There is so much to explore and experience in the City of Lamitan more than to fear of. More than what the majority thought off due to the usual negative exposures from traditional media, many veer away to this city as a tourism destination. Almost majority of mainlanders in the Philippines will relate this city to armed conflicts or as haven of the leftists groups. There is always fear. But, if you would understand, it is safe still to explore Lamitan City. The City Tourism Office is your initial and primary contact should you be visiting. Be amazed with their many tourism potentials, be it nature destinations or cultural inmersion, Lamitan City sure has its own unique persona in the realm of tourism.
Our heartfelt appreciation to Ms. Jarma, Lamitan City’s own tourism officer, she is able to connect us to a certified and trained guide in the person of Sir Kong. We plan to visit for at least half day, which is indeed a regret. You will know at the end of this article.
Fast forward to the actual visit, we both our ferry tickets in a nearby Aleson Shipping Lines Ticketing Booth near Zamboanga City Sea Port. We were late for a few mins to catch the supposed first trip and decided to take the next.
It was a long walk from the ticketing booth to the ferry. With almost 10kg backpack on my shoulders, we almost sprinted for at least 3km to reach the far end of the port and arrived on a measly populated deck. We are early. Since we are drenched with sweat, we chose seats at the side of the ferry to catch some early morning breeze to cool us down as we cross the strait. Due to the pandemic state, we are left with many seats or spaces available, so I am able to stretch straight my legs and catch some quick snooze. The ship then released a loud horn signalling we are about the leave. We felt the ship jolted alive and we cruised on an almost tranquil sea. The sound of the breeze and the waves was a lullaby.
In almost an hour, we are about to dock in Isabela City. Excitement filled again my sleepy brain soon I set foot again on the island. We visited first Malamawi White Beach and the third time is equally an unforgettable one.
Returning from Malamawi Island, we made a sidetrip in their downtown area before we would catch the public bus bound to Lamitan City.
The tricycle ride was about less than 10 minutes approximately, until we reached their bus terminal. Unusually not that crowded unlike the pre-pandemic years. We got the second seat after the driver on a open-air medium sized bus. We left when the bus seats are filled. It is about 40-45minutes travel traversing the winding road connecting the two cities of Basilan province.
Sir Kong, our tour guide, then arrived via a motorcycle as we arrived at around noon. We immediately started our exploration of Lamitan City.
Since we have quite bulky backpacks, he offered us to leave unneccesary weights to their public library and did some quick freshening up. We hurried back on road since we have limited time available left as we need to catch the last ferry back to Zamboanga City.
We quite sped up to Barangay Bulingan. It is about 20-30minutes approximate travel from Lamitan City Proper. It was an overcast sky soon heavy droplets pinching our skins. Luckily, it was just minutes of motorcycling and we do not get drenched.
We arrived on a developed entrance of their famed Bulingan Falls. The natural park has huts erected for the visiting public and developed concrete pathway leading to the main feature, the unique main cascade of Bulingan Falls. It is a water wonder that does not require a tedious hike or trek. Golden-aged tourists can easily maneuver their way around the park and enjoy.
Bulingan Falls features many mini multi-tiered waterfalls all forming a single body of wide cascade against the unusual but natural hexagonal vertical columns of rock. The height of the main waterfalls is approximately 30-40 feet. We arrived after a downpour and we got a raging cascade. We can feel the energy it unleashes as we sauntered to the roaring waters. It is one of the cascades you can try and practice your long exposures stills. Seeing this wonder is such a thrilling experiencing. Shortly we left the park and headed to a cultural destination.
The Gamaba Cultural Center houses the Yakan Culture, with its weaving technique as one of its poster images. We are able to meet the revered and awarded, Ambalang Ausalin, a Yakan leader in preserving their Yakan Art of Weaving. She was awarded last 2016 with the National Living Treasure title – an award she truly deserves. Being able to pass on to her next kin the delicate and tedious weaving art is indeed a personal achievement. Yakan Weaving involves painstaking drafting their design on the loom and creating intricate geometrical patterns with various colours of threads, thus, slowly getting to their patterns that define their unique artistry.
It is Mam Ambalang’s grandchild who showed us how they do it using their traditional loom. With a few quick wrist flicks, she was able to finish multiple lines on work-on-progress piece.
Momentarily, Mam Ambalang Ausalin donned their traditional wardrobe, which is indeed colourful and glittery, for photo opportunities with her. At the age of 80+, she feebly walked around the weaving centre. It is a momentous event for me to seat beside her, a revered living national treasure. They have us to don a Yakan cardigan style top and I have the purple one, while travel blogger Echo had the red one. It is priced at Php3,000 pesos, one I will surely purchase should I have an extra budget. They taught us too how to prepare and wear the male headpiece. With a few basic knots, we are photo-ready.
It is with a heavy heart to leave early the weaving centre since we need to catch the last leaving ferry back to Mainland Zamboanga. There is still so much to learn and understand about the Yakan culture. Those precious few hours with Ambalang Ausalin is certainly remarkable and unforgettable.
We sped to the Lamitan Seaport which is about 45minutes and have our heavy backpacks along the way.
We never have yet an opportunity to try their native delicacies and explore their city centre. This gave me another desire to visit again. We have quick chitchat with Ms. Jarma at their tourism office and hurriedly logged in their visitor’s logbook. We purchased their local coffee to try, as I saw them displayed at their receiving hall.
Arriving at the seaport, we safely boarded the last ferry of the day and bade our heavy goodbye to Sir Kong.
We sat again on a fairly populated deck and chose the open air to catch a cool breeze. Then, my tired and hungry body called for a quick snooze for recharge.
Unless you feed yourself with the correct and updated information of Lamitan, you will surely build the interest to explore it on your own. More than the inland destinations presented to us, there are amazing pristine white beaches at the city’s fringes and other promising spots found around the main island of Basilan. Since they are less frequented by tourists, their beaches and other nature destinations are somehow preserved and protected from human activity caused by reckless tourism activities. Surely one will enjoy their Basilan and Lamitan City experience, and the most important first step is to coordinate your travel intention to Ms. Jarma, she would happily assist you along your journey. Now you would understand the regret of exploring Lamitan City in less than a day.
How to go there?
Fly to Zamboanga City from Manila or Cebu.
Take taxi to Zamboanga City Pier and take the Lamitan bound ferry. Alternatively, you can enter or exit via Isabela City.
Expected expenses would be around Php1500-Php2000 depending on your preference of travel vehicle. We chartered a motorcycle to whisk us around the city.