Batanes to Tawi-Tawi
Julmunir I. Jannaral
Some of our readers are asking why is the title of my column that I chose is “Batanes To Tawi-Tawi.”
Well the answer is so simple since the title is memorable to me as a Journalist. When I was then a budding Journalist I started writing for a paper as an amateur for the mimeograph in format, the BATAWI or the Balitang Tawi-Tawi that is published weekly in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi in 1985. I was the Editor-in-Chief until 1986.
Then in between or the later part of 1985 my good friend the late Abe Sapal of the Island of Sibutu and who organized the DXRT (Radio Tawi-Tawi) and who was also the Station Manager gave me a break when we organized the tabloid size and already printing press printed the Tawi-Tawi Herald of which I was the Executive Editor but Abe was my Editor-in-Chief.
I can recall that the Tawi-Tawi provincial governor at that time was not happy to read the editorial that I wrote titled “Maldanas blitzkrieg.” It’s an island near the border of Tawi-Tawi and Sabah.
Maldanas is an atoll just behind the island of Sitangkai (known as the Venice of the South).
It was on September 26, 1985 when this island (Maldanas) was attacked by Malaysian forces (Police and Navy). This incident was allegedly result of a bank robbery in Sandakan conducted by some misguided group of Moro brothers wherein some Malaysian policemen were killed while in pursuit. The bank robbers were able to get away but the Malaysian police conducted hot pursuit operations together with its Navy. That’s how they found themselves deep in Philippine territory which was Maldanas.
According to witnesses, 4 foreign gunboats and 3 helicopters attacked the Maldanas islet in Sibutu islands. Initially, Malaysia was blamed on it and suggested the attack was in retaliation for a pirate raid on Lahad Datu in Sabah.
Our Tawi-Tawi Herald was still new in Circulation and as I can recall out of the Editorial I wrote titled “The Maldanas Blitzkrieg” one of our Columnists Kee Eng Nee, a Filipino Chinese meztizo based in Sitangkai and near the territorial boundaries between the Philippines and Sabah amplified the Maldanas Incident in his Column. That’s how we got a friendly warning from the military in the then SUSEFCOM (Sulu Sea Frontier Command) and LGU (local government unit) because the incident might result in a diplomatic row between Manila and Kuala Lumpur.
Finally here comes the People Power EDSA Revolution in February 1986. Then I just happened to be in the right place and at the right time or it could be the other way around.
In February 1986, I was among those Journalists who covered the People Power at the corner of EDSA and Ortigas Avenue and it is now the place occupied by Robinsons Galleria. The place was a cogon area and the place where thousands of people who marched to EDSA blocked the entry of LBT (Landing Barge Tank) and the APC (Armoured Personnel Carrier) of the Philippine Marines dubbed as Marcos Loyalists aimed to crush the RAM (Reform the Armed Forces Movement) led by Colonel Gringo Honasan who were allied with Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Chief of Philippine Constabulary General Fidel V. Ramos in nearby Camp Crame also along EDSA in Quezon City.
I clicked every interesting incident that I have witnessed with my vintage manual F2 Nikon Camera on the group of military who staged the coup d’etat against the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos as well as the thousands of civilians who marched to EDSA in defense of freedom and democracy.
After EDSA I had the chance to hold my One-Man Photo Exhibit in 1987 titled “EDSA Revolution Goes Down South” so that people in Western Mindanao would have the chance to have a glimpse of what were those incidents that happened in EDSA (E. Delos Santos Avenue).
Now here comes the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a daily that used to chronicle the EDSA happenings from Day 1 until the time President Ferdinand E. Marcos left for Hawaii and President Cory Aquino took over the presidency.
I contributed one article or news story about Tawi-Tawi to the Region Editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer dubbed as “Aparri To Jolo” edited by Mrs Llita Logarta, the mother of my Inquirer colleague Louie Logarta, who became also the President of the National Press Club (NPC) and the Publisher at present of the Republika Tabloid.
That’s how I ended up writing instead for “Batanes To Tawi-Tawi” when Editor Llita Logarta asked me who wrote the article I submitted as mere contributed article, and I said “I wrote it.” She followed up with a question if I wanted to join them as News Correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Upon hearing my affirmative reply, she finally said, “Welcome to the Inquirer, you are now hired starting today and you can write everyday for “BATANES TO TAWI-TAWI.” The next day I saw the Inquirer Issue with a boxed announcement that the “Aparri To Jolo” is now permanently changed to “BATANES TO TAWI-TAWI” since there is now a News Correspondent assigned to cover Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost Province of the Philippines.
TRIVIA: Dr. Safrullah Dipatuan, minister in BARMM-MOH emphasized that Tawi-Tawi remains to be Covid-free. The rest of the provinces in the Bangsamoro region are no longer Covid-free since based on the latest data the Lanao del Sur province records 70 cases, 21 in Maguindanao, 6 in Basilan, and 3 in Sulu.