As tourist destinations begin to open up again, there may be certain spots in the Philippines worth visiting that you may not have paid attention to before. One of these areas is the city of Isabela in Basilan, Zamboanga Peninsula, a place brimming with vibrant Sama-Tausug heritage and Muslim culture.
While Basilan may be associated with its previous history of violence, the Department of Tourism wants to showcase a different side of the province. They recently highlighted on their website a floating cottage in the village of Marang-Marang on the island of Malamaui that serves traditional Sama and Tausug dishes.
Situated amid a mangrove wetpark, the Marang Marang Floating Cottage is a 20-minute boat ride from Port Isabela where people can get a taste of Sama-Tausug cuisine, with spices influenced by its neighboring Malay peninsula.
“Legend has it that the name of the island derives from two marang trees that used to be a meeting place among the locals,” the Department of Tourism writes on its website.
The cottage is kept by the Marang-Marang Women’s Association as part of the tourism circuit by Isabela City’s local government. Characterized by the women as “their simple food,” their dishes are nothing but — featuring a medley of crabs, shrimp, shellfish, squid, fish, fruits, and sweets.
The food is cooked with siyunug lahing or burnt coconut, resulting in dishes such as the Oko-oko, featuring rice cooked in sea urchin broth.
Other noteworthy dishes according to the Department of Tourism include utak-utak, yellowfin or mackerel tuna cooked in coconuts, onion, garlic, black pepper and turmeric; chupa kulo, snails cooked in squash and coconut milk; junay, rice cooked with burnt coconut and spices in banana leaves; imbao or baked mangrove clams with garlic and grated cheese; putli mandi, or steamed rice cakes with mangoes, and panyalam, rice pancakes.
Tourists interested in visiting are encouraged to book a 1-hour and 45-minute ferry ride to Isabela City from Zamboanga City, or coordinate with Isabela de Basilan’s Tourism Office: a day at Marang-Marang Cottage costs PHP500 per head exclusive of the boat ride, the DOT said.