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Home >> Go to the Regions >> Region IX Zamboanga Peninsula >> Provincial Profile >> Isabela City     

Isabela City

Isabela City is only 4 minutes fast craft ride and if in regular vessels, it is an hour and 30 minutes to and from Zamboanga City.

It’s scenery is irregular with rolling terrain. There are mangrove swamplands within the Isabela Channel and Aguada River. Basically, they are found along the shore and other coastal areas of the island.

Definitely, Isabela City is a home of several cultural diversities, “Chavacano”, Visayans, Yakans, Badjaos, Tausugs, Maranaos and others, but the people are living as one family in the Promising City of the South – Isabela.

A Little of History

Isabela City is the seat of the Provincial Government and the capital of the island province, which with its islets lies in the waters of the Celebes Sea, the Moro Gulf and the Sulu Sea, situated at the tip of the Zamboanga Peninsula.

In ancient times, the island province was called "Taguima", while Isabela was referred to by its ethnic groups (the Yakans, Samal Banguinguis, Badjaos, and Tausugs) as "Pasangan", a name that still holds among the natives. In 1844, the Spaniards occupied "Pasangan", and in July of the following year, the place was named Isabela, in honor of Queen Isabel II of Spain by Don Ramon Lubo, Marine Chief of Zamboanga and Don Cayetano Suarez de Figueroa, Governor of the District.

During the Spanish Regime and the American Occupation, Basilan was part of the Zamboanga Province that then also included Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga del Norte. In 1937, the City of Zamboanga came into existence and made Basilan a part of the newly created city.

On July 1, 1948 by virtue of Republic Act No. 288, sponsored by then Congressman Juan S. Alano, Basilan Island became a chartered city, separating it from the City of Zamboanga. It had three districts, namely - Isabela, Lamitan, and Maluso. Mayor Nicasio Valderrosa was the first appointed city mayor who served until December 31, 1953 when he retired. Leroy S. Brown took next appointive mayor of the city and later became both the first last elective mayor of the City of Basilan.

On December 27, 1973, President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued P.D. No. 356 creating Basilan Province. The province had three municipalities:

Lamitan, Maluso and Isabela, the latter being its capital. Basilan City, which previously had an area of about 1,359 square kilometers, was left with an area of barely one square kilometer.
On December 2, 1974, P.D. 593 was issued amending P.D. 356 and increasing the area of Basilan Province by three square kilometers and creating ten municipalities to comprise the province-Isabela, Lamitan, Maluso, Lantawan, Sumisip. Tipo-Tipo, Tuburan, Tapiantana, Malamawi and Pilas.

On December 11,1975, PD No. 840 was issued by President Marcos reducing the number of municipalities comprising the province from ten to seven, namely: Isabela, Lamitan, Maluso, Lantawan, Sumisirp, Tipo-Tipo, and Tuburan. The former city of Basilan and the municipality of Malamawi were absorbed by the municipality of Isabela.

On December 12, 1975, Atty. Ricardo G. Mon, number one councilor of the defunct city of Basilan, took his oath of office as Mayor of Isabela Municipality before Regional Commissioner Rear Admiral Romulo Espaldon in Zamboanga City. On January 1,1976, he officially assumed as mayor of the municipality of Isabela.
On March 5, 2001 Republic Act No. 9023 "An Act Converting the Municipality of Isabela, Province of Basilan into a component city to be known as the City of Isabela" was signed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Then on April 25, 2001, Isabelenos ratified the new status of Isabela.


Isabela City is in the northern part of the Basilan island mainland and is approximately 17 nautical miles from Zamboanga City. The city has a total land area of 22,373 hectares, part of which is distributed to the islands of Malamawi and Balatanay. Isabela City has 45 barangays, 10 of which are coastal. It has a total land area of 22,333 hectares.


Isabela City has evenly distributed rainfall and temperature during the year. The dry season runs from December to April while the rainy season prevails from May to November.

Population & Ethnic Distinction

As of 2007, Isabela's population stood at 87,985 people.

Christians and a substantial percentage of Muslims from different tribal groups such as the Tausugs, Samal Bangingihs, and Yakans make up the population of Isabela. Tribal fishermen, farmers, small-store and market vendors favor the traditional native attire.

Men of the Yakan tribe wear the sawal tight-fitting pants, usually black in color, the badyo for a shirt, also tight-fitting and usually black, and the kandit, a piece of cloth tied around the head. Other Muslims wear kantiw, loose cotton pants with a waist string or garter. The Muslim women wear sablay or habol, a large piece of cloth wound around the body, hanging on the shoulder, or a patadyong worn from the waist down.

Yakan women wear tight-sleeved blouses with decorative buttons. Others have blouses with loose hanging sleeves.

The Samals, Badjaos and Tausugs are mostly fishermen. They love to stay along the coastal areas of this island province. The Yakans are farmers who dwell in the hinterland. Their women are expert in weaving multicolored cloth.

The Chinese, Americans and migrants from Luzon and Visayas later came and settled in the various parts of the island.

But now, Isabela's citizenship is 99.17% Filipinos, 0.05% Chinese, and 0.01% American. Others constitute 0.77%.

There are 66 dialects spoken in the City of Isabela.

Chabacano 30.75%
Tausog 27.91%
Cebuano 15.59%
B'laan 8.05%
Yakan 7.53%
Samal 5.58%
comprise all other dialects 4.68%

Chabacano is generally spoken and even most non-Chabacanos can understand and speak the dialect.

Major Industries

Isabela City is basically agricultural with a few industries, the foremost of which are rubber-based, given Basilan's status as the country's leading rubber producer. Other crops produced include coconut, (copra trading is the main commercial activity) coffee, black pepper, and African palm oil. Its waters, specially near the Pilas Islands, are rich fishing grounds for particularly tuna and mackerel. Seaweeds are also cultivated along some coastal areas.


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