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Capital: Isabela

No. of towns: 8

Land area: 1,372.2 sq. km.

Location. Bounded on the north by Zamboanga del Sur, on the east by Moro Gulf, Sulu Sea on the west and Mindanao Sea on the south.

Brief history. Basilan means "iron trail" a tough name for a place , as tough as its people who, for centuries, had struggled for survival and independence from foreign invaders.

The early settlers of Basilan, as in Jolo and the adjacent islands, inhabited the coastal region up to the 14th century when the Mohammedans from Sumatra and Borneo invaded the Sulu Archipelago and invirons. The constant invasions caused the natives to leave the coast and seek refuge inland. They were, nevertheless, converted and had since then embraced the Islamic faith.

In 1637, Governor General Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera made an expedition to Mindanao and captured Lamitan, a stronghold of Sultan Kudarat in the Island. Much later, in 1644, the Jesuit missionaries formally evangelized Basilan but they withdrew because of the threats of the Lutaus (sometimes called Samals) from the coastal settlements.

In 1663, the Spanish troops in Basilan were recalled to Manila in anticipation of the possible attack of the Chinese warlord Koxinga. Although the assault did not materialized, it was not until 1718 when the Spanish stations in Zamboanga and Basilan were restored.

The Dutch attack of 1747 and the continuous Muslim piratical incursions forced the Spanish governor-general to fortify Basilan. A strong stone fort, Fuerte de Isabela, was constructed in 1844.

The French also attempted to occupy Basilan but they were repulsed by the forces of Datu Usuk of Maluso. An assassination of a company of Spanish soldiers by the Muslims in 1854 resulted in the separation of Basilan from Zamboanga.

When the American forces came in December 1899, datu Pedro Cuevas helped the Americans in the pacification campaign. A civil government was established in 1901 and the island was again made a part of Zamboanga.

During World War II, the Japanese Imperial Forces organized a puppet government in Isabela and Lamitan with Elpidio Sta. Elena and Teofilo Savedra serving as mayors of the two towns, respectively. Later when the American Liberation Forces occupied Basilan, Leroy S. Brown became its military mayor.

On July 1, 1948, the province of Basilan was created into a chartered city by virtue of Republic Act No. 288. Several years later, after the declaration of martial law, a presidential decree was passed on December 27, 1973, created the City of Basilan into the Province of Basilan to render the area more responsive to the pacification, rehabilitation and the development programs of the government. Another presidential decree was passed on December 2, 1974 which amended the first decree and defined the new bounderies of the City of Basilan (now within the province).

The municipality of Isabela was designed as the capital of the province.

As originally concieved, the new province was composed of the whole island of Basilan and the adjacent islands which are comprised of the towns of Isabela, except for its town proper, and the former municipal districts of Lamitan and Maluso.

The early settlers of Basilan were the Orang Dampuans, the descendants of the Yakans. The Yakans are a Muslim-Pilipino minority group said to be of Papuan descent. They are tall, with medium complexion and high-bridged noses.

Political Subdivisions. The province of Basilan has 8 municipalities, namely: Isabela, Lamitan, Tuburan, Tipo-Tipu, Sumisip, Maluso, Malamawi, Lantawan.

Geography. Basilan Province has an aggregate historical jurisdiction of 135,892 hectares. The mainland of Basilan has an area of 124,892 hectares. It is separated from the mainland of Mindanao by a strait of about 17 miles wide at its narrowest point. It is geographically located between latitude 6 15' and 700 longtitude 121 15' and 122 30'.

The Province of Basilan falls within the climatic type. The annual average rainfall is 1,100 millimeters and mean annual temperature is 26.6 °C. Source of rainfall is from southwest monsoon and intertropical convergence zone (ITZC). Its prevailing winds from southwest with a speed of 4 knots.

Basilan, as part of Mindanao, is outside of the typhoon belt.

Climate. The Municipality of Isabela has a D-type climate with an evenly distributed rainfall and temperature throughout the year. There is no period during the year that can be called dry or rainy season. The area is situated outside the typhoon belt and the rains and winds are never destructive.

Language / Dialect. Approximately 55% of the people speak Chavacano;20% Samal, Joloano, Yakan and Maranao; 10% Visayan; 10% Tagalog; 5% Ilocano and other dialects.

Major industries. Agrculture is the main source of livelihood of the people of Isabela. There are few industries operating in Isabela and all are agro-based.

Copra trading is the leading commercial activity in the municipality. Coconuts are planted almost throughout the year. Rubber-sapping and logging complement the people´s major occupations.

Mineral deposits of gold, manganese, iron, ore, copper and coal are also found in Basilan.

Points of interest


Malawi Island. The gateway to Basilan. There, the parola of the lighthouse guides ships and vintas to the channel. There can be found the final and resting place of the nomad seafaring Badjaos and Samal-Luaans-Banguingui as well as the Muslim cemetery. It boasts of the only lake in the province with wild ducks. Also found on this island is Panigayan fishing village where spearfishing is recommended.

Provincial Capitol Building. Seat of provincial government, located in Isabela proper, just a walking distance from the wharf and the cathedral. This building was built in such a way that it forms a U-shape with an open quadrangle and stage where special events, programs and dances are held at the center of the building.

Sant Isabel Cathedral. Found in the heart of Isabela proper. This pet project of Basilan´s Bishop Jose Ma. Quexereta has modern architectural design. Beside the cathedral is Claretcraft, a display center of native handicrafts like mats, bags, and other products made of buri.

Plaza Rizal. Situated between the capitol and the cathedral. This plaza is a favorite place of children and adults for afternoon promenades. One can find the follwing in the same place.

Rizal Munument. Has an open stage infront.

Relief Map. A map of the province and the surrounding islands indicating the names of the different municipalities and barangays, mountains and rivers, bridges and lighthouses. The map is surrounded by a body of water. This could be a great help to travelers, especially to tourists.

Dancing Fountain. A delight of children in the provinde.

Kaum Punah Mosque and Muslim Village. Found in the municipality of Isabela. This village shows Muslim culture of at least 3 tribes and could be reached by a tricycle, jeepney or pumpboat.

Chapel Of Peace, Calvario Peak. Located on the highland 400 meters high, a project of the religious sector, an excellent site for photo enthsiasts. It is found 15 to18 minutes ride by jeepney or bus.

Isabela Municipal Site. Located one km. away from Isabela town proper. This building complex of Isabela municipal government can provide more information of the municipality to travelers. There you can see the mayor himself for detailed facts.


Rivers and Falls

Kumalarang River. It boasts of its 14-meter high waterfall, a proposed site for a hydroelectric plant. A site good for outdoor activities and photo enthusiasts.

Tabiawan and Busay Waterfalls. Found in Isabela, a good site for picnicking and bathing.

Block 35 Falls. Found in Menzi plantation.

Balagtasan Waterfalls. The biggest waterfall where the Basilian mini-hydro power plant is situated.

Sumagdang Beach. A natural resort for swimming, passing through coconut plantations, mini rice fields and fishponds. It is only 4 kms away from the town proper of Isabela, accessible by tricycle, jeepney or bus.

How to get there. Basilan is accessible via a two hour voyage from Zamboanga City across the 25-km. Basilan Strait. The ferry docks at the port of Isabela.