Saturday October 3rd. Sailors and the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front)

Written by Jack van Ommen on October 3rd, 2015

This week a Canadian sailor was kidnapped in the Southern Philippines. Read the story at:


I had a scary encounter on July 5th 2006 on the island of Tawi-Tawi, one of the most southern Philippines islands, while on my way from Borneo to Bali. Here is that part in “Soloman”, soon to be published:

The next evening I stop at one of the most southernmost Philippine islands of Tawi-Tawi and its adjacent island, Bongao.

Technically I need another visa and entry clearance for the Philippines. But I was not questioned. Tawi Tawi is a small paradise of simplicity, beauty and harmony. It has a beautiful tree lined university campus, a branch of the University of Mindanao. The city on Bongao reminds me of Surigao on Northern Mindanao. A very busy port with fishing boats, small commercial vessels and inter-island ferries. I came to do some re-supplying, including the $1.00 a fifth excellent Tandui rum. In the Muslim country of Malaysia it is hard to find any alcohol at all.

A young man insists on being my guide. A bit creepy looking character with a dark long beard and dressed in typical Middle Eastern Muslim garb, dark glasses. I try to tell him that I do not need a guide. When I walk into a barbershop, I figured that he would go his way. He sits across from me on a stool while I get my haircut. It is still early and I feel like a cup of coffee. I invite him and figure that after that he will leave me alone.

When I ask him for his name, he pulls out an ID card. It has his picture and it tells me that Mohammed such and such is a member in Good Standing with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) of the Philippines.

The ones that are fighting the Filipino army in Zamboanga and ransom the occasional American. So far I have not seen another white person here.

How am I going to get away from this man?

There are three tickets on the table, for the two coffees and one Danish roll. I pull out the change for it to pay at the cashier. He takes the three tickets and the money and motions that he will pay. But when he gets to the cash register he only produces the two tickets for the coffees. I tell him that he needs to also pay for the Danish roll. He acts as if he does not know what I am talking about. After a back and forth the owner and his wife, shrug their shoulders and do not seem to want to make an issue of it. They probably know this character.

Now what next?

He still tags along. When we pass through an alley, he stops at a vendor’s stall and buys a couple of loose cigarettes from the lady. But when he shortchanges her (with the Danish roll money) she screams at him and quickly a crowd forms. I run for cover.

I have often wondered if that might have hurt his “Good Standing” in the NLF.


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