Saturday, July 19, 2008

my Islands of Sulu

The archipelago of Sulu is one of two partial land bridges connecting the Philippines and Borneo (the other being Palawan). Composed of about a couple of hundred of islands, Sulu stretches from Basilan island in the northeast to the province of Tawi-Tawi in the southwest. In between is the eponymously named province of Sulu which probably has the least explored and least inhabited cluster of islands in the country. Teeming with inhospitably thick hardwood forest, wild snakes and boars, they are largely left untouched by man. Like jewels, they are a treasure from above and beyond.

That these islands remain mysterious even to the native Tausugs themselves is borne from the islands history of strife and turmoil. Traditionally a stronghold of the Muslim secession movement, Sulu has always been in the news for the wrong reasons. Its largest island Jolo is the de facto point of reference of the activities of the bandit group Abu Sayyaf, who notoriously kidnaped tourists in Sipadan, Sabah (April 2000) and Dos Palmas in Palawan (May 2001). No thanks to this scary reputation, Jolo and its neighboring Sulu islands sadly became a no man’s land, shunned by outsiders. Over the years, the province has been struggling to gain a better reputation in domestic tourism purely because of concerns of safety.

Just last June, again, Jolo became the epicenter of another high profile kidnaping of Ces Drilon, a popular TV broadcaster of the ABS CBN network. I was preparing for a trip to Indonesia when I received the text message of her disappearance. There was a news blackout for 2 days but eventually the news hit the frontpage. The incident eventually was resolved and the hostages were released. However, there goes any plan, however far-fetched, for me to go to Jolo or any of its islands. The company I work for would never give me clearance to go there for any official reasons. Sad, but I have to admit that family now comes first and I cannot be foolhardy.


the edge
Canon EOS 350D, 1/640s, f/5.6, 55mm, ISO 100, -1/2EV
one of hundreds of islands of the province of Sulu, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, the Philippines


donut
Canon EOS 350D, 1/1250s, f/4.0, 85mm, ISO 100, -1/2EV
one of hundreds of islands of the province of Sulu, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, the Philippines


All these make me reminisce the great time I had photographing the islands from above, in my numerous flights over Sulu when I visited Tawi-Tawi in the last few years. Flying over the southernmost islands of the Philippines always took my breath away. The next island is as fantastic as the next. Pearl white beaches compete in ringing each of the islets that show no sign of humanity. Partly protected by distance and the reputation of strife, these isles lay unwasted, undiscovered. Maybe it is meant to be.


more aerial shots of Sulu

ring and cabochons
Canon PowerShot S40, 1/800s, f/4.5, 17.5mm, +2/3 EV
islands of the Sulu archipelago, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, the Philippines


donut, hole
Canon PowerShot S40, 1/1000s, f/4.9, 21.3 mm
islands of the Sulu archipelago, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, the Philippines


jolo
Canon PowerShot S40, 1/1000s, f/3.5, 12.3 mm
islands of the Sulu archipelago, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, the Philippines

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4 comments:

bishop said...

Love the composition. Very articulate description. I enjoyed visiting your blog.

Anonymous said...

well, my brother I hope I can help you up for this island name, this small island is part of the second district of Sulu. This North Ubian, still part of Panguntaran, Sulu, where my parents born and raised.

Richard Lim Kaning

Farl said...

Richard- salamat! it's really hard to identify the islands so I owe to you the clarification of this mystery.

ryan said...

Hi Farl,

I'd like to use your shots of Sulu for our Facebook Fanpage for Tourism Paradise Philippines (http://facebook.com/tourismphilippines) as our profile photo. This will be in celebration of the start of Ramadan. I will credit you and with a link to your blog in return. Thanks in advance and stunning photo of Sulu!