Danger Zone sign at White Beach

Danger Zone sign at White Beach

I know a lot of people would ask, “Why the hell would you want to go to Basilan?” I mean, with all the bad publicity it’s getting because of the Abu Sayaff years back, the place had a negative notion of always being in a state of strife. I myself couldn’t believe stepping on this part of the country as it is the last place on my list. But since one of my travel buddy and fellow photography enthusiast wanted to visit this part of the region since he has seen most of the major areas in the Philippines, I thought, why not, so I tagged along with other 7 adventurous individuals and ventured where only the daring go.

Locals at the Port

Locals at the Port

To reach Basilan, the fastest way is to fly to Zamboanga City and from there, head of to the pier where several vessels can take you. A fastcraft can take you in an hour for Php 130. But if you are on a budget you could also take the Ferry which will take you in for an hour and 20 minutes for only Php 50 if you are on the upper level and Php 40 when you are at the lower level. We took the cheap ferry actually since the 20 min difference isn’t a big thing to how much we would save. Besides, it’s comfortable enough with the strong wind. I was able to sleep during the travel. In no time you’ll find yourself at the pier of Isabela, Basilan’s Capital City.

Stilt houses

Stilt houses

Before reaching Isabela City, you’ll pass by the Isabela Channel where on your left is the city town proper and on the right is the Malamawi Island, dubbed as the Gateway to Basilan. What surprised me most along the sea channel are the numerous stilt houses in the area. It reminded me of the Floating Villages in Tonle Sap in Cambodia and I never thought we also have one like it in our country.

More stilt houses among mangroves

More stilt houses among mangroves

Much like the people living at the floating village in Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia, our fellow kababayans here are mostly fishermen. It is easier to gather fishes being close to the sea. Most of them are called Badjaos or the “sea gypsies” of the Sulu and Celeb seas and they live mostly on house boats all their lives. In this region, once they have caught their fish, they just easily cross by the port and sell their fresh catch.

Sailboats among mangroves

Sailboats among mangroves

In Malamawi Island, our first stop is their famous White Beach. But before that, let me tell you about Basilan, when we visited DOT, most people were surprised that we were brave enough to be here. We were looking for a place to stay that day in Isabela before we headed of to Malamawi the next day. We were pointed to Channel View resort and Farm Land Resort. In Channel View we fortunately and accidentally met local PNP Col. Sheppard who was dumbstruck to find us in the place without us not knowing anyone there. He cleared that the Abu Sayaff threat is no longer here, but what is sensitive at that time is the warring families since the official winner for the local positions have not been declared yet. So he promised to provide us 5 PNP Escorts on our visits around the area. I will write in detail about these local resorts at a later post.

An old lighthouse and a boat

An old lighthouse at Malamawi island and a boat

So at the port, we got a pump boat from a guy named Kaizer Adams (cool name huh?). We managed to get a boat that would take the 8 of us along with 4 PNP escorts and 2 boatmen to different points around the island for Php 1500 back and forth. We boarded and head off again in Isabela Channel. Malamai is very close from the pier but the White Beach is on the other side of the island and it would be faster by pump boat.

Mulamawi White Beach

The stretch of Malamawi White Beach

It was a scenic ride along the channel passing by more stilt houses, mangroves, sailboats and other locals engaged in fishing by the sea. There’s also an old functional lighthouse which you’ll pass by. And shortly you’ll find yourself on a stretch of long white beach. There are no overnight facilities in the area save for some cottages and restrooms as well. There’s a Php10 entrance fee, a Php 200 charge on the Big Cottage and Php 50 charge on the Small Cottage. Fortunately for us, there was no one manning over the area so we didn’t have to pay for anything.

