There is a popular coffeeshop, or a signage of it that is, at the Jolo-Indanan-Patikul-Panglima Tahil (JIPP) view deck of Camp Bud Datu in Sulu, Southern Philippines. It was the last thing that I expected to see in these parts but given the cool, breezy weather, sipping your favorite cup of coffee while you soak the view before you is not entirely a bad idea after all.
This military camp is an unlikely tourist spot. It is located on top of Bud Datu, or the Hill of Rulers. At 200 MASL, it provides spectacular panoramic views of Sulu.
Over the horizon were some islets, whose turquoise waters are faintly recognizable even with the overcast skies. The afternoon rain made the jungles below us look greener, lusher and more alive. In between the mountains and the sea is downtown Jolo, a small patch of concrete buildings with Tulay Central Mosque as the easily identifiable structure from our vantage point.
The officer in charge of this camp welcomed our small party with a freshly brewed coffee from that popular brand. He shared to us that the coffeeshop signage was a semblance of home especially for the men who were assigned here for quite some time. He admitted to us though that the native blend was better. I could only agree with him after having drunk three cups of that since my friend and I arrived in Jolo earlier that day.
I could tell that that this guy is into serious bird photography by the kind of camera that was set up at the observation deck. He is probably in his late thirties and had a reserved yet pleasant demeanor. He told us that he earlier spotted some macaques jumping from one treetop to the other. He added that there were also times when he saw hornbills soaring about, which only indicates that the island’s primary forests are still in its pristine condition.
When he is not busy overlooking the military detachment in the area, he would photograph some of the exquisite fauna and flora he encountered in the jungle. All these photos he compiled in a coffeetable book that showcases the rarely seen beauty of Sulu.
I do not want to water down the various struggles that Sulu has been facing in recent memory. This island has seen both the good and the bad through the years. Yet at Bud Datu, I felt something in between a quiet excitement and a wishful prayer, almost like a fragile tinge of hope that time.
Sulu may have a tumultous past, that we cannot deny. But the world has to know that it also has a very, very promising future. It is an island paradise blessed with so many natural resources – deep seas, vast fertile plains and lush mountain ranges. The few Tausug that we met during this trip knew these too well, including their rich traditions and cultural heritage. They are also proud of their delicacies – their coffee, the bang-bangs that go with it, their durian, among many others.
I could only hope that many more could make it to Sulu, particularly on top of Bud Datu someday, to see its vast potential and and natural beauty. Here’s to hoping that things will get better there. Because from the views at Bud Datu alone, I know that it definitely will.
How to get to Sulu
Airphilexpress has flights to Jolo from Zamboanga City. The cheaper yet longer option is via an overnight passenger ship from Zamboanga.
The blogger strongly encourages that you coordinate your itinerary with a contact person that is at least 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.