“No matter how far we go, there’s always this instance that our heart will fly us back to a place called HOME… and mine is Mapun“
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I had been drafting this post for over a year, posted on blogger and deleted. It was in my notepad that I kept on editing. This should be the first blog that I was planning to post, but I have few pictures and I wanted the reader to see the clear image of the beauty of my place. But if, I kept on waiting for photos to suffice this blog, I don’t know when will I post this. So here, my best shot to talk about my first home, Mapun or Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi.
When people asked me from where I am, I always stutter and my usual response is “ammm I, I-I’m an NPA (No Permanent Address), but well, I grew-up in Mapun, my ancestral place is Negros Oriental, then stayed 10 years in Cebu…” Oftentimes, people got curious about Mapun, so the asked… where is Mapun? My answer is always, it’s in the southern most part of the Philippines, near Palawan and Sabah, Malaysia, a part of Tawi-Tawi Province. If there’s an internet connection, my explanation is quick… Google search… “Mapun” >enter< there! I will just point the tiny island and say this is Mapun, where I spent my childhood and early teenage days, my first 16 years. The curiosity just don’t stop here, the next questions, how do you go there? what is your dialect? what are the source of living? and the final questions were… can I go there, is it not dangerous? And my answers… hmmm ? continue on reading please, I will tell you the story that was preciously engraved in my heart and braincells. Time & distance can never wipe away the memories of home!
We are not a local from this island, but she adopted us, she gave us a living and she became our home, our community. My parents, their first stepped on this island was about 40 years ago. They loved the place, the people.
Mapun is a small island that you can roam around in a day, but of course by motorbike, tricycle or car. Now let me talk about the people, places, transportation and the throwbacks.
– PEOPLE –
We call the locals Jama Mapun, simply means “Jama – People” and “Maampun – Forgiving”. Yes, the locals are peace-loving. Crimes? I can’t even remember if there was before. But well… it’s a different story now, as strangers became enormous, peace was kinda compromise. But the real Jama Mapun are humble, polite and hospitable. They are selfless. Ones you visit their home, they will always offer you snacks and you cannot leave without eating.
Population: about 24k (from wikipedia)
Dialect/Language: Pullun Mapun (pullun – language), Tausug, Samal (the Bajau), Bisaya, Tagalog, Malayu and English
Muslim – 98%
Non-Muslim – about 2% (Catholic, Evangelical, 7th Day Adventist) *Minorities like us might be so little, but they respect us. We even celebrate our fiesta & Christmas. We had procession, programs, games and salo-salo (buffet party together). Some would participate specially the kids. Religion was not an issue in Mapun.
– CELEBRATIONS –
I love weddings in Mapun. The preparations and the traditional ceremony, the party, it’s magnific. Note, it is a week to a month-long celebration. It is for the bride and groom, and that, we should not forget the purpose of celebrating. Days before the wedding and even after, there are parties at night. The groom and brides’ family will invite ladies. For men, no need for an invitation, you know they just go. So how does the party go? Music, dancing and food. The music, call it “kombo” that’s our term for a live band, but what I like are the agung and kulintang, these are famous in most areas in Mindanao. The dancing, it is not a typical disco, it is usually a performance of pangalay and Lunsay. Pangalay is a common dance in Sulu region, and usually performed with Pakiring or Dayang-Dayang songs, or other native/Shamal songs. While Lunsay, it is a native dance of Jama Mapun. A courtship dance– on a bamboo floor, men and women forming a circle while holding hands (a handkerchief to connect the lady to the gent, holding hands of opposite genders is a no, no). The step is easy, it’s like step in-step out, on a very slow movement at first and it goes faster with the rhythm of exchange lyrics between the male and female singer (click ?? link to direct you to youtube, see the actual dance). It’s really fun, specially when it’s fast. The celebration is not complete without food, so for night parties they serve bawlu (native pastries), biscuits and coffee or juices, liquor is not in the menu ?. And on the day of the wedding, it is a long table buffet, traditionally the rice and viand are wrapped with banana leaves, but now some are using paper plates instead. You think presents are only from guests? The bride and groom, together with their family will give you sampul (take home goodies) when you are about to leave the venue, very generous right.
Mapun observes Muslim holidays aside from the national holidays. It is also celebrating its foundation that is called Mapun Day every 5th of September. There are programs, costume parade, dance, song and Budjang (Lady/Miss) Mapun competitions.
