peculiar masjid nearby. When our morning classes ends at 11 AM, me and my classmates would go to a nearby kadday (small Tausug restaurants), eat our lunch together then hastily come to this masjid called Masjid Shariful Hashim in Jambatan (Sea Port) to pray Zhuhur. The masjid itself is just a simple building that you see in most masjids in Jolo, no intricate designs outside, with metal roofs and wooden domes (and the usual moon-and-star). A set of wooden stairs lead to the second storey reserved for women who wanted to pray in the masjid. What I meant when I said this masjid is “peculiar” or “odd”, is this octagonal room inside the masjid. 

At first I thought that room was just a separate room designed by the architect of the masjid, or something like a storage room. But what really made me scratch my head is its location and design: that room was located right at the center of the masjid (giving lesser space for people to pray) and it had a totally different design that the rest of the building. It was as if it’s a different building covered by another building. (Yet amidst all of that curiosity, I was still a shy-guy before, so I never asked anybody about this. Afraid that people would just laugh at me and say “c’mon why do you have to bother about these things, Ahmad!”) 

The room had two doorways without doors (yes! No doors). The inner walls are plain, but with some irregular plastering in some places (it’s as if there were windows in this room before, but the people decided to cover it). The walls outside that room (which is still in the masjid) had this staggered brick-like edges that you cannot find in any corner of the masjid. And right at the center of that room is a single yellow, wooden, octagonal post that reaching and even passing through the ceiling. Even though this room was also painted with the same paints as the inner walls of the masjid, its design and its location made it all stand out. But most people did not really bother about it, and so at the end of the day, I decided not to trouble myself about it anymore… 

I never knew then, that there will be another set of questions that will lead me to this same room some years later…

Years later, I found this novel by Ms. Criselda Yabes entitled “Below the Crying Mountain”. The novel revolves around the story of my dear homeland (Jolo, Sulu) before and after the devastating war in 1974 that turned Jolo into ashes. That war was among the important turning points in Sulu’s history (and yes, I was not yet bone-and-flesh then) and so this novel was among those “windows” I have been looking for, to allow me to see how Sulu really looked like in 1970s before the war (I am supposed to write about this book in another blogpost). And Alhamdulillah, that novel by Ms. Yabes never failed my expectations (really, I should write about this!). 

Among those places mentioned in the novel, was the “Eye-Fall tower”: a pun for one of the lighthouses in Jolo wharf that had been malfunctioning for some years and thus the name (and “Eye-fall tower” wittily just sounds like “Eiffel tower”). I tried remembering if I have seen any “lighthouse” in that wharf when I was little, but I cannot remember anything that resembles the descriptions in the novel. Does it still exist after that devastating war?

And thus begun my search for the missing “Eye-Fall Tower” of Jolo…

==Watch out for the 2nd part of this post: "Sulu Hidden History: The remnants of the Sulu Parula"==

The use of the term “Eye-Fall Tower” was not coined by Anak Iluh (the author of this post) in this blog. It was first mentioned in the novel “Below the crying mountain” by Ms. Criselda Yabes and thus the author reserves the sole ownership of the term. (Don’t get me wrong guys, I know how it feels to get “robbed online” :) 

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just saying. -Dr. Ahmad