Sulu Camping - The Marines Way

All of my childhood summer breaks were spent in Zambales and I remember clearly how the whole clan would go to the beach for a week and just stay there. Our base camp was a native hut and as kids, we were so free to go to the beach and bask in the sun which was freedom to us. That prepared me for my highschool C.A.T. bivouac. I was so amazed how my classmates would really detest the camp life - some did cry. And now that I usually travel a lot, I am in no way picky when it comes to a certain place to stay.

And yes! My latest trip to the province of Sulu proved to be one of those occasions that my not-being-picky came in handy. Our base camp was the Marine Battalion Landing Team-6 (MBLT-6) at Barangay Buhanginan in Patikul, Sulu under the command of Lt.Col. Antonio G. Mangoroban Jr. PN(M)(GSC). And this was a happy place - really. What's in there? Aside from the "freedom" we enjoyed (we felt relieved everytime we were there after long land travels), we get to experience how is it to be a Marine.

When we arrived for the first time, we were ushered to our rooms. Men and women were assigned to different barracks. Bunk beds, army folding beds and marine hammocks were our best friends. We had a short briefing on the history of the MBLT-6, basics on camp life and Muslim customs and traditions. What I remembered was that we were not advised to stay, take photos or even stand under coconut trees (accident prone area - true). Also, we were taught to offer our hand during hand shake and touch our palm on our chest after (a sign of peace). And because I was the only female in the group, I was advised to wear conservative attire.

I couldn't help but observe the Marines on their daily routines. My mornings were spent on watching them doing their morning rituals like running around camp and getting ready for the day's assignments. Such a nice view in the morning. Whew.

morning briefing for escorts
There's also this shipstore inside the camp which resembles our sari-sari store. They have some snacks, toiletries and beers. No need to go out of the camp to get those stuff. Everyday meals were a feast, they served it buffet style and we usually eat with some of the Marine officers. And every meal was so great that one trip to the spread wasn't enough. And boy how I loved those utensils with the logo of the Marines imprinted on it. I was jokingly asking Lt.Col. Mangoroban that I will steal one of those for souvenir - he just laughed.

I particularly loved our coffee sessions. We always have this Kahawa Sug brewed coffee on the pantry and it was divine! I am a black coffee drinker and this particular one tasted great. No need to put some cream and sugar, it tasted great without those. 

Sunsets were spent on the beach. We needed to walk a few meters to get a good depth for swimming. Our lifeguards were literally guarding our life with their weapons and binoculars. Some of them joined us and took a dip - with their swimming attire. Hot bodies all around the camp, my eyes were feasting everytime.

camp's sunset
And what else did we do there? I brought out the Ms.Congeniality in me and chatted with some of the Marines during their spare time. I learned so many things from them and I love their dedication in the service. We also checked out some of their muskets, armored trucks and tank. They willingly let us pose with these stuff.

heaviest? the body bag
Diego's head
permission to booze up sir!
During our last night on the camp, the Marines treated the whole group with a camp party on the beach. There were food everywhere, overflowing booze, a mobile bar, a Marine band and a chance to interact with everybody. We boozed up all night long without thinking that some armed rebel groups were just 3 kilometers away from the camp. Everyone rocked the camp that night. 

party like we're not in Patikul
Christian, Geloy, Joseph. Troj, Chris. Josh, Kulas, moi, Matt
the fab Juan Portrait Sulu team
The MBLT-6 was our base camp but we get to also experience the camp life in Camp Bud Datu, the base camp of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-9 under the command of Lt.Col. Joseph Dominic Conta. It was a different experience from what we had on our base camp. It felt like we were in Baguio with a great view of Jolo from the balcony of the Starbucks Cafe - yes they have their own version there and they even have mugs with the cafe's logo imprinted on it. 

I love taking quick naps there especially after meals. The cool breeze with occasional drizzle was perfect for the, again, unlimited serving of the Kahawa Sug coffee. They also have their own version of 7/11 store which was actually their shipstore. We didn't get to stay here for a night but having a couple of beers over sunset in the camp would be nice.

not your usual Starbucks security guard
amazing view of Jolo
asan na ang mga boys?!
cool workstation
soup, satti. pancit, chicken, squid, dumpling, burp!
free-flowing local Kahawa Sug coffee
Aside from military duties, the Marines are also involved in community-related stuff like what they did in the very moving Klasrum ng Pag-Asa project. They also manage the kids' football teams in Sulu. After school hours, the kids are usually picked up by the Marines and they get to play football on the camp's field. I have no interest in the said game but seeing them kicking the ball and cheering for a single goal makes me wanna go in the field and play with them. I love seeing kids play. It's the essence of their childhood in which they learn more - how to gain, fail and strive.

the football kids
But of all the activities we did on camp, I extremely loved the basic firing lessons we had at Salo Firing Range Complex in Camp Bud Datu. We had a briefing on how to fire M4, M16 and Colt .45. It was my first time and when the instructor asked for a volunteer for the first shooter I didn't hesitate to go. 