– PLACES –
There are 15 Baranggays in Mapun but I will not talk about each baranggay instead I will describe the highlights, the gifts of this place. The downtown is Liyubud and Lupa-Pula, most of the people staying here are migrants, including my family. The pier is located in Liyubud and most of the shops. Sapah, is where the Airport is and a lake, the Sapah Lake. While the three sisters lake is in Mahalu. Check this google map ( ?? link) to see our small island with four lakes, nearby islets (with fine white sand and some are turtles’ nest). I used to fantasize that if I will win a lottery I will develop this island, and I will make the world want visit Mapun, to include this island in every travelers’ bucket list. And, all I can do for now is to write about it.
– TRANSPORTATION –
“to reach the island”
Mapun is indeed far from the hubs of commercial aircrafts and big boats but there is a six-seater charter plane from/to Palawan, this is mostly requested for emergencies or special events. Well you can charter this plane if you are willing to pay the price. The common transport to this island is the Lansa (big wooden boat). You will be sailing for 16 hours from Brooke’s Point, Palawan or 30 hours from Zamboanga City. It is an adventure, sometimes you will see dolphins and flying fish while on board. The schedules? It depends on the weather and on the owner, there are no fixed schedules. So, I can say that summer is the best time to visit since the weather is good, great chances of more trips in a month.
“to roam around”
Mapun is blessed with nature, beautiful beaches, lakes, nearby islets, mountains to hike and caves to discover. How to hit those places? To roam around in Mapun, motorbikes are the best options, easy to do shortcuts and can go to places with tiny paths. It’s just that, it is not like some places in Philippines that there are motorbikes for rent. A tricycle can do plus a little hike to reach the place, an hour maybe, not bad right? Besides, hiking is the best way to explore. Now, to hit some beaches and nearby islets, it could be by banka, pump-boat (motorized) or gakit (bamboo raft). We used to borrow boats and just bought gasoline for a pump-boat, that if you have a friend who owns one. Pump-boats are used for fishing, but we can always negotiate.
– LIFESTYLE –
Jama Mapun has a simple ways of life. I can say that it is almost like living with the basic. It has slow phase as it is an island. How do people spend their days? Well, if they are not working, oftentimes they are just staying at home with family. Youths and kids are the one that you can always see at the street, roaming around, playing until sundown.
Livelihood: Some are working in a government sectors or schools (teachers, medical practitioners, military, engineers and municipal employees), others have businesses (mostly stores) while some are relying on copras, veggie farming and fishing.
Fashion: It is a Muslim place so most are wearing trousers, jeans, t-shirts, long skirts, NO bikinis at the beach. Traditional dresses are used on special occasions, though there are elders that are still wearing this on their day-to-day life. Accessories: gold – necklace, earings, rings, bangles, all gold.
Weekends/Holidays: Picnics are common to youths and some families. With 200php, 10 of your friends will already enjoy the meal, well as what I have said, simplicity is the ways there, so sardines and rice plus coke is the best combo. If there’s enough money then let’s add pansit (noodles). We can also harvest lato and agal-agal (seaweeds), look for clams and suwaki (edible sea urchin) to include in our meal. So with less spending, a getaway and fun were achieved!
(Throwback: At 5AM we will start hiking to the lake, there were like 10-15 of us (HS Batch of late 1990s to early 2000). Breakfast by the lake at around 7AM, swimming for about 2hrs then walked back home. This was our simple joy, a picnic).
CAN YOU VISIT MAPUN? IS IT SAFE?
The world had changed and most of its places did not change to a better one. The saddest and heartbreaking truth! Mapun, just like the other places in Mindanao, it’s still peaceful, though there were time that those strangers brought threat that scared the people. I really hope and pray that all places in Mindanao will be totally safe to visit again. So if you want to go to Mapun, it is best to visit the island if you know someone from there, a local, a trusted one, besides there are no hotels or BnBs, so you will be couch-surfing. Or, contact the municipality first. But, I just don’t advice foreigners to go there for now. I will update… So, thinking of adding this place on your off the beaten track to explore? Why not? This place is worth visiting, exploring. It is a tiny, beautiful island that has so much wonders of nature to offer.Tags: adventure, breakingthecomfortzone, hometown, island, mapun, mindanao, Philippines, questtosuccess, Strollsandgoals