Monday, August 19, 2013

Daytripping Jolo, Sulu: Quezon and Mao Gu Beach, Capitol, andPangasinan Island in Panglima

the town of Jolo at dusk

I admit I had some fears of this trip; Not necessarily that I’m doing it alone, but actually, because of the general (mis)conception of the place.

Being an unfamiliar face in the place, as preparation, I chose to bring dark colored and almost worn out clothes. I thought this way I’d be less likely to attract attention from people.

The Mama Mia boat left Zamboanga city port at 8:00pm, and it was only in the boat that I purchased my tickets. The only available seats were in the airconditioned, and the upper deck. The aircondition deck was totally empty (for some reason), So, instead, I thought I’d rather enjoy some conversation from a few people in the upper deck instead.
the situation in the upper deck of Mama Mia

I sat first on one side and latter, 2 gents sat close to me. One of the guys seemed as if campaigning that he seems to know everyone in the ferry (including the staff and army escort of the ferry). A little while later, when he finished shaking hands and rubbing cheeks (It’s Eid al Fit’r actually), I asked to confirm that I’ll have to take a jeep to Patikul from the drop off point in the Port of Jolo. When he asked where I am heading, I told him to Quezon beach. He asked me next what my purpose is, whether I am a military scout, or whatsoever. I said I am not affiliated with anyone, and it’s rather for leisure.

Then he began laughing, and began telling everyone around, about what they consider as a folly. He asked if I had P200K pesos with me, or if not, might want to reconsider my plan if I want to live. He added, of all the many great beaches, why would you want to go Quezon beach. He then asked for my ID, showed both work and university ID, and would even accuse me of forging these ids (insisting that I am part of some armed force).

 I asked about my chances of getting to the beach if I were to go ask the Police/Municipality. He said, the more that they will not allow me to. He even pointed to one of his folks, a local, who himself was caught captive by the rebels and was held for ransom. I did not answer further ‘cause from his way of asking, it seems pointless to argue. I pretended instead that I am thinking of cancelling my plans, and asked for other beach alternatives I can go to (they said Mau-Gu – a public beach within the vicinity of Jolo). A little while later, I slept (And while I was trying to determined, I can’t discount what they have told me).

It was about 5am, and the ferry was about to dock in Jolo. Knowing that the Police Station might still be closed, I stayed for a little more while in the ferry. By 6am, I thought I can probably go catch some breakfast somewhere in case the police office is still closed.

Luckily, the Police station is open and 2 men were awake already. I told them my narrative, until I asked, can I go? The advise was, No! We don’t advise you going, but if you will insist, you can try. I said it’s probably ok since it’s still 6am, and less likely that there will be trouble. I even asked the policeman the favor of getting me some tricycle which he knows is probably trustworthy enough.

Not sure if he knows all the sidecar drivers, but he called on the first tricycle he seen. He spoke to him in Tausug, and after, asked me if P300 is OK to tour me around town, including Quezon Beach in Patikul. Well, of course, 300 is OK just so long as I get there. Pulled my bag quickly, and hopped in.

I asked that we go first to Patikul and later  to Mao-Gu, and then to the capitol. I had a hard time talking to my sidecar driver, but somehow, we had understanding 65% of the time. J

Quezon beach, as he claims, is about 23kms away from the town of Jolo. Jolo in fact is a populated center, and from the border, houses become rare and rare. Everything at that time in Patikul though seemed so at peace. I never felt any fear except in places where you’d see no people/houses. And, with my sidecar driver showing very comfortable with our trip, I managed to pay attention on looking at what’s around… a lot of Police/Army detachments… I think 1 in every km I suppose.

We got to quezon beach safely without any hassle of any sort, and to my joy, and after all those I was told in the boat, and I read online, I thought a jump shot was a good payoff. My sidecar driver volunteered to do his jump shots too.

We walked a little, and afterwhich, we thought about heading next to Mau-go. This beach is in Jolo, a little close to the border between Patikul, and it’s the popular beach for the locals. Water was clear and sand was white and fine, though the breakwater (which most parts is torn by the way) is not a good sight for a beach.  We sat for a while while we got some snacks from the vendors nearby.

Once we finished our snacks, we head next to the capitol. Our first stop was the sports complex, where I had an interesting talk with the caretaker of the pool. He invited me to go back in the afternoon for a swim, in case I run out of something to do (since my sailing time is late 8pm anyway). After a long conversation, a few cigarettes, we decided to leave the sports complex and take some pictures of the capitol proper. After that, I asked that we get some food again before we part. He brought me to this restaurant (named BlueXXXX..forgot what the other word is) in Jolo market. What’s funny is that as soon as we sat, we were given a menu with items from back and forth only to be told that chicken is all they have. We ended up with Chicken Caldereta, Fried Chicken, and Mee Goreng (Caldereta and Mee Goreng was great; Especially that the servings are both just P60 each).

After the meal, I was dropped back to the port, sat in the coffee shop while I think of what else I can do. Had two coffee (locally knows as “kahwa”), and a piece from the variety that they serve.

Since it’s my third visit to this shop, by this time, I would have already been a familiar face to the staff. I had them take some pictures of me, and had a few word with them and their boss. By then, I realized, there’s really nothing to fear amongst the people (as opposed to those who’d advise not to trust just anyone, etc), But, I think It was the people who feared me (walking alone and with my color, I got the people to thinking that I am an intelligence agent/military personnel).

 I was thinking about going back alone to Quezon beach through the commuter jeeps (since it’s noontime and probably by now, I can see the beach Blue),  but instead, I decided to check out the Panglima islands facing the port.
I walked to the fishport where I thought I can catch some boat going there; took me almost 3 hours I guess before I got someone to agree on getting me to the island and back; The boatman is about to leave actually for home, somewhere on the remote border of the mainland, but said he can drop me so long as we do it quick. Too quick, I was thinking about spending a second day, just so I can have more time in this (and the nearby) island/s. I thought this beach is actually much better than Quezon beach, and considering how blue it was even without the sun.

When we got back to the island, it was nearly 6pm. I had coffee again from the same nearby coffee shop, and afterwards, took a sidecar back to the Sports Complex so I can swim, and get a rinse. It was almost time for the pool to close, but the staff, whom I had a conversation with in the morning, said just go ahead.

I spent about half hour in the pool and to rinse, and by the time I was going to leave, they did not even get the P20 entrance fee I was paying.

Meantime, I would have been very comfortable with Jolo already at this time; Not bothered at the fact that it’s nighttime and past 7pm, I wore my colorful yellow boardshorts and sando, strolling around the capitol taking pictures of whatever. At 8pm, I was back in the port ready to sail. Surprisingly, I met the same 2 fellows from the morning trip. They were so puzzled to see my pictures of Quezon beach; They said they were born in Jolo, but never saw, nor thought about getting to that beach. They ended up insisting on treating me with coffee, meals, etc in the ferry J yay!

This trip is part of my 13 day Southern Mindanao Trip. I posted a few details of my schedule and expenses here

See here for my other trips to Sulu, and how I eventually ended up with the SULOngSULU project


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