Sapa-Sapa the Land of Mystics and Legends

By JOHNNY R. LEE, PhD.

SAPA-SAPA, Tawi-Tawi: The name Sapa-Sapa (literally translated as small river or creek) is ironic. Not a single ‘sapa’ or river/creek is found in any of its 23 barangays. It may have meant ‘sapa’ or swear (declare under oath) without stressing the last letter ‘h’ that usually comes after  it –  a common pronunciation of word that should be given a sound (e.g. mata vs. matah – the former means eye and the latter ‘not ripe or uncooked’ if pertaining to food).   

‘Sapa’ or ‘to swear by a sacred religious book (the Qur’an) to prove a disputing party or person who’s on the side of truth, may be the closest implication. 

One prominent village named Latuan used to be a place frequented by people from the neighboring islands and as far as Sulu and Sabah, who may have made a vow (janjí) or swore in times of danger, sickness and any form of disaster, pay homage and respect to whomever they had sworn to to extricate them from their problems and complications they have been though. 

As a practice and tradition, they brought along with them whatever desirable foodstuffs or souvenirs they can afford to offer. The standard plain white cloth (kuku potê) is to be had to adorn the shrine/grave of persons believed who are revered and have led a sacred life.  

There is a bird sanctuary, a vegetated white sandy-beach a few meters from the residential areas, which is also considered sacred by virtue of unknown graves found there and believed to have ‘barakat’ or healing power. 

No wonder the white egrets did not diminish in numbers or population because harming them (the white egrets) could cause unexplained illnesses and misfortune to the culprits. It used to be a quail (Tabon Bird or tambun to the natives tongue) sanctuary. But gradual social development like converting it to coconut plantation and slashing the bushes and brush where it nested drove away the magnificent big-egg laying birds.

The name ‘Latuan’, according to reliable sources from the area, is a contraction of the term ‘Lahat Tuan’ translated as the abode of revered religious leaders or ‘imams’.  

Some famous olden times religious leaders from this place were Imam Tuan Ligaddung, Imam Lipae, Imam Gayong and Tuan Mohammad Ali. 

These great religious leaders had in one way or the other developed their Islamic knowledge from Arabian missionary named Sayeed Abubakar, who then resides at Tubig-Indangan and believed to be the scion of Sheik Karimul Makhdum, the one responsible for erecting the first mosque in the Philippines in the Municipality of Simunul in 1380.

Another prominent village is Barangay Sikubong also in Sapa-Sapa, which is the territory of the Jamasali Clan, who traced their lineage from the Royal Sultanate of Sulu & Tawi-Tawi. 

The family grave of the Jamasali’s in Pamasan-Laum Sicubung section is noticeable by the presence of a 7-foot century-old cannon or ‘lantakâ’ made of cast iron, believed to have been ‘grabbed’ from the Spanish army in a heat or fierce encounter during Spanish era.

There are still several pretty sites that have to be uncovered in the Municipality of Sapa-Sapa. For instance the Manimpa mini-lake which can be found at the center of Sikubong Island and was thought to be connected (underground) to deep seas beyond the island’s shorelines which is kilometers away. 

Native visitors attest that the water content is salty and schools of marine fish species can be found. 

Adventure Tourism can be had in some areas like the island of Mantabuan and Baldatal. The former is a wild boar (baboy ramo) ‘infested area’ and the colorful wild chicken called ‘Labuyo’ still roams the forested part. 

Natives, especially the farmers, considered the wild boars as ‘pest’ because they attack and destroy their farms. Ditto with the latter where wild boars encroach the residential area at night time and early dawn causing damages to properties. 

They can only be ward off by shooting and killing them. But most often they just shoo it away because dead wild boars would leave carcasses abhorrent to the predominantly Muslim residents. 

Wild boar hunters especially from Christian areas would be happy to explore it. In fact, known politician and wildlife hunter Chavit Singson, at a couple of times, came down from Ilocos Sur just to hunt for the wild boar whose preserved head is used as wall decor and the meat as a rare delicacy. 

Not to be outdone is the iconic Panampangan Island Beach which mirrors the province’s immaculate image in terms of natural beauty with respect to its pristine waters and well-preserved coral reefs. 

This tiny yet imposing island-beach is under the jurisdiction of Sapa-Sapa municipality. The island with white sandy beach and lush vegetations, like palm coconut trees and mangrove community, is thought to have the longest sandbar with five kilometers in length during low tide. 

Both local and foreigner tourists are frequenting the place all-year round.

PHILIPPINE MUSLIM TODAY

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