Exploring SIMUNUL: The Cradle of Islam in the Philippines

WELCOME ARCH OF SIMUNUL.
WELCOME ARCH OF SIMUNUL. Our tour guide said that “Balanjal Kam” means welcome.”

Have you ever wondered how Islam came into our country? Wonder no more. An Arab missionary came to the island of Simunul in the wonderful province of Tawi-Tawi centuries ago, and from there, Islam has finally planted its roots in the country . In this blog, I’m going to present what you can do in this island called “Cradle of Islam.”

This blog post is part of my blog series about Tawi-Tawi, which also covers Bongao and Panampangan Island.

HOW TO GO TO SIMUNUL:

There are boats from Bongao that travel to Simunul, though they are only scheduled in the morning.

For our trip, we rented a private boat that would lead us to both Simunul and Panampangan. Going to Simunul from Bongao via boat requires about three hours of travel.

OLDEST MOSQUE.
OLDEST MOSQUE. Simunul is the place where Islam in the Philippines was born. Ergo, it is where the oldest mosque in the country is located.

THINGS TO REMEMBER BEFORE GOING TO SIMUNUL:

  1. Coordinate with your guide on when you will carry out your plan to go here. In our case, we only had a few hours exploring the island since we also planned of going to Panampangan on the same day.
  2. Wear appropriate dress, especially when going inside the mosques. It is here in Simunul where you can see the oldest mosque in the country. It is highly recommended that you bring with you a malong to cover your legs if you’re just wearing shorts. It would be better, though, if you’re wearing a more appropriate dress. Also, remove your shoes or any other footwear before going inside. Your guide would tell you all these when you’re there, but it’s okay to be informed about these things now.
  3. Prepare your cash when going here. You can’t just expect to withdraw cash anywhere, can you?
  4. Should you decide to stay for the night here in Simunul to explore more of the place, you can coordinate with their tourism officer. His contact details are provided below.

*I highly recommend for you to read my main blog post about going to Tawi-Tawi. Click this link to go there. 🙂

 WHAT TO EXPLORE:

PAPA BULL’S PARK

PAPA BULL'S PARK
PAPA BULL’S PARK is the place where the largest living crocodile in captivity is taken care of.

Posing with Papa Bull are (from left to right) our tour guide, Sir Wadz, Billy, Brye, yours truly and Carlo sho seemed to freeze because of the silent croc. Haha just kidding.

It was September 2017 when the largest living crocodile was captured in Bgy. Sukabulan, in the island of Simunul. This crocodile that was later named Papa Bull measures 16.11 ft, smaller than the previous holder, Lolong (20 ft and 3 in). The fishermen and the barangay officials who conducted a rescue operation for Papa Bull surrendered the crocodile to the municipal government, which made a park specifically for Papa Bull to thrive in.

SILENT CROC.
SILENT CROC. Papa Bull was calm and silent when we visited him. It seemed like he just had his meal for the day.
Processed with VSCO with c9 preset
NOT A SINGLE MOVEMENT. Yes, I haven’t seen him move the entire time we were there.

 

SIMUNUL’S NATURAL POOL

CALM AND SERENE.
CALM AND SERENE. These are just two apt words to describe this natural pool in Simunul.

After visiting Papa Bull in his park, we headed to this natural pool in Simunul. Calm and serene, this pool is kind of inviting to those who would dare to swim and dive in its waters. Our guide said that nobody knows just how deep this pool is. The local government is said to invite divers who are capable of measuring depth of water forms but it seemed like their navigators could not fathom the depth of this pool yet. Nevertheless, that fact doesn’t discourage the local kids from swimming in this natural pool.

HOW DEEP IS YOUR POOL
HOW DEEP IS YOUR POOL? The depth of this natural pool is still a mystery until now. Still want to go diving here?

SHEIK KARIM-UL MAKHDUM MOSQUE

Bgy. Tubig, Indangan, Simunul, Tawi-Tawi
THE OLDEST MOSQUE IN THE PHILIPPINES.
SHEIK KARIMOL MAKDUM MOSQUE is the first, and therefore, the oldest mosque in the Philippines. What can be seen now is the latest reconstruction of the original place of worship. The mosque brims with white, from its domes up to the walls and pillars,
Photo 06-10-2018, 9 56 42 AM
FIRST. Now that I have thought about it, I have been to many mosques before but it was my first time to actually step inside the real place of worship. And I am privileged because it’s in the first and oldest mosque in the country!

The oldest mosque in the country, Sheik Karim-ul Makhdum Mosque was built by an Arab missionary, Sheik Makhdum Karim in the year 1380. Yes, Islam made its way first to the Philippines compared to Christianity. Declared as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission and National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum, the mosque houses the pillars of the old mosque found within the present mosque.

PILLARS OF FAITH.
PILLARS OF FAITH. Seen inside the temple are said to be the original pillars of the mosque. Though I have read from some sources that these are actually remnants of a reconstruction during the 17th century.

THE BURIAL SITE OF SHEIK KARIM-UL MAKHDUM

Found in the premises of the mosque is the burial site of Sheik Karim-ul Makhdum. His remains that are interred here are covered by sand, which is said to maintain a bulky appearance denoting how big the sheik was. Take a look at the picture and see it for yourself.

BURIAL SITE OF SHEIK KARIMOL MAKDUM
BURIAL SITE OF SHEIK KARIMOL MAKDUM. This picture doesn’t give justice to how big Sheik Makdum was. The caretaker there said that no matter what happens, whether it rains or shines, the mound of sand where the sheik’s remains are found remains the same.

WHO TO CONTACT AND WHERE TO STAY

While we only did a half day trip to Simunul, the tourism officer here, Sir Kazt Vie, said there are more places to explore in the island. That’s why he recommends an overnight stay here if ever. You may contact him at this number: 09754071083.

THE WHOLE GROUP IN THE TRUCK!
THE WHOLE GROUP IN THE TRUCK! Here’s the whole group while seated at the back of the truck as we were roaming around the island of Simunul. From left to right: yours truly (IG: @karl_olivier), Flip (@flipbardinas), Sir Wadz, Billy (@trabilldeleon), Brye (@bryehero), Denmark (@denmarkisthename) and Carlo (@carloenriquez21).

EXPENSES IN SIMUNUL

  1. Public transportation in Simunul isn’t always available throughout the day. Our guide contacted a truck driver to fetch us in the port and accompany us towards our travel destinations in the island. Fee for their service is P700.
  2. There are no entrance fees in the island. Donations are highly recommended, though, Sheik Karim-ul Makhdum Mosque and Papa Bull’s Park.
  3. It was a hot day when we went here so we deemed cold drinks and snacks were necessary. Not to worry, though, because there is a store near the mosque.

***

This sums up our short trip to Simunul, the place where Islam in the Philippines originated. Watch out for my next blog post about Panampangan Island, home of the longest sandbar in the Philippines!

SIMUNUL.
SIMUNUL. It has been a remarkable day in Simunul and it’s certainly a day I will remember for a long time.
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