Saturday, November 08, 2008

Zamboanga: Another Zamboanga City adventure

I was in Zamboanga City again to attend the 3rd Philippine Towns & Cities Conference organized by the Heritage Conservation Society. I had actually arrived two days before but decided to make a side trip to Bongao, Tawi-Tawi since SEAIR conveniently flies there (the fast craft would take several hours). The conference was at the Garden Orchid Hotel which was quite close to the airport. Tired from the trip, I decided to rest the whole afternoon.

The program began in the evening with a Welcome Reception hosted by the City Government of Zamboanga. Indeed, it was a fitting welcome to Asia's Latin City. A choir serenaded us with songs in Spanish and the local Chavacano reminding us that Zamboanga City is a living manifestation of Spanish cultural influences in the Philippines.

After the reception, our gracious host, Mayor Celso Lobregat, took us the the Fort Pilar Shrine since he said it was nice there in the evening. The Fort Pilar Shrine is an open-air church on one side of the fort. There were still a good number of devotees there lighting candles by one of the walls of the fort.

Mayor Lobregat was very generous and he bought us several candles from the vendors. After going around the shrine, we chanced upon a vendor selling the local crispy wafers and he bought everything and gave one to anyone and everyone he saw there, our group included.

We made one last stop in Climaco corner Lim Avenue since Mayor Lobregat wanted to show us an unusual phenomenon that happens in the area in the evening. Perched on the electric wires covering several blocks were thousands of birds nearly equidistant from each other. He said it happens every night. They arrive at a certain time when the sun sets and leave at the same time during the sunrise.

I was the first to wake up the next morning since I wanted to get myself a serving of Zamboanga City's morning dish, satti! Similar to the traditional Malay satay, satti is native to the Moro people of Mindanao. In Zamboanga, these are small pieces of beef roasted in a skewer. The sticks of satti are served submerged in a bowl of sweet and spicy sauce with puso or ta'mu also in a bowl of the same sauce. Puso is basically the Malay ketupat, rice that is cooked inside a palm leaf pouch.

Anyway, after that hearty breakfast, I had to rush back to the hotel to get ready for the conference since I was the master of ceremonies today.

Part 2: Seafood in Zamboanga City at Alavar's Restaurant
Part 3: Zamboanga City's colorful heritage

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