Basilan is a province in the Philippines situated in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) occupying the Sulu Archipelago and the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao in central Mindanao. Its capital is the City of Isabela.
The province has a land area of 3,224.47 square kilometers or 1,244.97 square miles. Its population as determined by the 2015 Census was 346,579. This represented 9.17% of the total population of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 1.44% of the overall population of the Mindanao island group, or 0.34% of the entire population of the Philippines. Based on these figures, the population density is computed at 107 inhabitants per square kilometer or 278 inhabitants per square mile.
The ancient name of Basilan Island was Tagime, named after a Datu who once ruled a big part of the island before the Spaniards came to Basilan. In the long past, Basilan had other names. It used to be named Uleyan, derived from a mountain located at the heart of the island. Later, it was changed to Matangal, also named after Mt. Matangal in Tuburan. Other names given were PuhGulangan (island of forest); UmusTambun (fertile land); Kumalarang, named after a river; BaunuhPeggesan; and later it was changed to BasihBalan.
The name BasihBalan was derived after a heavy fight between the natives led by Sultan Kudarat, a great Muslim leader and his brave Muslim warriors, ApuhMenggah, ApuhDagang, and ApuhBatalan against the Spanish invaders from nearby Zamboanga. After a fierce resistance, the natives successfully repulsed the invaders. The victory played a major role in changing the name of the island into “BasihBalan”, derived from their legendary weapon called “pira” which was made of basih, meaning iron and balan, meaning magnetic. By combining the two words, it became BasihBalan. But when the early historians wrote the name of the province, it was shortened to Basilan. The name Basilan remained unchanged up to the present.
The Yakans are concentrated in Tipo-tipo, Lamitan, Sumisip, and Tuburan in the Basilan Island of BARMM. There are also scattered populations on the islands of Sakol, Malanipa, and Tumalutad east of the Zamboanga Peninsula. The word Yakan means “Dayak Origin,” as they are believed to be descendants of the Orang Dyaks or Tagihamas of eastern Indonesia. They speak a dialect of Sama language and are culturally influenced in some respect by the Tausug.
The Yakans’ chief means of livelihood is farming, and they usually cultivate upland rice. They do not normally live in compact villages, building their houses just out of sight of their nearest neighbors, on their plots of farmland. The prominent person in each community of Yakan is the iman, who combines both religious and sociopolitical leadership. The Yakans are famous for their beautiful weaving and their colorful traditional clothes and customs.