SULU Province: a travel story guide

Did you know that province of Sulu is dotted with fine pristine beaches, that they have flavorful cuisine, that they have stunning architecture, that they have a colorful and vibrant culture, and more? The traditional media back then has shaped the minds of many generations of Sulu’s battered condition due to decades of armed hostilities present in the enduringly charming and splendid island province. Once you speak about Jolo, the capital of Sulu, anywhere outside their region, instant retorts are about the peril and menace existing. By then, only a handful of outsiders have the brave will to visit and explore its natural beauty. With many years of the same state, Sulu’s fine beaches and islands were able to maintain their pristine state, unlike to the well-trodden touristy beaches, where chockfull of cash flows in exchange for the apparently irreversible environmental damage.

The internet age has changed the game for Sulu. Online content creators started to braved their way to Sulu, some following local ordinances, while some doing backdoor style entries (not recommended). With what the traditional media is broadcasting since these digital creatives were able to spread the word of Sulu’s awesome beaches. Fine white sand beaches lined with towering coconut trees against the clear to turquoise to deep blue waters, sans the tourist crowd. Be responsible visitor, never evade local ordinance just to have content, in exchange of your safety.

Kapampangan Traveller at Zamboanga Airport

Arriving from Manila, I am welcomed with the iconic roof of Zamboanga’s airport with the huge Bienvenidos signage. Drawing a deep breath, I excitedly disembarked from the plane and drew a huge smile as I will set foot again on the city that I fell in love with. With almost cloudless blue sky and typical humid air from the sea, this is how Zamboanga welcomed me. I can already sense from there the amount of sunburn I will earn after.

at Sulu Port

Fast forward to the 8:00 PM ferry bound to Jolo, we started to embark on a calm sea and I easily dozed to dreamland. My eyes peeled to a captain’s announcement to dock. Finally, will be able to set foot on my 78th out of the 81 provinces of the Philippines. Ms. Cath Isbarani of Sulu’s Provincial Tourism Office instructed us to wait in our very cabin. Few minutes passed, she escorted us outside and officially, setting foot Jolo’s port. We chartered a “motorela” that will whisk us around Sulu. We had a meranao-inspired breakfast in Shara’s Cafe located just beside the Jolo  Airport. I would highly recommend trying their local coffee –  I love the smoky-nutty aroma and aftertaste.

jolo port
View of Jolo Port bound to Hadji Panglima Tahil

The first destination is in the municipality of Hadji Panglima Tahil. We chartered a private boat to cross the channel separating mainland Sulu and this barangay of many islands. It took about less than an hour to reach the island of Marungas of Barangay Bangas. We docked beside a police outpost located above the clear waters of the island. After registering, we made a short trek to the other side of  Marungas Island where Rahmat Dive Resort is located. The lingering scent proves of their rich seaweed cultivation industry. Just before we will traverse a small hill, we passed by seaweed drying facility, others may find the odor repulsive. We reached the top of the hill and we are rewarded with the commanding view of the island. Clear waters envelop the island. There is a zipline facility too. Soon as we reached the resort, we hurried to see around. There are huts you can rent for the day. We spent hours frolicking around.

Panglima Tahil
With Sir Renzelle of Sulu Tourism Office

Our boatman then fetched us on that very beach and transported back to mainland Sulu. We had our lunch in D’Cousins Restaurant. We feasted on their local dishes, and I enjoyed much of the Tiyulah Itum, spicy Tinola version with burnt coconut meat, and Sambal, sliced cucumber with a rich thick sauce made of tomatoes. We left the restaurant with happy tummies.

lunch in d cousins jolo
Anatomy of our Set Order in D’cousins Restaurant in Jolo

We visited next their Sulu Museum and Library. The curator shared to us information about Sulu’s history, culture and heritage. I paid particular attention on their wedding tradition – overall, I would describe it as vibrant and colorful. The museum complex features a two-storey building with different sections showing different aspects of Sulu province.

The Capitol Building of Sulu itself is already a destination. Its Muslim inspired architecture depicts the castle you saw in the Aladdin movie. The capitol building features golden pointed domes. a beautiful intricate facade and inside of it is a huge peacock inspired mosaic wall. We are able to meet also their Provincial Tourism Officer, Mam Jainab.

Mauboh Beach is a long stretch of public beach in Patikul municipality. It is about less than half an hour of travel from Jolo downtown. It features a long stilted walkway, and low receding beach area where you can see the islands of Haji Panglima Tahil.