A lone sprout among the rocks of the beach

A lone sprout among the rocks of the beach

Admittedly the beach is very nice. The sand quality is very good and the shoreline wide enough and the sea bed is very fine with very few rocks, perfect to take kids along. But honestly it’s not the best beach I’ve seen but it ranks there high up as one of the best ones out there. Especially it’s private and secluded nature adds to the charm. Venturing off to where the sign in the first picture can be found are more rocky shorelines. I don’t know what the danger in the sign means but it could also be because of the rocky nature on this side of the beach. There I found a lone sprout among the rocks which somehow for me symbolizes a hope of peace in the area so more people could again enjoy what natural beauty Basilan has to offer.

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Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.

57 Responses to “Basilan: Malamawi Island”

  1. wow!! as far as basilan ha, adventorous ka talaga ferdz 😀

    i was surprised to see these photos, i mean a hidden beauty of nature perhaps or talaga magaling ka lang mag capture ng photos 😀

    at least may escort kayo no, mahirap nga naman yung wala kayo kakilala dun tapos may politcal issue pa pala, saludo ako kay col. sheppard!

    oh well, another great adventure i guess, ingat na lang lagi! *thubs up*! 😉

    PS. 1st and last photo are awesome 😀 keep on clicking :p

  2. i learned a lot about the place….

    kaizer adams ang name ng guy ? wow

    I like the stretch of the Malawi Beach.. ang ganda.. ang ganda ng kuhaaa mo, sa baba rin.. pati ang first pic… hayyy….

  3. w0w! ang ganda! i wanted to go here too, no one’s brave enough to go with me nga lang. estan sama ko pag punta ka?! hehe.

    is the island filled with live corals and fishes? it’s what i always look for in the water kse, watching the city underwater. 🙂

    gusto ko din yung mga view ng stilt houses and fishing villages, panalo!

  4. Talagang adventurer ka. Next stop: Iraq ha. hehe. Meron pa ng police escort. galing! 😀

    Kaiser Adams is definitely a cool name. hehe

    Basilan looks beautiful. Good thing the Abu Sayyaff are not as big as they once were so others can enjoy Basilan’s beauty.

  5. Another great adventure Ferdz. i’m sure the scenic sights are all worth the travel and that feeling of negative notion soon faded away. What with escorts to boot, feeling safe ba? Beautiful photos!!!

  6. Grabe, ang ganda ng Basilan! Baket ba naman kasi sinisira nyang mga Abu Sayaff na yan ang rep ng lugar ayun tuloy sayang ang ganda nung place.

    Di ba nakakatakot nga? I mean wala bang mga kakaibang nilalang dyan na baka anytime kidnapin ka?

    Sarap naman ng travel-travel, Ferdz! Inggit! 🙂

  7. I’ve always wanted to go here too. Nice of you to come, and especially during the election season. You must be one brave, fearless traveller. And the photos are great as always:)

  8. wow! can’t believe na may ganito pala kagandang lugar sa basilan! ang ganda pala ng malawi island, parang boracay!

    buti yung mga bahay dyan hindi natatangay ng malakas ng hangin tuwing bagyo.

  9. Basilan whatta cool place! Yun nga lang takot mga tao bec of that abu sayaff group pero bilib talaga ako sa’yo Ferdz kahit saan pa yan basta ok na lugar.

    Once again ang ganda ng mga shots lalo na yung mga stilt houses and ang ganda ng white beach ng malamawi. Ganda talaga ng bansa natin 🙂

  10. You are right… it is indeed like Tonle Sap. Funny the things in common with other countries. You know my Dad and my uncle have vacationed in Basilan about twice now. They also needed escorts.

    As usual, your photos are spectacular. You really are artistic Ferdz.

  11. wouldn’t mind going to Basilan as well and any other place publicized for being “dangerous” and “risky” for that matter.

    dami talagang “White Beach” sa Pinas, minsan kahit hindi na white, yun pa din tawag. Bakit “Keeo out Danger Zone” ang sign? may mga masamang elemento bang nagtatago sa dagat na yan?

    panget ng mga pictures mo Ferdz, walang ka-art, art, walang dynamics, panget ng framing, nuknukan ng common ang mga angulo, eklat ng contrast ng kulay…super panget at higit sa lahat, super gasgas! —> o ayan, para maiba naman ang comment ko, hahaha!

  12. hi there! i am also going to basilan and the pink-sand islands in october. i’m happy to hear that it’s not as dangerous as some people perceive it to be. i’m wary about having pnp escorts though. a friend of mine from marawi city said (after asking half-jokingly if i had to bring my own bodyguards) that being in the company of armed personnel can be misinterpreted by some people as an intimidation/ threat (and therefore attract more attention/ potential violence). in his own words “parang naghahanap ka ng gulo”. but still, it was nice for the colonel to offer help. good to know someone actually cares for people’s safety. anyway, looking forward to your write-up about the resorts. hoping for travel tips and contacts =) thanks!

  13. Basilan is evidence that bad publicity can lead to the decline of a place’s tourism.

    Who knew Basilan was this beautiful. Living far from the place and hearing only such news about the place just makes it Basilan, not Basilan with white sand beaches and clear waters.

    Breathtaking place.

  14. Pink Panther

    Kaya pa tahimik ka ng ilang araw hmmm….Nag BASILAN ka pala. Hindi naman ganun ka scarry ang place. Bali-balita lang yan. Pagdating mo doon ano? di ba hindi naman….mga militar lang kalaban nila…Nice photos ha…

  15. Im proud of you and you made it!!…I was born in this tiny island of Basilan, it didn’t change, the shape ,the color of the water & the clouds that always matches when you take pictures..being part of this island is such a great opportunity because we have it!..

  16. malamawi is really a nice place. It’s like a paradise you will never forget once you set your foot on this island. people are kind and hospitable. I remember before when we were kids, we see foreigners freely exploring the island, unafraid of anything, and they were mingling with our folks and the kids too. Just so sad that nowadays, if we see a foreigner he or she is always occampanied by a bodyguard.

  17. Jamju Alano Rivera

    Glad you visited our beach. Kelan pa nga ulit yon? (at nang mapagalitan ang nagbabantay…sayang din ung income! haha…joke!) Anyway, please do visit us again…and again…and again… mas marami mas ok. Huwag kayo matakot sa mga taga-Basilan… ang babait nga namin eh. Heheh. Kahit saan naman may mga masasama rin… kung kami may Abu Sayyaf, ang Maynila may Sigue-Sigue Sputnik… kanya=kanyang gimik… mas sikat nga lang internationally yung amin. Heheh. Pero joking aside, give us a call anytime you come back, I’m sure maraming mag-volunteer as tourist guide na walang bayad… makunan lang sa picture (galing mo kasi kumuha!). 09165430198… sa mga gustong mag day trip… please call/text anytime. Enjoy! Basilan awaits you.

    (by the way, yung sign sa beach…pinalagay namin dahil mejo malakas yung current sa may parteng yun… medyo mabato pa… =)

  18. harlooo.. gumus ta kana… we from sabah at MALAYSIA… can your reply email to me at [email protected]
    mag kilala kita… wow maganda ng sabasilan tayo..
    ng tatai n nanay ko taoo ha basilan.but ako hinde simampai sa basilan..
    sino panganalan mo..???? smile mag uyum ka arau-arau.. ok tata..
    we want search friend from plipiness… plezzzz

  19. What a good shots and I appreciated it. But the most appreciated was the place, the Malamawi White Beach..Honest to Goodness it is a wonderful place where you can find nice ambiance and peace of mind when you go there. Hindi naman nakakatakot pumunta doon at kahit wala kayong military escort, the barangay there can assure your security. Bakit ko sinabi un? because I am from that place and it is just a walking distance from our ancestral house and farm. When I was a little girl, we used to go there and picked shells and seafoods at the coastal and we proceeded to White Beach to eat our “Baon” and swim to the max! and we did not pay entrance fee because the caretaker knows us when we say we are from this family. My friends, until now, since I have already my own family and no longer staying there, We still prefer to go there and spent our vacation and I am proud to be from that place!

  20. What a surprise to see this pictures!!it’s amazing who would have thought that it will be posted somewhere on the net.hehehe
    One of the coolest place on earth!!!hehehe my ancestors are from that place although I did not grew in malamawi but families and relatives lives there.We used to spend our vacation every summer in malamawi when I was in elementary,highschool and college.

  21. Mark McCathren

    I would love to see this island. Being an American I’m sadden by the fact that a few spoil it for so many..Philippines has so many hidden treasures

  22. russelle

    isabela is a sanctuary for me especially the white beach at malamawi… i’m from zamboanga city and i would find myself at the white beach over a weekend or even for just a day to enjoy its clear blue waters… i love basilan!

  23. Ferdinand

    Ang danger sign board sa White Beach ay inilagay para sa mga illegal quarrying na pumapasok doon sa madaling araw at kumukuha nga buhangin. Wala na kasing nagbabantay sa gabi. Kung gusto ninyong pumunta, kahit walang escorts ay puwede at safe kayo. Ang babala ko lang sa inyo, HUWAG KAYONG ABUSADO dahil napapaligiran kayo ng mga tagaroon at nagiging wild na tinatwag ninyong mga ABU SAYYAF. As of now Malamawi Beach is contracted to a private individual and no longer in control of the Alano. Ewan ko lang kung tatagal ang contract nila.

  24. Born and raised in isabela and the white of malamawi is part of me it is my backyard and alway s will be, im to say though it is not as pretty as it used to be. it was so much nicer there when the wild mangroves had a place in the water where various of wild life such as monkeys and mirgatoy birds aswell as the sea creatures claimed that patch of habitat that was ones was. and the white sand beach streched further in both directions until the locals gradually exploiting the white sands of the beache and even to this day they still do in a daily basis to sell for the use of constructions, unless someone puts a stop to this, in few more year this beach will have been no more.
    by then only the memories will have remained of this beautiful jewel of the island.

  25. rhum sellers

    I’ve been to Basilan on a Holy week and it was a scarry, suspenseful experience. Isabela city, it’s capital, had a ten p.m. curfew during that time, April 2010. The plaza looked like an aftermath of a civil war. Every corner stood troops of marines. Even the side of the altar were lined with soldiers.
    The road going to the countrysides were lonely as if I was the only tourist in the island. There were
    check points at strategic locations, notably in going to Maluso town. Sand bag bunkers with marine soldiers manning it made me feel nervous. I like their fast wooden boats achored at the port waiting for passengers. The shape was muslim inspired and beautifully executed.

    Marines’ barracks should not be photographed because soldiers’ would suspect you to be a spy
    for the enemies. That’s what happened to me. The island has its beautiful places to visit. It has beautiful resorts, waterfalls, rubber tree plantations, beaches and good concreted roads.

    There are catholic churches and chapels but I found the Lamitan catholic church the most modern
    and beatiful. This was the church bombed by soldiers then because rebels hid inside. I didn’t
    expect that Lamitan city has a modern and beautiful City Hall.

    Basilan’s provincial capitol building is stunning with its muslim architecture. Visit Basilan today and experience what the island could offer. —rhum–

  26. that beautifuL beach is very safe to traveL basilan island is a very huge island well rummors said that it is a dangerouse place but it is in the other side of the the capital island,, ISABELA malamawi island is too far away from that dangerouse places
    i know it coz i was born there ^^

    try searching for tour guides

  27. Julie-Ann

    Hi. It’s good to know that travelers like you opted to travel in our home province. There are a lot more beautiful beaches that you missed, the Lampinigan Beach is one to consider. I hope you’ll have a chance to to visit again. Thank you for considering Basilan.

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