Basilan is an island province of the Philippines. It is the largest and northernmost of the major islands of the Sulu Archipelago and is located just off the southern coast of Zamboanga Peninsula. Its capital is Isabela City. Basilan is home to three main ethnic groups, the indigenous Yakans, and the later-arriving Tausugs and Chavacanos. The Yakans and Tausugs are predominantly Muslim, while the Chavacanos are mainly Christian. There are also a number of smaller groups.
The ancient name of Basilan Island was Tagime, named after a Datu ruler 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 Puh Gulangan (island of forest); Umus Tambun (fertile land); Kumalarang, named after a river; Bennuh Peggesan; and later it was changed to Basih Balan.
The name Basih Balan was derived after a heavy fight between the natives led by Sultan Kudarat, a great Muslim leader and his brave Muslim warriors, Apuh Menggah, Apuh Dagang, and Apuh Batalan 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 "Basih Balan", 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 Basih Balan. 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.