The Municipality of Albarka in the province of Basilan is known by its historic past as a stronghold of terrorist groups like Abu Sayaff. The feeling of fear and negative thoughts always come first in the minds of people when they hear about this place. Albarka was even considered by many as a warzone.
Behind all of this though, only few knew the truth that Albarka is a beautiful place, peaceful with unique culture, talented people and bountiful nature.
With genuine goal of the leaders in Basilan including local officials to achieve peace and development in different municipalities, programs and activities were implemented and slowly redefining the image of this province including Albarka town.
Getting to know Albarka
The name “Albarka” got its name from the previous stronghold or Moro National Liberation front (MNLF) Camp in Niyug located at the Northern part of the municipality. Albarka is an Arabic terminology which signifies God Mercy, God Fearing, Solid United and Humanely Empowered.
Albarka is a newly-created municipality, which was separated from the Municipality of Tipo-Tipo that was subdivided into three (3) municipalities. It was the brainchild and dream of the late Congressman Ustadz Wahab M. Akbar, a three-termer Governor, to create additional municipalities in order to focus and provide faster services to a smaller territory, in which services and assistance will be dispersed directly to the beneficiaries.
In support to the vision of the late Congressman, the then Local Chief Executive Hon. Madz Pamaran T. Maturan in cooperation with the Sangguniang Bayan of Tipo-Tipo Municipality passed and approved a resolution in 2005, supporting the subdivision of the mother town into three (3) local government units. A plebiscite was conducted in mid-2006 and was overwhelmingly accepted by the constituents.
Reality comes true for the municipality of Al-Barka when Assemblywoman Rajam B. Akbar sponsored a bill for the creation of the local government unit, supported by Assemblyman Hatimil E. Hassan and Assemblyman Abdulaziz C. Balamo. Thus, by virtue of Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 191 enacted and approved by the Fifth Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in Cotabato City on the 24th day of October 2005, Albarka was officially recognized as a municipality. The capital town of the municipality is situated in Barangay Guinanta.
The new municipality is composed of sixteen (16) barangays and generally an agricultural community. It has a total land area of 18,870 hectares or around 13.69% of the province’s land area of 137,900 hectares. Around 80% or around 15,096 hectares are devoted to agriculture. Of the total barangays, nine (9) barangays are basically agricultural while the remaining seven (7) barangays are along coastal belt areas.
As part of its effort in promoting the gains of peace, Albarka has recently launched its Albarkaradjaan, an annual celebration during the town’s Founding Anniversary every December 1-5. Albarkaradjaan is a coined term from Albarka (the town) and karadjaan (merriment or festivities in Yakan term).
It was this year that Albarka celebrated its Founding Anniversary for the first time, 17 years after, since it was created as municipality.
The kick-off program is an eye-catching activity where in the cultural parade was participated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front and the police and military together with the constituents of Albarka.
The different stakeholders in Basilan converged and conducted Serbisyo Caravan in Magcawa, Albarka to bring government services closer to the community and in solidarity with their 17th Founding Anniversary on Dec. 1.
More than 500 children in the said municipality received gift items like school supplies, shoes, vitamins and food packs from different agencies and organizations who participated and extended their support during the Serbisyo Caravan dubbed “Magtuhut tuhut ngurung kahapan si Albarka (Sabay sabay tayo magbigay tulong sa Albarka)”.
Meanwhile, other constituents also benefitted from free medical and dental services, free circumcision, family planning provision and hair-cut.
Other government agencies like the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE), Technical Education and Skills Development (TESDA) and the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MOLE) also conducted orientation on their respective agency’s programs and services.
The local government of Albarka through Mayor Jaydeefar Lajid expressed joy and gratitude to all agencies, organizations and individuals who have provided various services to the people of Albarka during their 17th Founding Anniversary. He stressed that this is the first time that they are visited with different agencies and also the first time to celebrate their Founding Anniversary since Albarka was established as municipality of Basilan.
Basilan Governor Jim Salliman who graced the opening program, lauded the officials and constituents of Albarka that for the first time they were able to celebrate their founding anniversary. He also expressed gratitude to all stakeholders who participated in the Serbisyo Caravan that brought government services closer to the people of Albarka. He also encouraged everyone to stay united to sustain the gains of peace not only in Albarka but in the whole province.
In his message of support, Assistant Regional Director Rene V. Carbayas of PIA-IX challenged the people of Albarka to hold on to the dream of peace and stressed that sustaining the gains of peace reside first at the hands of the people of Albarka.
The Serbisyo Caravan was spearheaded by the Philippine Information Agency-Basilan, Basilan Communicators Network and Provincial Government of Basilan.
The psychosocial impact of persistent and widespread negative image of Albarka has challenged the local officials, stakeholders and the community to transform the image of their town from a previously known warzone and conflict-affected area to a slowly developing community.
Now, Albarka envisions to be a progressive and competitive Agri-Fishery industry in the province where a harmonious and empowered peace loving people live in a diversified and sustained environment, enjoying a quality of life where basic services are sufficient governed by leaders bestowed with Islamic Values of transparency and accountability.
As a new municipality, it will also respond to the increasing socio-economic needs of its citizens and to pursue programs that will uplift the quality of life and enhance the indigenous cultural heritage of the people through the combined efforts of its elected officials in close consultation and involvement of Civil Society Organizations and other private organizations. (RVC/NDR/PIA9-Basilan-20221221)