An American Visit to Jolo, Philippines
By
Walt Okon


It was in 1998 that I had the opportunity to visit Jolo, Sulu in the Philippines.  I had been to the Philippines only a few time before which was in the late Sixties and Seventies.   At that time, I was impresses with the beauty of the country and the people.  It was a  place of growth and  progress.   Little did I know at the time that it would be almost 30 years before I would return to these Islands.

On 12 March 1998, Rosie and I arrived in her home town Jolo in the Philippines.  I was all eyes.  Since I have traveled all over the world with the United States Air Force and have seen many countries, I was very interested in seeing the home town of my future bride.  Although i did a lot of reading there was not a lot written at the time on Jolo, Sulu.  I was to learn  later that I just had not found the right key to this island paradise.

I had been to the Philippines in 1969 with the Air Force and I enjoyed the time I spent there. Now, I was returning to the Philippines to visit Rosie's Home Town and meet her family.  I was interested in seeing everything.  I was prepared and had brought a trusty camera along to record everything.  Unfortunatly, I was irigorant of the critical things that I should be paying attention too. 

After arriving in Manila, Philippines via Northwest Airlines, we transferred to Philippines Airlines for our travel in country.  Jolo in the province of Sulu, is located at the Southern most part of the Philippines.  In order to get to Jol, Sulu we would transfer from the International airport to the domestic airport.  This was an adventure in itself.    Remember, you have to go through coustomes and then get some form of transportation to the dosmestic airport.  Normally a taxi is available.  The wait at the domestic airport could be a lengthy one depending on your arrival time and the first flights of the domestic airlines.  Most people just find a confortable spot to nap.  I was too excited to sleep.   Almost all the Filiponos that were waiting took a nap.  They were filimar with the process.

Our flight was the first one of the morning that was going to Zambonaga, Philippines.  Zambonaga was a major trade entrepot since the 14th century, the Western Mindanao region lies at the crossroads of centuries-old trade routes in Southeast Asia so this was the city that has flights to Jolo,Sulu.   You could say that Zamboanga was a gate to getting to Jolo, Sulu.

 We flew from Manila to Zambonanga on what appeared to be a new British Airline A320 jet.  I was impressed with the plane, its appearance, and the flight attendants.  They all looked very professional.  Much better than the attendants on the American airlines.  The flight from Zambonanga to Jolo was aboard a Falkner 50.  This was a small twin engine jet prop aircraft that held 50 people.  Again it was a very good flight with very professional attendants.  The big advantage of flying in to Jolo on the Falkner was that you flew lower and slower so you could take in the view and the beauty of the islands.

The first thought was that I had just gone back in time to the 50s or 60s.  It was all very basic.  The cars were all old and for the most part they were all jeeps.  Most of the jeeps and trucks were 10 to 15 years old.  The road were not good.  The road in the city were paved and not well maintained.  The road out of the city were little more than hard packed dirt.  The temperature was very hot.  It was in the 90s every day.  There was no air conditioning.  Jeeps were all open air.  Schools had no windows.  They were open.  There was big opening were we would thing windows would be installed; but, they were just openings.  Yes, I had arrive in Jolo and immediately been immersed into the past.


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Original page made on: 24 April 1998
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