It was the M16 and my face almost kissed the dirt and the rifle. I was constantly told to focus on the target that was around 25 meters from where I was. Focus on the red thing just like on cameras. Be still. Don't shout. Inhale. And then shoot. Exhale. Whoa! I was earless for a few minutes. And how that distinct smell of the smoke coming from the rifle smelled like war. 

And then another shot. Same thing as the first. After that I got the hooked! I shrieked after 10 shots. Such a feeling of relief that I finished the task without doing anything stupid. And so we went to the target area to see if I hit anything on the paper. And when we got there, we realized that I didn't hit the black thing but all of the 10 bullets hit the paper. The instructor told me that I get to "hit the person" but not as deadly as I want it to be - I'm not a killer, I'm a lover (pfft... imbento). The others were so good that almost all of their shots hit the black thing. Nice!

And then the Colt .45 (kwarenta y singko). This handheld was love at first sight. It fits my hand perfectly and I was on standing position. Focus on the red thing. Be still. Don't remove your index finger. Relax on the recoil. Don't shout (he kept on reminding this but never did I shout or planned to shout - relaks kuya). 

And then shot after shot after shot I got my groove on firing. I loved how it felt and I got so reckless that I didn't focus anymore on the target that I shot the wooden frame of the target a few times. The instructor was kinda laughing on how unfocused I am. And after all the shots, I felt ecstatic and would've hugged the guy but it may seem histrionic so I just told him that I wasn't born a shooter but a lover - again. 

Overall I loved this experience. I was actually firing for the first time on a Marine camp in Sulu. Very Lara Croft. Now beat that! Maka-angas lang.

the instructor did some kamot-ulo moments when it's my turn
I personally love shorter ones
ang lakas maka-action star
Camping is not for everybody. Good thing though, I was nurtured to be contented even on the littlest amount of resources presented to me. And with that, life in Sulu Marine camps felt like a luxury more than anything because of the unwavering amount of service and friendship from the Marines. Thank you guys and we'll party harder here in Manila like how we partied in Patikul - I wish.


  1. Walang picture nung morning routine sa beach? :(

    Naalala ko yung kwento mo na lumabas kayo ng walang escort! Hahaha. Ang sosyal na may Starbucks at mukhang lagi masarap breakfast niyo dun. Hehehe.

    Kung pupunta ako dun, at kelangan na i-observe ang completeness sa gabi. Pwede ba ako lumapit sa isang marino at itanong siya ng "Will you complete me?"

    1. rob di ko naisipan pa na kuhanin ang cam ko nung mga panahong yun eh. tsk tsk tsk...

      at pwedeng pwede naman siguro yung mga completeness na gusto mo! haha

  2. WOW na WOW talaga ang adventure na 'to! 2 thumbs up! :)

  3. Ganda ng Sulu. :) Sana makarating ako dyan someday. :)

  4. Pinaka-favorite ko dyan yung party nung last night :P

    1. ako sunrise. yung inaabangan talaga ang sunrise...

  5. nakakatuwa ang experience mo na ito Ma'am!!!

    1. totoo yan irish. kakaibang experience na nakakatuwa talaga! :)

  6. Like how can you do these things?...ang galing galing mo. Your interests are so varied sobrang nakakahanga.

    1. wow naman. salamat naman yana. kahit anong hamon na feeling ko naman keri ko eh go lang nang go! :)

  7. This is why i had these big dream to become a marine way back papa kc marines din, and i grew up sa iba't ibang kampo...i was so inspired of their bravery and loyalty to our country..too bad my height did not make it to qualification :( plus my asthma pang gulo talaga! nakakamiss ang buhay kampo! isa na naman ito sa favorite blog entry mo! goosebumps! pramis! -

    1. wooow! this made my day. salamat naman cris! siguro ang pagiging sundalo ay hindi talaga para sa'yo kasi para sa ibang bagay ka. kakatuwa naman. at lumaki ka pala sa iba't - ibang kampo. ang saya rin di ba? may ibang mundo sa loob :) tour mo ko minsan sa mga kampo! :)

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. haha pati nga wedding at binyag ni baby ang simabahan sa loob ng kampo :) di kami napunta ng patikul, ang alam ko matagal kami sa kampo sa basilan zamboanga :) kaya nga happy ako ng malaman na happy ka manirahan kasama nila at naappreciate yung simpleng buhay nila kahit malayo sila sa kanilang pamilya :) ng happy hour nila diba!...inaabangan namin ng mga opismate ko ung ibang post mo pa! hihi

    4. ay oo nga pala dun kayo nagpabinyag. hehe. gusto ko ang shipstore. marami ako gustong bilhin. minsan samahan mo ko tel. hihi. ang bongga nga ng happy hour nila! iba pumarty ang mga marino! :) salamat naman sa pag-abang...

  8. Replies
    1. same here, lalo na pag naaalala ko mga experiences namin dun :)


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