Friday, August 04, 2006

Zamboanga: Hola Zamboanga!

Those are the words which greet passengers as they arrive at the Zamboanga International Airport. A visit to Zamboanga City is like visiting our nation's past where our Spanish colonizers seem to have left the strongest imprint of their 300-year rule. Chabacano, the creole language spoken in the area, is said to contain 60 percent Spanish and 40 percent nativo words.

Anyway, I hardly remembered the flight I took from Manila at 4:55 a.m. since I was fast asleep, tired from the work this week. I was so sleepy in fact that I wanted to go straight to bed. But I decided to take photos first of the City Hall of Zamboanga for the 2007 HCS calendar while there were no vehicles parked in front.

So from the airport, I took a jeep to Canellar Street which was a few meters away from city hall. Most of the old historic core of Zamboanga City was relatively intact. It's one of the few cities I've visited which had maintained its character. Beside the city hall were several colonial structures and newer structures which followed the colonial theme. Yes, the Jolibee store in front of Rizal Park was a new building which chose to adapt its facade to the buildings beside it. I would have been all praises for it if not for the exageration of tarpaulin streamers on its windows and facade.

A few meters away was another open space called Plaza Pershing (that's what Metro cities lack, green open spaces). I was surprised to see the original lamposts intact but in a bad state of deterioration. Sad to say the buildings around it do not complement such a charming plaza.

From city hall, I took a walk towards Fort Pilar, a national cultural treasure. Along the way were more old structures along a royal palm tree-lined street. And you could see the great adaptive re-use such as the Bank of the Philippine Islands branch office in a restored old house. I commend BPI because even the signage is subtle and does not distract the viewer from the intricate woodwork of the house's facade. If only the city government pushes this a little further.

After some photos at the fort, I decided to walk back and try to look for a place to stay. I was quite tired and sleepy so I did my usual backpackers routine which was walk until I find an affordable place to stay in. I found a pension house very close to Plaza Pershing and got an air-conditioned room for PHP440 a night.

It was quite unlike me but I didn't do much today, went to bed for the most part. In the afternoon, I went back to Fort Pilar since it was still closed earlier. I also dropped by the DOT regional office beside Lantaka Hotel to ask some questions and book myself a trip to Santa Cruz Island which I will describe in detail in the next entries.

Then is was time for a snack. Lo and behold, my favorite Indian food was sold in Zamboanga in a restaurant called Tini's Malaysian-Bruneian Restaurant just a few meters from city hall. So I ordered a murtabak ayam (chicken murtabak) and iced Milo.

After another nap, it was time for dinner and to sample a Zamboanga dish called satti which is sold along Pilar Street. I was surprised though when I woke up that it was raining really hard. So it was flooded when I got to Pilar Street. None of the satti outlets were open but I found a canteen which served it but it wasn't as good as the freshly grilled ones. Satti may have gotten its name from a similar Malay dish called satay. But satti is smaller is serving size, three tiny pieces of roasted beef on a barbeque stick. It is served to you in a bowl of sweet and spicy sauce with rice chunks also swimming in a pool of the same sauce. Anyway, I'll show you photos of it in a later entry.
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