Category Archives: jolo

KISSA AND DAWAT: December in Jolo

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 19 Dec) — I spent my childhood days mostly in Jolo, the historic capital of the once glorious Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo and now the trading hub of the Province of Sulu. These days, Jolo the town, has earned an unsavory reputation as the dateline for all kidnaps for […]


President Rodrigo Duterte salutes a wounded soldier at the Camp Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Jolo, Sulu on October 31, 2016.  Duterte visited eight soldiers wounded in recent clashes with the Abu Sayyaf and awarded each of them a Wounded …

Sulu Hidden History: The remnants of Sulu Parula (Parola) -part 2

From an American-built lighthouse to a Tausug-built Masjid.

The search for the missing “Eye-Fall tower” did not take me long to finish for three reasons: 
  1. I already know where to look for it (the wharf in Jolo); 
  2. The people in that community are pretty friendly; and 
  3. The Sulu National Museum gave me all the answers. 

What I just did then is visit the place and confirm the site where it still stands now, talk with the people around, link the stories and tadaa! Mission accomplished!

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present to you all, the Sulu Parula (Parola), then and now…

The Sulu Parula (Parola) and the Block House

This is one of the oldest photos linked to our missing structure: the Sulu lighthouse, commonly known to the locals as the “Parula”. This photo of a building IS NOT the actual parula, but actually the “office” of the coast guards known to most as the “Block House”. This photo can also be found in one of the photo archives in the Sulu National Museum at Capitol Hills, Sulu. There were some other similar phtos taken by Mr. Chester A. Cabel from Chicago in 1920s. I found an online copy here: All rights are reserved to the rightful owner of the photo…

The actual parula, according to the locals, was a tall tower made of metals (imagine a smaller version of Eiffel tower) with that usual “bulb-like” light at the top. But this parula rusted in time and that light had long stopped functioning. And so, the Philippine Coast guards decided to destroy that parula and constructed a new lighthouse to replace it in 2011. Unfortunately, nothing remains of the “Eye-Fall Tower” that we were looking for. 🙁

In 1900s when the Americans came to Jolo, there were already lighthouses and signal stations made of wooden planks constructed by the Spaniards. These were built to guide their boats and ships to the Jolo Wharf inside the so-called “walled City”. It was during the Americans reign that these lighthouses were reconstructed with metals and replaced the “offices” nearby into concrete cements which were then called “Block Houses”. There were other parulas and block houses in that same wharf before but this is the only one that remains standing until today.

It was said that every dusk when the sun started to set in the vast Sulu Sea, an assigned officer will climb up the tower and light the parula using fire. When the Americans left Jolo there were Muslim “costudians” who did the job and kept that light burning, until it was replaced by another electricity-operated lighthouse nearby.  Then in 1970s during the Battle of Jolo, the building was abandoned and the parula remained unmanaged until the end of the Marcos Regime.

Masjid Shariful Hashim

Masjid Shariful Hashim in March 2009;
 Photo by Neldy Jolo in his blog: Sulu Lens
In 1999, the residents of walled city, Jolo, Sulu and those living nearby the extended Sulu Sea Port decided to build a Masjid in the wharf. The locals would remember this time as “Ha waktu pa hi Maas Misuari” (It was during the time of Maas Nur Misuari). This is for the benefit of those travelers to and from Jolo, to lessen the hustle of looking for places to pray before their trip to Zamboanga (which are usually right after Eisha Prayer) and other places, or upon arriving from the same places (usually 5AM, right on Subuh prayer). There is also an increase in Muslim population in the area that the need for a masjid had become a necessity already.

That masjid is now known as Masjid Shariful Hashim and it was built right where the remaining block house once stood (and is still standing). The builders decided not to destroy the old building and instead turned it into a “room” inside the masjid; a uniquely designed, octagonal-room with a single post at the center of it. During the first construction of the masjid, there was no second floor yet (the room for the women). It was only in 2010 or 2011 that the masjid was reconstructed and expanded with the efforts of the locals. That was the same masjid where me and my classmates in madrasah prayed, and took some short naps while waiting for our afternoon classes to begin.
Here are more photos: (all photos taken by Anak Iluh, May 2013)

Today, the lighthouse-turned-masjid still stands with great pride of its history (and while we, the Tausugs who pass by that building every other day are well unaware of it). That building which served as a guiding light for sailors in Sulu then, is now serving as another guide to the same people towards a brighter light in the hereafter (for Ibadah: worship).

And this ends our adventure of searching the missing Parula/lighthouse/Eye-Fall tower and the Block house of Jolo.

Acknowledgments and Disclaimer

I am deeply grateful to the Sulu National Museum, to Ms. Criselda Yabes and her novel, to the Imam and the other ma’muwms in the masjid that I have talked to; to kah Neldy Jolo for giving me permission to post his photo of the masjid in 2009 (and also the encouragements); to all those who answered my never-ending questions about this parula online (in forums, FB groups, etc). And lastly to the Ever-Enlightening and Graceful Allah who always show me the right way, in various subtle ways 😀

This research is not sponsored by any individual, group of persons, or company (oh how I wish it was that way!) but only done by the authors personal interest (and invisible sense-of-duty to do so). Feel free to share, re-post, copy so long as ALL CONTENTS WILL NOT BE EDITED AND ALL CITATIONS WILL BE MENTIONED ACCORDINGLY (esp. the photos and links herein).