The Masjid Tulay Mosque stands loftily, defining Jolo’s skyline with its towering minarets and contrasting white facade against a typical downtown low buildings. It is the biggest mosque in Sulu and one of the most visited in the area. Once you dock in Jolo port, it is easy to identify and locate the mosque from there. There is a prayer happening at the time of our visit and we are not able to enter even after the gates. There is a plaza fronting the mosque where you can marvel its grandeur from there.

_DSC6822
View of the tall minarets of the Tulay Masjid seen from our boat ride back to Jolo

Unfortunately, the Jolo Cathedral is closed during our visit. We are only able to see its stunning facade from across the street. It features striking geometric designs with a triangular-shaped facade, akin to a pointy crown.

Jolo Cathedral
The cathedral viewed from a busy street across where many pedestrians and small vehicles pass.

One of my objectives in Sulu is to purchase traditional Muslim attire. I was able to buy a pair of gamis in less than Php800. In Luzon, the price could have doubled. Ms. Cath ushered us to the Barterwhere you can see many stalls selling Muslim inspired clothing at a lower price. A lot of colorful and glittery dresses for different formal occasions are on display. I purchased mine at Aiza’s Store, Stall No. 67 and 68.

barter in jolo
Colorful dresses found in many stalls at the barter attended by a bubbly proprietor

In summary, our itinerary is as follows:

  • Arrival in Jolo Port
  • Breakfast in Shara’s Cafe
  • Visit Hadji Panglima Tahil
  • Lunch at D’Cousins Restaurant
  • Sulu Provincial Museum
  • Capitol Building
  • I Love Sulu Signage
  • Jolo Tourism Office
  • Mauboh Beach
  • Barter
  • Back to Jolo Port

If you wish to extend your stay, you can visit the following day

  • Beaches in Parang
  • Beaches in Sionogan
  • Beaches in Panamao
  • Lake Seit
  • and more destinations that the Provincial Tourism Office can offer

QUICK TRAVEL GUIDE 

  • You have to book a flight bound to Zamboanga City
  • take the night ferry to Jolo by Montenegro Shipping Lines
  • Do not forget to appropriately inform the Provincial Tourism ahead of time prior your visit. You have to send a Letter of Intent to heressulu@yahoo.com.ph, comment below this blog if you wish to have a sample format. Alternatively, you can message their official Facebook Page Sulu Tourism.
  • Alternatively, if you have the budget, you can take the flight to Jolo via Leading Edge. Flights to Sulu

Truly, the province of Sulu still has many undiscovered destinations yet and I am excited to be back and experience again its beauty. 

Other destinations in Sulu you can visit:

Sionogan, Sulu, Screenshot Photo by Mr. Dave Tumindig

SIONOGAN SULU

Tanduh Bunga Beach Resort in Parang, Sulu by Mr. Makoi Matutes

The heart shaped Laked Seit by hardcore mountaineer Mr. RJ Garo.

 

Here is the map indicating locations of the destinations indicated in this article:

Sulu Spot Map copy

Other photographs around during our tour:

MAGSUKUL, SULU

33 thoughts on “SULU Province: a travel story guide

  1. I think it’s about time for travellers to explore Mindanao this time. I never been there but I know people from Mindanao and they mentioned to me the things you posted above just like the dish called Tiyulah itum. I love that food! you made me miss it!!!:)

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  2. I rarely see a blog post about this part of the country maybe because of the doubt about safety and security or probably people are not aware that they can actually travel to this place. I appreciate you sharing this as this can possibly fill the “gap” or doubt that we all have about the community. I am looking forward to more posts about the beauties this place can offer.

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  3. The airport is indeed iconic. I also fell in love with the Capital Building. What a beauty! It also surprised me that the names of the food offered there resemble the ones here in Indonesia. Interesting travel!

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  4. I have always wanted to explore different places. Sadly, my illness always gets the better of me, so i don’t plan out travels, and just go by whatever comes. If I’d be so lucky to choose to explore a place, it would be this one, I guess. The photos of the places you have visited there are just so lovely. The food there was also very similar to my favourites when I was still in Malaysia. Oh how I love mee goreng with sambal!

