Malamawi Island is just a stone’s throw from the port of Isabela City, the capital of infamous Basilan. While from the port nothing seems to look special, a cross overland, to the other side, brings one to a beautiful white sand beach. And it has less people.
I came to Basilan primarily not for leisure but it was more of curiosity that drove me to hop on a fastcraft from the Zamboanga City pier to this island. And because of its very short distance, just an hour, it was pretty up in my alley as my schedule wasn’t that tight.
But before delving into the details, Basilan, once home to one of the most extensive rubber plantations in the country and peopled by the Yakans known for their beautiful weave, the island province has always been given a bad rap. Me? Always be sure of one’s safety anywhere and traveling to a supposed hotbed of Muslim radicals is no different. It pays to ask the authorities first.
There I was, giddy with excitement as I entered the small alley beside Isabela City port, way past the betel chewing Tausug and finally to the cement pedestal that led to the waiting pumpboat below.
These pumpboats take passengers across a five minute ride to the other side, to Malamawi Island and it just costs you 5 pesos (around $0.10). As regular trips need to have around 10 passengers, the boatman asked if 45 pesos ($1) will be okay with me so that we can immediately leave and I took it.
I held on to the back of the habalhabal while the motorcycle driver was negotiating the rough trail. Way past mango trees, then to a few villages. Entered a semi forested area and out into the open. For more than 15 minutes, we were driving across the island, a beautiful rural scape. At the far end of a coconut plantation, a strip of white is visible.
Malamawi beach was some kind of an apparition. That feeling of being rewarded with something beautiful after a long drive. The wind was cool. The view of distant Zamboanga Peninsula was near the horizon. The light blue waters were quite inviting and I was just staring at the whole scene, mesmerized.