One by one the soldiers boarded the truck, 4 of them in total including the driver. They were incredibly serious, no smiles or jokes they didn’t even talk to each other that much. The wooden gates opened and the engine started, “This is it” I told myself. Once I leave this camp I will be in the hands of the 4 soldiers in the truck in front of me.
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The Department of Tourism told me that I can actually go to Basilan but with a caution that the place is “relatively safe”. There are two major cities there, Isabela the capital and Lamitan. My intention was to visit Isabela as from what I have been told it’s safer. When I got to the port, I found out that the boat bound to Isabela is still two hours away. Although the boat going to Lamitan is about to leave in 30 mins. After talking to a couple of port security guards, I decided to push through going to Lamitan. A place known for having terrorist groups like the Abu Sayaff. #nobarriersjusthorizons #motorcycleadventure #dualsport #adv #travelph
I have mentioned before, I was never good at riding boats big or small as I always get seasick. I politely told the doctor that I need to get some air as I’m already about to vomit, she smiled and said: “Go ahead”. I went out to a door leading to the side of the ship, was surprised to see a member of the coast guard with a long rifle looking out into the ocean, I smiled at him and he smiled back. I don’t know what I was thinking but I blurted out, “Have you ever been to Lamitan?”. His answer actually surprised me. “I have been assigned on this boat for a while now, but I have never set foot on Lamitan”. When I asked “Why?”, he said, “There is no reason to.”
To show as if I have no fear I looked at the man as he walked towards me. I stared at him, watching his movements. As he came closer I observed that he looks very clean and presentable with an upright walk. He held out his hand and introduced himself, “I’m an aide of the city counselor of Lamitan”, the guard told me that you were from the media?”. I quickly answered “No!” and explained who I am and what I’m doing there. But my explanation this time is much more thorough as I’m in a very different position now. The last thing I want right now is for people to mistake me as someone else. “So you’re alone?” he asked.
A couple of years ago before the Philippine tour, I was fortunate enough to be one of the pioneers of digital publishing here in the Philippines. Back then there was only one magazine that adapted itself into the digital media. Even then, the way they adapted themselves was pretty crude and boring. It was the ripe time to get into something that could potentially be a gold mine, but I gave it all up.
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There was a mix of anxiety and excitement as I boarded the boat bound to Lamitan. These emotions are quite common when there’s a sudden change of plans. From here on there is nothing certain anymore, will just play it as it goes. I’m starting to get gather attention, two men came up to me and asked me about certain details about myself and what I’m doing there. #nobarriersjusthorizons #motorcycleadventure #dualsport #adv #travelph
I made the decision next morning, I will go to Basilan to accomplish what I set out to do… and that is to reach the farthest that I can south on a motorcycle. I paused for a while to plan for what I’m about to do. I can just spend a couple of hours at the capital city of Isabela, go around some populated spots then ride back to the port and take the next RORO going back to Zamboanga. I felt like my plan was solid… until I got to the port.
The first night I arrived at the island of Mindanao an old lady from Surigao asked me where I intend to go. I told her “I will try to reach the farthest that I can here in Mindanao. That would most probably mean I would have to go to Zamboanga.” She was very surprised and cautioned me, “Do not go there! There are a lot of bombings and terrorist activities that happens there.” Instead of becoming afraid I got more curious and wondered if this old lady has actually visited Zamboanga or she is just reiterating what is being broadcasted on the news.
I went back to gather my gear to leave the place as I’m losing light fast, it would be hard for me to navigate at night. A man from a nearby house came up to the store and started asking questions about me. He said he overheard me speak in Tagalog and that is a rare occurrence on places like this. He concluded that I’m not from nearby. As always I told him my story and my journey. He smiled and said it was really brave of me to venture out this far. Then he casually invited me to join them for a beer.
I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed. As I open my tent all you can see was the vast ocean with a few fishing boats darting the horizon. It felt like I was at the edge of the world and that this is the final frontier for me… but obviously not yet, it just felt like that.
By this time I was so used to the idea of inter-island travel taking an hour or more. When someone told me that I can go to Samal island in less than 15 minutes, I was a bit skeptical. So I decided to check it out of it’s true.
I have traveled the whole Philippines end to end and 90 percent of the time I was lost.