Getting a Dose of Vitamin D and Sea at Malamawi Beach | Basilan


Since the Covid-19 pandemic restricted myself from receiving my usual double dose of Vitamin D and Sea, it made my trip to Malamawi Beach two-folds memorable — not to mention visiting the province of Basilan for the first time. As part of Tourism Promotion Board of the Philippines’ Influencers Program aimed at promoting destinations in the Philippines to restart an industry hit hard by the pandemic, I joined other travel writers, bloggers, and vloggers on a trip to Zamboanga Peninsula. After spending a night in Zamboanga City, we boarded a ferry for a 2-hour sea journey to Basilan. Among the places we visited upon arriving was Malamawi Beach.

The clear waters of Malamawi Beach in Basilan
The inviting waters of Malamawi Beach

A Banquet of Sama and Tausug Culinary Delights

Since our trip centers on discovering the HILOM — wellness, HABI — weaving and, HALAL — cuisine of the region, we were treated to a sumptuous spread of traditional Tausug and Sama culinary delights at the Marang-Marang floating cottages located 20-minutes by boat from the port of Isabela.

Plates filled with local Basilan dishes
Platters of Sama Bangingi and Tausug culinary delights

Prepared by the members of the Women's Association of Marang de Isabela, the platters consisted of a variety of sticky rice delicacies and assorted seafood such as crabs, lambi, panyang, langka salad, utak-utak, imbao shell, grilled squids, balunlung, the local favorite fish cake; putlih mandi, oko-oko (a Sama sea-urchin delicacy), and junay (rice dish wrapped in banana leaves and packed with coconut meat and spices).

The best food Basilan can offer
Can't wait to dig my hands on this

Knifing Through a Mangrove Forest like Butter

As we approached Malamawi Island from Marang-Marang floating cottages, we sliced through a maze of thick mangrove forest. It was a picturesque ride, livened by intriguing patterns of branches jutting out of the water and winding their way up to a small community in colorful stilt houses situated at the mouth of the forest.

The mangrove forest leading to Malamawi Beach in Basilan
Passing through the mangrove forest

Our guide told us that the local tourism office and the LGU of Isabela have been working hard to conserve this area because they know the importance of mangroves in serving as the first line of defense of coastal communities against natural calamities. Mangrove trees help slow down erosion and stabilize shorelines to create a natural barrier from storm surge and flooding.

Rows of colorful stilt houses in Basilan
The colorful stilt houses common in Basilan

A Beachfront Feast

Upon arriving in Malamawi Island, we hopped on the back of a small pick-up truck for another ten-minute ride to the White Beach. Although I was already expecting a wonderful experience marveling at a white sandy beach rivalling many beautiful beaches in the country, I never anticipated that another banquet awaited us for another round of satisfying our gastronomic whims.

Lunch consisting of curacha crabs and other seafood in Malamawi beach
Another feast awaited us

Spread on the table in front of the turquoise waters and set out cozily over the fine sands of Malamawi beach are another set of seafood catch featuring the giant curacha crabs, vegetable salads, coconut juice served with a variety of sauces and purees for dips.

Fresh curacha crabs and other seafoods in Malamawi beach
Flat-laying fresh catch

Fully-vaxxed and Boosted with Vitamin D and Sea

Having soaked my hands in crab juice by happily shoving pieces of it and other seafood meat in my mouth, I turned my attention to the crystal clear and calm waters of Basilan Strait and immediately ran towards it and dove right in.

Basilan Travel Guide
Ladies and gentlemen, it's the wee-candy beautiful Malamawi Beach

After threading a few short laps in the water, a euphoric feeling immediately reigned over me, as the moment represented an escape from a flood of uncertainties brought by the pandemic and enabled myself to once again enjoy the normalcy of free movement.

Ayi Del Rosario stares at Malamawi beach
Experience chill and zen

It was also a celebration of sorts of finally visiting Basilan, a province that has been both a bucket list of mine and a subject of false perception in my mind. I couldn’t be gladder to be proven wrong by experiencing the real Basilan with my own eyes. To see the beauty of the province, feel the warmth and friendliness of the locals and sense a kind of peaceful vibe typically felt in other places in the Philippines, is really an eye-opening experience for myself. 

Yoga in Basilan Ferdz Decena
Fellow writer Ferdz Decena of En Route Travel blog practices his yoga.

As we came to explore the weaving, wellness and culinary culture of the region, in doing so, we also discovered the many appealing nature sights of Basilan and experienced its happy and relaxed atmosphere — and YES — without the need for military escorts anymore.

Is it SAFE to travel to Basilan?

The answer to that question is a resounding YES. The province has undergone transformation and development since the Basilan imprinted in our mind hogged the headlines more than twenty years ago. 

One of the members of Women's Association of Marang-Marang de Isabela
One of the members of Women's Association of Marang-Marang de Isabela

The people of Basilan has been longing to showcase their rich culture and heritage to visitors in order to clear the many misconceptions about their hometown. To fully experience the province, it is advisable to contact the local tourism office of Isabela de Basilan prior to your arrival, to coordinate your visit with local tour guides, culinary providers and other tourism workers for a hassle-free trip.