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.


  1. Anonymous8.8.06

    i wish some day basilan will be stripped off its underserved notoriety. it looks wonderful

  2. Yes, and I'm sure Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are equally impressive. Maybe in the near future.

  3. Anonymous15.8.06

    Hi ivan! I'm originally from Zamboanga City, although now, I'm based in Makati. I love what you do, promoting Philippine tourism and all. Thumbs up, really.

    You missed some other great places in Zamboanga City. We have waterfalls, caves, a Yakan village, aquamarine oceans, the works.

    Here's a tip. In places you go, there's usually a tourism club based in a local school/university. Why not try getting in touch with them, so you could be given some words of advice on the coolest places to go?

    I linked you up in my own blog, if you don't mind.

    Hasta tu otro viaje!

  4. Hmmmm... if that's the case, the local tourism office is a bad promoter. I personally went to both the city and regional tourism offices and asked them what I could do. There was no mention of a waterfalls or cave in Zamboanga City.

    I heard about that Yakan village from a friend but the local tourism office did not mention it to me either. They were even surprised I wanted to visit Taluksangay. Oh well!

  5. Anonymous16.8.06

    You're right. Bad, bad, local tourism office.

  6. Anonymous25.9.06

    Hi Ivan!

    I'll be going to Zamboanga for my first time this coming October. Would you recommend the place you stayed at or would you know of other better ones? Thanks!

  7. Anonymous2.11.06

    Hello Ivan,

    In sharing this piece,

    I hope to re-generate the interest and re-live the memories of those who were born and had the time of their young lives in Zamboanga, just like I did.

    Your photos are great!!!

    Thanks for your time, Nikas

  8. Hi Ivan,

    I am from Sweden and going to Zamboanga for the first time.
    Are there stores where I can
    buy batik fabrics there?

    Thanks for your immediate reply
    and more power to your backpacking

  9. Hi Antonia, I'm not sure about that (I'm only familiar with the woven Yakan fabrics) but you could ask the tourism office once you get there. But given its close proximity to Sabah and Indonesia, I'm sure there are.

  10. Hi Folks! If you have been craving for satti, a cafe in quezon city has it on its menu. Check it out.

    All Sate Cafe. Sterten Place 116 Maginhawa St., Teachers Village, Quezon City. 436-8398 or 3962660.

  11. Anonymous7.5.07

    i would reccomend you to go to Pasonanca Park,if ever ur going back here.its really a great park..
    and you could also go to Bolong Beach,La Vista it's a great resort and its only 3-4 km. away from the city.
    and you could also check out cawa-cawa its a great place especially at nigth.though it's unlike manila bay where they have lot's of restaurants.
    there you could only find balot vendors.
    and also cawa-cawa is only less than 1 km from La Vista and a Golf Course.
    hope you're going back here at zamboanga city!
    asia's latin city!!!!!
    adelanta zambonga!
    hasta la vista!

  12. Anonymous27.5.07

    I'm from Manila and i miss Satti too. I've recently discovered this place in Mega Expo Trade Center in Edsa. They have a canteen where they sell Satti there. It tasted like the original in Jimmy's. Very delicious. They will be opening up a place in SM FAIRVIEW FOOD COURT this June 2007. Surely, i'll drop by there.

  13. Anonymous10.5.08

    hI Ivan...
    Quetal?(means musta?)thanx for a great outlook and for visiting our City...hope you can go back here in Zamboanga...many places you've missed so the way there are a lot of batiks(malong)sold in here which come from neighboring country Malaysia and Indonesia thru barter trading...there are a lot of barter store here.and hope some one can come with you who really knows Zamboanga City well as ur tourist guide (kung baga)hasta Lavista and Muchisimas gracisa,,,,

  14. Anonymous29.7.11

    Hi time you visit Zamboanga try to visit merloquette waterfalls, pader cave and siete andanas falls...the views are breath taking and you can also experience first hand adventure in visiting this places.. :)


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