Far into the southernmost portion of the Philippine archipelago, the province of Sulu lies between the Sulu Sea and the Celebes Sea, situating it perfectly as a region that derives its income mainly from its fishing industry. The Sulu Sea has also blessed the province with access to some of the world’s most stunning coral reefs, with the excellent diving opportunities that follow.
In particular, Tubbataha Reef is a majestic 33,200-hectare diver’s paradise, a cavalcade of marine life co-existing peacefully within a finely balanced ecosystem.
Tubbataha is so incredible that it was honored by UNESCO in December of 1993 as part of the World Heritage List, and was the first wholly natural site in the Philippines to be so included. Tuna, angelfish, groupers, rainbow runners, and moray eels provide silent companionship as divers explore the corals and sponges that await them.
Fishing and farming are the major methods of obtaining a livelihood within Sulu, but the province also has a booming pearl industry, mainly from the pearl farm established on Marungas Island. Sea turtles are also harvested for their shells, which are crafted into combs and serving trays.
During one’s visit to Sulu, one is bound to encounter the Tausug, who are the most plentiful people living in the region and have embraced the Muslim faith both as a belief system and as a set of governing ideals for daily life.
As such, the handicrafts of Sulu artisans, who are mainly Tausug, have clear roots or influences in Islam and Indonesian culture. Among the many objects that these craftsmen make are embroidered textiles, items made from shells, ornaments for homes and outdoors, bladed weapons, and wares made from bronze and brass.
It must be noted that Sulu is aware of and maintains harmony between the Islam and Roman Catholic faiths that hold sway over the region, celebrating each one equally with lovely places of worship that are devoted to both faiths.
Muslim mosques may be found in every village of the province, some of which are amazing works of architecture. Several churches are also situated throughout the region for those of the Christian denomination, including the Jolo Parish Church and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel.
Climate is serene
Visiting Sulu, one may be pleased to know that the climate is relatively serene, since the province sits outside of the typhoon belt, and the atmosphere stays balmy throughout the year. Rainfall is a constant, which is helpful during the hotter months between May to August, which exceed temperatures in most other parts of the country.
Though Sulu has much to offer the foreign tourist, the promotions and campaigns by the populace to attract visitors are being derailed by the efforts of unscrupulous terrorist and secessionist groups, who have resorted to violence and tactics like the kidnapping of foreigners for ransom to obtain the money to finance their operations.
It is most unfortunate that, in spite of the general improvement of peace and order in what was once a region plagued by insurgent activity, Sulu’s progress must suffer due to the contemptuous acts of an isolated few. In any event, foreign visitors should exercise caution if considering a trip to this beautiful but troubled province.