Monday, November 10, 2008

Zamboanga: Zamboanga City's colorful heritage

One thing I get to enjoy attending all these out-of-town conferences is that I get to explore the place after. So before flying back to Manila, we made sure to visit (revisit in some cases) the different cultural attractions of Zamboanga City. The cultural fabric of Asia's Latin City is evindently intact and one call definitely feel Zambaonga's spirit of place as we went around the city.

After visiting a Gabaldon school building restored by the City Government of Zamboanga, we visited the Western Mindanao State University where an outstanding example of a building designed by Juan Arellano stands. It is arguably one of the best Arellano buildings in the country. And it's silently stands in the heart of Zamboanga City!

As Archt. Toti Villalon mentions in his column, "More outstanding than anything I saw in Zamboanga is the main building of Western Mindanao State University. An undiscovered gem of American colonial architecture from the early 20th century, it is a wonderful example of Beaux Arts favored by the American colonial government, which was adapted to tropical conditions with large window openings, high ceilings with floor-through interior ventilation and excellent architectural craftsmanship in its moldings, doors and wrought-iron grillwork."

We also dropped by the local hospital which was of the hospital pavilion layout that was popular during the American colonial period, the PGH design that became the standard for American hospitals in tropical areas.

From there, we proceeded to Plaza Pershing. We requested Mayor Lobregat to keep the grass and avoid placing pavers since the park is a fine example of public parks during the American colonial period.

From there we walked to Zamboanga City Hall. Our guide, at the request of the mayor, treated us to his rendition of Rizal's El Ultimo Adios right in front of the Rizal Monument.

After a tour of city hall, our group proceeded to Fort Pilar, which is a national cultural treasure, before proceeding to the Barter Market to do some shopping.

The Barter Market is a great place to get textiles both local and imported. It's a good place to buy batik and Arafat scarves (if you bargain well, you can get one for PHP75 or even lower). In fact, you'll see a good number of Malaysian and Indonesian products such as instant noodles, candies and other items.

Our last stop for the morning was the Yakan Weaving Village where one could purchase fine examples of Yakan woven products. Also available there are banig from Sulu and other woven items from the nearby Muslim provinces. If you're lucky, you can watch the women weave cloth.

For lunch, we proceeded to a Malaysian mamak in Zamboanga! It was among my favorite eating places the last time I was in Zamboanga and I made sure we stopped at Tini's before going home. As always, I ordered roti telur and murtabak. But I think the curry sauce in Malaysia is still best.

In the afternoon, we visited the Gabaldon school in the Mercedes District and the Taluksangay Mosque. The school is intact but the mosque is not. In just two years, the historical fabric of the mosque had been destroyed by unguided renovations. There was a really nice view of the mosque from the river. But that image is now gone with the roof they placed to cover the entire grounds of the mosque. Sad to say, the mosque had a marker of the NHI. I wonder how it got renovated.

Part 1: Another Zamboanga City adventure
Part 2: Seafood in Zamboanga City at Alavar's Restaurant

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