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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Barter, where 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.
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
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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
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:
Other photographs around during our tour: