“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” --Mark Twain
There is no better time for this story to be published. As the President of the Philippines and MILF Chair signed the Bangsamoro Framework agreement and shook each other’s hand to signify the start of peace among brothers and sister, I write about my experiences while I was journeying through the Sulu Archipelago, particularly in Jolo. What we may now call, a part of Bangsamoro territory.
This is a 3-part series recounting my experiences, observations and reflections when I visited Sulu last April 13-15 2012 during my 100 Days Journey around the Philippines.
I’m publishing what I wrote on my mobile phone’s notepad. I also added some commentary enclosed with parentheses (), for the reader to better understand the situation.
Friday the 13th, April 2012
I guess I’m already numb with fear. I was able to sleep, but I get up every hour (I was aboard a ferry from Zamboanga City to Jolo, Sulu wearing a Takiya or that cap they wear inside the mosque).
(I keep telling myself) Fear is not only in the mind.
I stopped counting how many times I pitched my eyes far and look at the horizon. Everyone whom I told that I’m going to Jolo, Sulu tells me “ingat ka” (take care). As if everyone are John Lloyd Cruz’ followers (Biogesic commercial, Ingat ka)? The Department of Tourism Region 9 was discouraging me to visit this island province in their e-mail (I was asking if they can refer me to a guide in Jolo).
I don’t know but Jolo, Sulu is still on my mind.
Fear? Explainable fear!
Worried? Once, twice, thrice and so on…. YES I AM.
Prepared? No one is, even my friends who haven’t been there (or to Mindanao) can’t imagine the thought of me (or themselves) going to Jolo.
The stigma and fear that the media painted is too chaotic- bombing, kidnapping, terrorism, etc. Stories from locals don’t help too. The blogs that I and Gael read the day before the trip instilled more fear. Ohhh, how many times I will say that word?
Gael aka The Pinay Solo Backpacker who tagged along in this trip was uneasy and always cursing me since the morning (She wore a Muslim head scarf as a sign of respect to Muslim culture and dress code. She was smiling here but she was really terrified deep inside; to the point of backing out the last minute when I told her that my contacts in Jolo are from the Moro National Liberation Front, MNLF).
I was breathing heavily, trying to tell myself that everything will be alright. I was reciting verses from Psalm 121 and 23. I was praying to my God, I was asking for protection. Then I told myself to settle down, breath naturally and focus on God and His promises.
Where is Jolo, Sulu in the Philippine Map?
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This is part 1 of a 3-part series recounting my experiences, observations and reflections when I visited Sulu last April 13-15 2012 (Days 73-75) during my 100 Days Journey around the Philippines.
#ISANGDAAN is a personal journey and challenge to backpack around the Philippines the cheapest way possible for 100 days. The book “ISANGDAAN” will be out soon!
If you want to follow my steps, I have an interactive map- ISANGDAAN Journey map.