I had my first taste of solo backpacking in Vietnam and Cambodia last year, and it felt like it was only yesterday. I can still vividly remember how I first tried to cross the streets of Pha Ngu Lao, my first sleeper bus ride to Phnom Penh, my first tuk tuk ride and the day I came face to face of the world’s treasures in Angkor Wat Archeological Park. But to prove further that it’s really more fun to travel in the Philippines, I had to try solo backpacking in the Philippines too. I never planned to, really, because I have travel buddies here to join me in my escapades. It’ll be more fun to travel with them than go solo. But sometimes, when you don’t really ask for it, chances are, it’ll be delivered to you right in front to your doorsteps.
So I really didn’t plan to travel to Zamboanga on a July. I want to see the vintas on its full glory during the Hermosa Festival which is annually celebrated in October. But when my cousin told me he’s getting married in July, I knew what I had to do. Actually, my cousin-in-law lives closer to Dipolog than Zamboanga City. But there were only few seat sale available for Dipolog-bound airlines, so the best option left was to travel via Zamboanga City, which is another 6-8hour land travel to Dipolog. So I found a very compelling excuse to visit the Asia’s Latin City for a few days before heading to Sindangan, where the wedding was to be held.
Since it was a July, surely, I won’t be able to see any vinta sailing the seas of Zamboanga. And beach-ing the famous Pink Beach in Sta. Ana Island doesn’t really interest me much (I’m not a beach person) – I only had one thing in mind while planning my first solo backpacking in my native land – to visit one of most tourist-less town in the country –Basilan.
Ok, you can drop those eye brows down. There’s just something in this town that I want to experience. That’s just it. Besides, there were a lot of bloggers/ travelers who have made it and were able to get out of it totally unscratched. It may not be a perfectly safe place to travel alone, but it doesn’t mean it cannot be safe at all, even for a day. Haay. I do have a colleague who’s family lives in Isabela, and he even helped me with my itinerary and my contact person in the tourism department.
But even when I had it planned flawlessly, I had to face two critical problems.
First, my ever over-acting-protective boyfriend.
When I first told my parents about my Basilan plan after purchasing my Zamboanga tickets, Mama was shocked but this is what she told me ‘ang daya mo, bakit di mo ko sama?’ and Papa? Oh, he just reminded me that we have no money for any ransom demands and that he hates publicity. I intentionally told them about this, so they can pray for me during the daytrip of my lifetime. Haha.
But when I mentioned this to my loving boyfriend, it was as if I need to get an approval from the higher courts to allow me to travel. Grhh. For a time, I hated him so much for not supporting me on this. Imagine, my parents even gave me their thumbs up for this trip, but that guy. Grhh... He then, warily enumerated those times that he tolerated me with my first solo backpacking … and all the travels I had without him. His exacts words were ‘pinapayagan ka naman sa mga lakad mo, kahit hindi ako kasama... Sige, tumuloy ka, and you’ll see.’ Yes, there was a threat involve. Hahaha. I had a hard time giving up the trip until the eleventh hour, when problem number two popped up.
Second, the pricey guide and security detail for a daytrip in Basilan.
I was quoted 1, 500 pesos for a daytrip, that includes habal habal transpo, guide, security… and food, I guess. I think, it was a fair and reasonable price considering that it’s your dearest life that’s at stake. No doubt about that. Apparently, I was on a tightly budgeted solo trip. Apart from the 1,500peso quotation, I still have to pay for my return tickets from Zamboanga to Basilan that would cost a little less than a thousand. Poorita mirasol. I only alloted a thousand for the entire day trip. Tsk tsk.
A day after my aborted trip, a minor disastrous attack in Basilan made it to the headlines of TV Patrol that made my boyfriend felt so vindicated with all the lectures and threatening he gave me.
Well, perhaps it wasn’t really the right time for me to visit Basilan. Not yet.
For assistance and enquiries:
Department of Tourism Gerard Tabil – 09176344989