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  5. That beach dive in Mauboh beach looks sick! Now I’m aching to travel lol. The Philippines really is a gold mine and thanks to blogs like yours, I’m psyched to travel around the country 1st before anywhere else on the map 😁

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  6. Thanks for sharing another beautiful island of the Philippines. Sulu is truly a magnificent place and hard to resist that white sand beach. We are blessed to have this beauty in the country.

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  7. Grabe no? There are really so many beautiful places in the Philippines. I haven’t been to sulu but looks like it has so much to offer too just like any other provinces in PH. I think it’s not yet very touristy as of now which is good cos it’s still peaceful there I assume.

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  8. Honestly, i think the media has sort of brainwashed me into thinking Sulu is a dangerous place… but thank you for this post, you’ve painted a new picture of sulu in my head. It’s so beautiful indeed. I’ll definitely note that one has to submit letter of intent when visiting this place.

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  9. It’s my first time to read of Sulu. We have this stigma for provinces in Mindanao to be unsafe, but I agree that there are tourist-friendly places worth of visiting. I’ve been to Zamboanga City in my best friend’s hometown and though we were careful of our safety, we got interested with their food, culture and beaches. I visited Pink beach! 🙂

    And kudos to you, for featuring this lovely place. Such brave soul. Loved the photos too.

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  10. This made me want to travel to sulu one day. Oh the adventute I can have. There seems to be a lot of culture to take in and places to explore there. I mean the place looks fantastic from the pictures palang!!

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  11. Sa dami ng nabasa kong travel blogs, ngayon lang ako nakabasa about Sulu. And thank you for sharing your experience, to share the beauty of Sulu. Napakayaman ng kultura natin at ang turismo. Hopefully we can be able to travel to Mindanao din. But this pandemic happened, but still, hoping for the better days to come 🙏

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  12. I am living within the Zamboanga Peninsula for years but never been to Sulu. Pero I know na marami talagang hidden paradise yung within borders ng peninsula and I haven’t (but wanted to) visit all of them one day starting in my own province Zamboanga del Norte. Curious lang ako, why need a letter of Intent prior to your visit? Is it for security purposes? Kasi I remember my mom went to Sulu, binigyan daw sila ng local government ng mga sundalo as escorts to keep them safe eh.

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  13. The photographs at Magsukul is breathtaking! I would love to travel there someday. I wouldn’t mind visiting Mauboh beach too! I’ve been visiting blogs for a while and I rarely see posts that feature Sulu. I’m from Mindanao (Davao City) and embarrassing as it sounds, I haven’t been to there. This post only shows that the Philippines has tons of hidden gems unfortunately the media depicts that some parts of Mindanao is unsafe for local & foreign travelers.

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  14. Never expected that Sulu looks like this na, maybe it’s because of technological advancements na din nga, and because sa sobrang layo na rin kaya out of my coverage nya. Para akong napunta sa ibang bansa s blog na to, it has the resemblance of Indonesian culture. Can’t wait to see the next travel story.

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  15. Yung feeling na everytime na napunta ako sa blog mo , nalalaman ko na ang dami pa lang magagandang lugar dito sa Pinas. Ang ganda pa ng mga pics kaya nakakaengganyo na puntahan.

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  16. parang transported to another world ka pagdating ng Sulu. ang ganda tingnan ng minarets from afar. tapos those clothes in the shop… parang ibang-iba talaga ang kultura dyan.

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  17. napakaganda! sobrang ganda! pero nacurious ako. bakit braved their way? di ba basta basta nakakapunta ang isang tao sa sulu? a tourist perhaps? or kahit tourist lang kailangan pa mag send ng letter of intent?

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  18. Oh wow, napakaganda pala ng Sulu! Sa totoo lang, di ko naisip magpunta diyan dahil nga sa nababalitaan kong mga nangyayari na nakakatakot. Katulad ng nangyari sa Zambales kelan lang. Pero napakaganda pala — at mukhang okay ka naman at hindi naman napano. Siguro dapat alam lang namin kung san kami pwedeng pumunta.

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  19. Sir Jan, you always inspire me to explore Mindanao!! I didn’t know that Sulu has a lot of things to offer from the beautiful beaches to the magnificent architectures. Ang gaganda!! Sama mo ako next time 🙂

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  20. Balang araw, gusto ko rin makapag travel sa iba’t-ibang bahagi ng Pinas, katulad ng ginagawa mo. Nakaka-inspire kasi lahat ng posts mo e!!

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