This post is dedicated to the People of Sulu.

Disclaimer: the use of the term “Eye-Fall Tower” was not coined by Anak Iluh (the author of this post) in this blog. It was first mentioned in the novel “Below the crying mountain” by Ms. Criselda Yabes and thus the author reserves the sole ownership of the term. (Don’t get me wrong guys, I know how it feels to get “robbed online” 🙂

Until our next “Hidden History Adventure”!

Salam Kasilasa!

In search of the Missing Sulu "Eye-Fall" tower (part 1)


Years back when I was still in High school and studying in one of the Madáris (Madrasah: Islamic Schools) in Jolo, Sulu, there was this peculiar masjid nearby. When our morning classes ends at 11 AM, me and my classmates would go to a nearby kadday (small Tausug restaurants), eat our lunch together then hastily come to this masjid called Masjid Shariful Hashim in Jambatan (Sea Port) to pray Zhuhur. The masjid itself is just a simple building that you see in most masjids in Jolo, no intricate designs outside, with metal roofs and wooden domes (and the usual moon-and-star). A set of wooden stairs lead to the second storey reserved for women who wanted to pray in the masjid. What I meant when I said this masjid is “peculiar” or “odd”, is this octagonal room inside the masjid. 
At first I thought that room was just a separate room designed by the architect of the masjid, or something like a storage room. But what really made me scratch my head is its location and design: that room was located right at the center of the masjid (giving lesser space for people to pray) and it had a totally different design that the rest of the building. It was as if it’s a different building covered by another building. (Yet amidst all of that curiosity, I was still a shy-guy before, so I never asked anybody about this. Afraid that people would just laugh at me and say “c’mon why do you have to bother about these things, Ahmad!”) 
The room had two doorways without doors (yes! No doors). The inner walls are plain, but with some irregular plastering in some places (it’s as if there were windows in this room before, but the people decided to cover it). The walls outside that room (which is still in the masjid) had this staggered brick-like edges that you cannot find in any corner of the masjid. And right at the center of that room is a single yellow, wooden, octagonal post that reaching and even passing through the ceiling. Even though this room was also painted with the same paints as the inner walls of the masjid, its design and its location made it all stand out. But most people did not really bother about it, and so at the end of the day, I decided not to trouble myself about it anymore… 
I never knew then, that there will be another set of questions that will lead me to this same room some years later…
Years later, I found this novel by Ms. Criselda Yabes entitled “Below the Crying Mountain”. The novel revolves around the story of my dear homeland (Jolo, Sulu) before and after the devastating war in 1974 that turned Jolo into ashes. That war was among the important turning points in Sulu’s history (and yes, I was not yet bone-and-flesh then) and so this novel was among those “windows” I have been looking for, to allow me to see how Sulu really looked like in 1970s before the war (I am supposed to write about this book in another blogpost). And Alhamdulillah, that novel by Ms. Yabes never failed my expectations (really, I should write about this!). 
Among those places mentioned in the novel, was the “Eye-Fall tower”: a pun for one of the lighthouses in Jolo wharf that had been malfunctioning for some years and thus the name (and “Eye-fall tower” wittily just sounds like “Eiffel tower”). I tried remembering if I have seen any “lighthouse” in that wharf when I was little, but I cannot remember anything that resembles the descriptions in the novel. Does it still exist after that devastating war?
And thus begun my search for the missing “Eye-Fall Tower” of Jolo…
==Watch out for the 2nd part of this post: “Sulu Hidden History: The remnants of the Sulu Parula”==

The use of the term “Eye-Fall Tower” was not coined by Anak Iluh (the author of this post) in this blog. It was first mentioned in the novel “Below the crying mountain” by Ms. Criselda Yabes and thus the author reserves the sole ownership of the term. (Don’t get me wrong guys, I know how it feels to get “robbed online” 🙂 

Do Sign I Will Follow!

an object that does not talk controls human
a discipline perhaps just in the mind
it is a psychological upbringing
something to be trained of following…
>> Neldy Jolo ‘>
A sign at parking lot outside Sandakan Airport
When was arriving from Zamboanga, Sulu Darul Islam

A Moment Of Truth!

this light may bring hope…
a snap of moment to lead to truth…
i am of what i am because of the truth…
somehow Sulu will rise forth…

>> Neldy Jolo ‘>
An evening scene at Sulu Capitol Hill Park,
Patikul, Sulu Darul Islam

The Fresh Air?

i wanto to inhale the fresh air
i want to listen a good hear
i want to see the sea glitter
i want to know who is standing by here
i want to witness the tausug dear!
>> Neldy Jolo ‘ >
Jambangan City Boulevard, Sulu Darul Islam
August 4, 2007