Lanao del Sur | Braving the Unknown
Lanao del Sur?
I have never had so many people express their worries about my kind of adventure not until I announced my trip to Lanao del Sur.
“Is that on your death wish?” asked my friends whose ideas of the place are all about its unpleasant stories.
Why is Lanao del Sur feared?
They’re always on the news. But more often than not, they hit abhorrent headlines & criticisms. Terrorism, kidnapping & clan wars are among its bitter realities.
Brave or Naïve?
So what was running on my head in pushing a journey like digging my own grave?
To begin with, the plan was really ambitious. Lanao del Sur is battling with all sorts of conflicts. And there I was entangling myself into an already complex, hammering & real dangers.
But then isn’t violence a universal truth? We walk among merciless holduppers in Manila. We live among human-traffickers & drug syndicates; sometimes we even vote for them.
We hustle with aggressive scammers in Saigon, Beijing & Bangkok. Even progressive cities like France & New York are not spared from heinous criminals.
Dangers lurk everywhere. Even in Lanao del Sur.
But I believe that there are genuinely beautiful things about Lanao del Sur other than our stereotyped image of it.
If I won’t dare to brave the unknown, I will carry on with what biased media feeds me. I will forever live on outdated textbooks written in the eyes of the victor.
I had to make a difference.
Lanao del Sur, finally!
Flying from Manila to Misamis Oriental was the longest 1-hour & a half of my life. In my mind, images of minarets & the sound of gongs were already running wild.
At that time I felt that all of my year’s worth of preparation were slowly taking shape. Flipping through the pages of my travelpad, I remembered how one coffee date fired all the spontaneous inspirations for this trip.
But everything didn’t come so easy as I thought. The research work I put about its place, people & culture was really serious. And by research I mean not the ones that you can just easily pull from Wikipedia. I had to gather insights from experts & locals.
As it is not your quintessential tourist spot, finding support on security & logistics were also heartbreaking. As an independent writer & without any funding, right there I felt like giving up on this project.
Thankfully, the Provincial Office of Governor Bombit Adiong believed in the greater purpose of my dreams. And as they say, when it rains, it pours.
Support came in so quickly & in the most unimaginable scale. All I needed was to drop everything & fly to Mindanao.
The next thing I knew, our convoy was already rolling to Marawi City, the gateway to Lanao del Sur. It was that perfect moment of what was to become the most epic 2-week journey in the beautiful Morolandia.
Truth Be Told.
Truth. They have super cars & they drive as fast as lightning.
False. That you can get kidnapped or murdered for no reason at all.
The concept of traveling to Lanao del Sur is marred by misconception & bias. But the realities are, it’s neither off-limits to non-Muslim nor it is utterly dangerous. As long as you obediently adhere to its Islamic rules, you’ll find that reality is far removed from the stereotypes.
It is also incorrect to think that there are no hotels, decent public transport or restaurants. Because there are, although the choices are limited. But it is correct to say that Internet in Lanao del Sur is in comatose.
A Whole New World
Lanao del Sur is an ivory tower for the unexpected. It’s a real off-the-beaten path adventure from stunning landscapes to art & culture.
I was drowned in the feeling of excitement being at a place where indigenous cultural identity is strong. Its art & traditions are alive that in many modern cities have long died with urban monotony.
Lanao del Sur is a rich tapestry of exquisite art forms like weaving, woodcarving & foundry casting of brassware. It is a mosaic of heritage royalty homes & stately mosques wedged among its lakes & hillocks of pastoral tranquility.
Jitters & Glitters
Even with a battalion of security escorts, I have to admit that I felt the jitters. But it was no match to the howling dogs at night in the eerie Marawi Resort.
It was also quite uneasy being the center of attention. So many curious people always surrounded me. Although media people are not alien to them, they’re not just used to seeing someone looking for the beautiful rather than the aweful.
I have never been to a community so willing to open their homes to show their precious heirlooms. I felt how eager they were to share their beautiful stories through dance, music, food & chants.
Being the first travel blogger to have ever gone to its depths, I have seen how it desperately wants to be experienced as a wonderful province, rather than how it is depicted.
By naturally failing to develop its potent tourism dynamos, Lanao del Sur, in a way has kept an auspicious effect. It has conserved its unalloyed beauty, filling the gap left by the stigma of bad publicity.
For now, Lanao del Sur remains an exotic travel destination. Its hidden sights, unique vibe & flavors are all but dreams to many. But to those who will brave to find its guarded trails will be rewarded with an unrivaled experience.
Hey, I am on Rappler too. Click here to read my story.
If it ain’t enough, check out this short video.