Monday, April 11, 2011

SULU Wonders: the Old Walled City

By Ahmad Musahari
Free lance Writer
(This is a re-post from:

What is the use of knowing the history of other countries if you don't know your own country's?

This is my sole impetus of studying little by little the almost-forgotten history of one of the magnificent Sultanate of all seas: the Sulu Sultanate, my homeland of course! But even though my few researches have only reached few results as well, I am still nevertheless excited to share what I have discovered; small pieces of puzzles are parts of a big picture. This blog is about one of my great adventures in finding the remaining historical landmarks in Sulu (even us Tausugs never knew it was there!)

Join me, lets explore once more and find out where the smallest WALLED CITY is!

(PS: as you can remember, I have blogged about the "Moro Consciousness week" wherein I promised to fill in the entry about the 'walled City' in Sulu. And here it is: a promise is still a promise ;-) link


Entering the small town of Jolo, just right after the Sulu pier, one will see this quite unusual structure on a corner of one of the main roads in Jolo town. It does look like a tower; perhaps just a decoration, or maybe a remnant of the past 'Tower defense' in Sulu. But, hey, only few Tausugs really know what it is and why it's there. it seems that many would never care about it, its already neglected now--really neglected, I mean. What could it be? Why is it there? Who put them there? All these things instigated my motivation to find out the answers myself. And so, my long adventure started...

The First Towers:

found at the Jolo Main Road, going to Jolo proper from Capitol Site

A closer look...

The date was during the American period.

This is still confusing: in 1920's, was it the date the tower was created or repaired?

In a Book entitled Sulu History by Najeeb Saleeby--who went to Sulu himself--the author gave a good description of how the Tiyanggi Town (now Jolo) looked like during the Spanish Conquest. During the time the Spaniards took control over the Market Capital of Tianggi (just Jolo, not the whole of Sulu), they created a small city or compound and sorrounded it with cement walls (Batu Tisa) as fortresses protecting them from outside attacks, hence the name Jolo Walled City. In fact, if the walled City still stands until today, it would be the smallest walled city in the world.

The only way to enter the 'walls' were through five entrance gates: two gates fronting the Sulu Sea where ports are; and the rest going to the inlands. The gates were guarded by Spanish Guards, and are only opened at certain times for some important matters like trading goods and the like. Years later the Spaniards left Jolo leaving the walled city there. the walls are already gone by time, and perhaps the gates, too. Is it still possible to know where they stood once?

The real Asturias gate fronting the Pier gate, Jolo, ca. early 1900s

I cant see the 'towers'. and I have not found it yet.

A photo of the smallest Walled city in the World:

Honestly, I am still not sure if these gates WERE the towers that I have been researching about. I havent even read about the towers being there. But because of the locations of the gates given in books I've read about, it gave me the reason to theorize that maybe, the towers ARE the entrance gates or atleast, WHERE THE REAL GATES WERE before. We'll need more time to research on these things further. (Hope someone will fill us in regarding the matter).

And so started my journey to find those FIVE GATES or TOWERS:-) I walked here and there, asked some people about some strange 'tower-like' buildings, and with my camera, took shots of them. My efforts did gain its rewards: I found three of the Five gates; and not just that, I also discovered the remaining walls of the walled City. You've already seen the first towers on our previous photos. Here are the others:

Second Towers:

from town proper to Barangay San rai Mundo

A closer shot of the Second tower

And the Third Tower: (perhaps the most neglected one)

Just before entering Jolo Pier Gate. This is the Pier gate before.

Now its covered by these housings

The other Third Tower. You see the small white roof protruding?

Yes? They dont seem to see what is its importance.

The remaining wall:

Seen or perhaps found at the back of a T-Shirt printing Store. Good thing they haven't decided to destroy it.

As of now, I am still looking for the remaining two Towers or Gates, or marks; some interviews revealed that the remaining two towers were destroyed either by the government to give space to other buildings, or was destroyed by war. To those who are familiar with the places in Jolo, the two towers were reported to be seen somewhere in Bus-Bus street (near Municipal Hall) and Sarang Bangon, going to barangay Alat. And also, I'm still trying to read more books about these landmarks to have a better picture of it all.

And to finally wrap up things before I end this journey, I wanted to make things clear (and some trivia as well to my readers):

1. I can not tell if the towers WERE the old gates of the walled city or they are just LANDMARKS made perhaps during the American Period (as the date on them states). I just said, it could be them. And that was just a theory.

2. As you might have observed, the towers were painted white and it might have been decades ago (not centuries). So we cannot tell that it is totally neglected; someone or some people had somehow got the nerve to say, "hey, its a good historical site, we should paint it". It was taken cared of, well that was before... I am not sure if they are still doing it till now. They are still in danger of being destroyed someday :-(

3. There is a small barangay in Jolo called "WALLED CITY". That strengthens our theory:-)

Mga tau ha walled City, bihaun kaingatan niyu na mayta walled City in tawag sin lungan niyu ha?

4. I have another theory of why the Tausugs (people of Sulu) do not really care about these towers. If it is indeed a remnant of the Spanish Walled city, it would only remind them of how the once invulnerable Sulu Sultanate was infiltrated (again, not totally conquered, just some portion of it, and not for a long time too). That gave many of us the reason to say: "Why remember those things? they were supposed to be destroyed and be gone forever!)

Perhaps the fourth number up there holds some truth in the discussion. But it should not always be the case. The past is already there; there is nothing we can do more about it. Having a sad past doesn't meet forgetting it all and all! Instead we can use it in a way more practical: like remembering how our ancestors fought there way in through those GATES and finnally entered and reclaimed the lost territory! Di ba?

Our History is part of our life. It is already there. It is a unique treasure that we owe to take care of. And in some ways, giving us a better picture of how we wanted to shape our present, envision our future and never let the dark pasts bother us again!

I am a Tausug. And I am proud to be born with this blood flowing through my veins!

:-) uwah pamulansang!

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