Carla: Huh? YOLO?
Geloy Concepcion: You Only Live Once! 'Di mo alam?
I salute all of you. You dared to go where others would never dare to...
Gen. De Leon, Deputy Commander, Western Mindanao
The intro part to every literary piece is a make or break thing but believe me, I didn't know how to start this series of my recent trip. With one heavy breath and a promise to objectively actualize what I had in mind, I am sharing to you our experiences in the Province of Sulu in Mindanao.
It was early May this year when I was invited by Christian to join the Help Juan Portrait / Klasrum ng Pag-Asa on a mission to Sulu (which will be featured on a separate post). Armed with our cameras and undying passion to be everywhere and experience everything, we went to Sulu and came back in one whole piece and with a different view of what war and peace really meant.
It was gloomy when we arrived at the Zamboanga airport. We were welcomed by the Marines and escorted us to the Camp Navarro of the Western Mindanao Command. We could've taken a 10-hour commuter ferry boat to Sulu but we used the MPAC (Philippine Navy's Multi-Purpose Attack Craft) that shortened the trip to just 2 hours. The ride was not as scary as I thought it would be and the weather cooperated for us to stay on the topmost part of this amazing watercraft.
|the mighty MPAC|
|sleepy, cold, rain, wind, blood, sweat and tears - nah...|
|first look at Sulu|
|only a fraction of them - believe me|
|a peek of the town - literally|
A scene from one of our trips to downtown Jolo.
Arriving at the mayor's house, there was this sigh of relief that we were in a "safe" ground. We feasted on a treat of Sulu's amazing local delicacies and the Tausug's local coffee - perfect for the weather. Of course, I tasted everything and almost finished the first serving (yes there were more than just one serving of everything). Stress eating eh?
|everything was so yummy that I forgot to ask what they were called|
I was so full that all I wanted to do at that time was to go to a nice spot and nap. But we were told that we were leaving in a few. And so we headed to the Marine Battalion Landing Team - 2 in Jolo, just near the Jolo airport. I dunno what we did there but we only stayed for a few minutes and left again for the next destination.
|Curacha is the bomb|
During breakfast on our very first morning we were all so excited for the day's activities when suddenly someone broke the news that 12 men were dead from a serious gun battle between the Marines and the rebel group in the area. Just 3 kilometers away from our camp...
|a heavily guarded photographer|
|our normal 10-minute ride|