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.
Basilan is located across the southern tip of Zamboanga Peninsula (Region 9) and is bounded on the north by Basilan Strait, on the east by Moro Gulf, on the southeast by Celebes Sea and on the west by Sulu Sea. Geographically, it lies between latitudes 6o16’48” and 6o45’56” north and between longitudes 121o26’00” and 122o24’38” east.
Basilan Province has a total land area of 1,379 square kilometers (sq. km.) including islets within its territorial boundary. Basilan ranks fourth in terms of land area among the provinces of ARMM. The province is composed of two component cities and eleven municipalities.
When Basilan Province became part of the ARMM per Republic Act No. 9054 (Expanded ARMM Law), it was composed of six (6) municipalities namely;Lamitan, Lantawan, Maluso, Sumisip, Tipo-Tipo and Tuburan. Isabela City opted not to be part of the ARMM.
However, in 2006 and 2007, the Fifth Legislative Assembly of ARMM approved the creation of additional municipalities following separate plebiscites in the municipalities of Tipo-Tipo,Tuburan, Lantawan, and Sumisip.
In 2006, Tipo-Tipo had two additional municipalities these are UngkayaPukan under Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act (MMAAct) No. 190 and Al-Barka (MMA Act No. 191). For Tuburan came two more: Hadji Mohammad Ajul (MMA Act No. 192) and Akbar (MMA Act No. 193).
Subsequently, island municipalities were also created in 2007. These are HadjiMuhtamad Municipality (MMA Act No. 200) which was segregated from Lantawan Municipality and TABUAN-LASA Municipality (MMA Act No. 187) from Sumisip Municipality
On June 18, 2007, by virtue of Republic Act No. 9393, Lamitan became a component city, the second in the province.