It is said that somewhere hidden in the jungles of Patikul are the hideouts of extremist militants. But my friend and I were not after their elusive lairs when we visited the island of Sulu in Southern Philippines early this year. On board a small vehicle, our small party of five was headed for Barangay Igasan, to see for ourselves the fabled white sand shores of Quezon Beach.
I remember that Igasan was just a 15-minute ride from Jolo, the busy capital of the Sulu province. Along the way, we passed by a few navy detachments and military checkpoints. But for the most part, the view before us was just the forest at one side of the road and a number of fishing communities on the other. Occasionally we encountered some jeepneys and a few motorbikes too. Other than these, all I heard that afternoon was the gentle hum of our vehicle’s engine. It was to some extent, a lonely yet beautiful landscape.
When we arrived at Quezon Beach, it was largely empty except for the happy kids playing by the shore. There were also few men that were already swimming nearby. They looked like college students and judging by the nice pick-up truck that they rode on and the fact that they were not speaking in Tausug, these guys were probably guests of an affluent family in Jolo.
Unfortunately, the sky was overcast that afternoon so I was unable to capture a ‘typical postcard photo’ of the beach. But since it was located at the northeastern portion of the island, the perfect time to visit it would have been just before noon, when the sun would have created the ideal lighting conditions. In our original itinerary, we were supposed to take our lunch there, but our host/tour guide had something different planned for us.
Despite the gloomy weather, I can still see Quezon Beach’s unspoilt beauty – its fine powdery white sands, clear turquoise-like waters and wide beach front. The tall coconut trees and the small houses nearby completed its tropical yet laidback feel. There were no signages or boundary demarcations that you would expect to see in a typical beach property. If not for a few basic cottages, you might think that Quezon Beach is merely a beautiful extension of someone’s backyard.
I honestly was not planning to swim that afternoon. But the waters were too inviting to pass off. So even if we did not bring extra clothes with us, we grabbed the rare opportunity to take a quick dip. After that unexpected swim, we then ate the halal burgers we bought from Love Life Snack House.
On our way back, I thought of how Quezon Beach could be fully developed to welcome more tourists in the future. I wished it would be as easy as clearing the debris off the shore or providing a secure fence around the property or putting an advertisement online. Well, it could be all these, but it would definitely need more than just these overnight makeovers.
It is a long journey, I must add; a journey that should be participated not only by the diverse communities in Sulu, but also by the policymakers in both the local and national government.
How long it would take could be anyone’s guess. But if Quezon Beach’s tourism potential is just one indication, then indeed, there is a lot to be hopeful for the future.
How to get there
Airphilexpress has flights to Jolo from Zamboanga City. The cheaper yet longer option is via an overnight passenger ship from Zamboanga. The choices are enumerated here.
Although there are small jeepneys that ply to and from Patikul, it would still be best to rent a private vehicle since these are hard to come by. The blogger also encourages that you coordinate your itinerary and transportation arrangements with a contact person that is based in Jolo. It would really help a lot especially in interacting with the locals and getting around, if you have someone who speaks Tausug, the local dialect.