Province Center: Jolo Island (capital – Jolo, est. 250,000+ population)

Number of Barangays: 16

Land area: 1,600.4 sq. km.

Location: The Sulu Archipelago is the southernmost tip of The Philippines. It straddles both marine-rich Sulu Sea to the North and Celebes Sea to the South, and Borneo to the West.

Brief history: Inhabiting the shores and coast of the many islands which constitute the Sulu Archipelago, the people of this Philippine province historically take to a seafaring way of life. Long before Miguel Lopez de Legaspi of colonial Spain colonized Cebu in the early 1500s, foreign sea traders were already familiar with the busy waters of the Sulu Archipelago. When Manila and Cebu were still building their humble settlements, Jolo Island’s capital of Jolo was already a busy city, being one of the most important trading center in the Philippines with growing trade between its inhabitants and the Chinese merchants.

The early population of the archipelago had been influenced by the introduction of Islam toward the end of the fourteenth century by three historic men named Makdum, Raja Baginda, and Abu Bakr.

The Sultanate of the Sulu Archipelago began to rise as a system of government in those days, with Raja Baginda being its first supreme ruler. Abu Bakr succeeded him afterwards, firmly establishing Mohammedanism and effected governmental reforms.

The presence of foreign forces in the Sulu islands brought about several conflicts that caused the fall of the first organized state in early Philippines. For 300 years, beginning from the 16th century, the Suluans, as the people of the Sulu Archipelago are called, fought all alien forces that had attempted to dominate them and change their way of life.

The first armed conflict staged by the Suluans was against the Spaniards, around 1578, when Captain Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa conducted an expedition against the Muslims. The "Moros," as the Spaniards liked to call them (relic of the Moors’ 900-year conquest of Spain), retaliated by pillaging the coastal towns in Visayas and Luzon under Spanish control.

This Muslim hostility caused the Spanish government to send at least five military expeditions to Jolo for punitive retaliation. The fourth expedition, led by Governor-General Corcuera in 1638, resulted in the first Spanish occupation of Jolo. The fighting, which lasted for three and a half months, forced the Suluans to flee their capital. Corcurera occupied the town, reconstructed its forts, and left a Spanish garrison behind. However, in 1646, this garrison was recalled to Manila and Jolo was thereby abandoned.

During the nineteenth century, the Spanish made a second occupation of Jolo. Spain eventually evacuated Jolo and the Sulu Archipelago for good in May 1899, and turned over the local government to the Suluans. Foreign domination of the archipelago continued during World War II when the Japanese occupied the Philippines. These short anecdotes of the area’s history have made the Sulu Archipelago what it is today.

Nowadays, with more Suluans being educated by the government school system, the normal reaction of fierce resistance to anything foreign has given way to an attitude of understanding and compromise, resulting in a mix of the old and new, a cornucopia of the east and west influence. This peaceful coexistence has been immortalized in the province’s official emblem, where the Cross-symbols of Christianity harmoniously blends in with the Crescent & Star, symbolizing the Islamic faith.

Geography: The province consists of over 400 scattered, and almost isolated, islands, stretching from the tip of Zamboanga Peninsula southwestward towards Borneo. It forms one of the three southerly connections of the Philippines with Borneo.

Major Industries: The Sulu Archipelago is, surprisingly, a progressive province for income standards. While there is an absence of natural mineral deposits, the area nevertheless abounds with valuable timber resource.  Lying outside the typhoon belt, the archipelago is blessed with a year-round bounty of harvests from the land and the surrounding seas.

Due to the character of soil and climate, the province of Sulu grows greater variety of products than any other part of the country. In addition to all the crops of the islands, which consist mostly of abaca, coconut, and fruits like oranges, lanzones, and jacks, other fruits that do not grow in the northern islands of The Philippines are harvested here, such as the mangosteen and durian.

Fishing is the most important area industry. Trepang and pearls are extensively harvested from the area’s rich waters. Sea turtles and fish of all kinds are also caught. Unfortunately, most of the fishing industry has gone into the hands of the Chinese and Japanese.

When the Suluans take a break from their fishing activity, they engage in boat-building and mat weaving. The people have learned how to produce beautiful trays and combs out of turtle shells.  Additionally, technology has taught them to preserve the durian and mangosteen fruits.  Overall, the Sulu Archipelago has industries such as boat building, mat weaving, coffee processing, and fruit preservation (durian and mangosteen).

Climate:  The Sulu Archipelago is outside of the typhoon belt, and its climate is mostly warm, moist humidity, but precipitation is constant throughout the year. February is considered the coldest month, while May to August are the hottest with a mean relative humidity of 86% (one of the hottest in the country), and January to April is considered the dry period with a monthly average of 7 to 9 inches of rainfall. The mean annual temperature is 26 degrees centigrade, and the maximum is 27 degrees centigrade.

Language / Dialect: The principal dialect of the natives of the Sulu Archipelago is Tausog, a Muslim dialect. The rest speak Samal, Cebuano, Chavacano, Tagalog, and other Philippine dialects. English is also widely spoken.

Historical Points of interest:

Walled City – Jolo Island's walled city is the smallest in the world. Here is located the historic brick walls of Jolo that now crumble due to age, neglect, and decay. All around, there are evidence of Jolo´s historic and continuous strife. At the entrance of the city are four ancient gates which were once used as watchtowers, and several visible, yet symbolic,  mounds that represent public graves of fallen Spanish and American soldiers who died from conflict against the fiercely independent Muslim warriors.

Provincial Capitol – It was constructed during the administration of Governor Murphy Sangkula. This is also considered one of Jolo´s main tourist attractions because of its beautiful Moorish-inspired architectural design.

Port Asturias - Located .85 km away from the town center of Jolo.

American Calvary Monument - It is by far the only existing museum of its kind in the Sulu Archipelago. It is located a little more than 1 km. from the central town of Jolo.


Maubo Beach - It boasts of at least 1 km of powder-white sand, and is frequented by the local citizenry due to its public accessibility.

Tandu Beach - Located just 2 kms. away from the Jolo town center, it is also a beautiful white sand beach.

Tadjung Beach - Another white sandy beach just 3 kms. away from the Jolo town proper.


Jolo Parish Church; Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel; Jolo Evangelical Church; Tulay Mosque; and other prevailing mosques situated in each barangay.


Jolo Town Fiesta

Hariraya Puasa - A religious Muslim holiday.

Hariraya Hadji - A religious Muslim holiday.

Amon Jaded - A religious Muslim holiday.

Special Tourist Interest:

Pearl Farm at Marungas Island - It can be reached by a 30-minute pump boat (motorized outrigger canoe) ride from the island of Jolo. The Sulu Sea is dotted with coral reefs and can provide some of the world’s best dive spots for those seeking the ultimate in underwater beauty and adventure.   At least half of the world's known sea shell species are found in the immensely rich marine waters of the Sulu Sea.

Tubbataja Reef - is the best-known dive site in the Sulu Sea, drawing divers from all over the world.  Philippine dive books and diving experts claim that diving here is a wonderful experience due to the rich marine life that abounds in the reef. Snappers, sweet lips, groupers, angelfish and morays can be found amid huge fan corals and sponges.  Large schools of barracudas, jacks, rainbow runners and surgeons pass by while schools of tuna race about.  Most divers use Puerto Princessa in Palawan as their jump-off point. The most experienced dive cruise vessels are docked here.

How to get there: Jolo Island and its capital of Jolo is the gateway to the islands of the Sulu Archipelago. Three commercial flights are available daily from Zamboanga City.

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