A few weeks ago, the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) group besieged the Asia’s Latin City: Zamboanga City. Its culture is enriched with Hispanic influences, thus the nickname. Its dialect, Chavacano, is a creolized version of the Spanish language–it was called by the conquistadors as lenguaje del calle. Unfortunately, it has also been the “playground” between the rebels and the government’s military. Its reputation as a “dangerous city” of the south diminishes its potential to be a top tourist spot in the Philippines.
Before the conflict erupted, I was lucky to experience the rich culture and peaceful lifestyle of the city. Last February, my brother’s girlfriend invited us to visit the place. We stayed there for three days. I have to admit that before our unplanned trip to Zamboanga, my perception of the city is about rebels, armies and war zones. The media seemed to have successfully inculcated to the mind of the televiewers that it’s not a safe place to visit. Well, I was proven wrong. Its cultural heritage was a must-see for me.
From Manila, we took the Cebu Pacific Air’s flight to Zamboanga International Airport. I was surprised to see that the place is almost similar to the sub-urban cities around Metro Manila. Buildings, cars, paved roads, hospitals, fast food restaurants and schools are everywhere. Honestly, the place feels much safer than Manila!
The place is at the southern part of the peninsula and is known for its abundance of seafoods. Indeed, we were not disappointed. The wet market shows a variance of crabs, fish, squids and other sea creatures. The price is also cheaper compared to Manila.
You will only need a day or two to go around the tourist spots in the city. The places that we went to were:
This place was considered miraculous. During the Spanish era, there was a great flood in the city and it remained untouched by the disaster. Originally, there was no church there, but because of the miracle stories, the people built one. If you have ailments that you’d like to be cured, you’ll have to buy a few candles and burn them in the candle area. The smoke that comes from the burnt candle must be dampen to the part of your body that is sick. If you have lungs problem, I guess you have to inhale them.
A lush greenery park.
The Tree House of Pasonanca Park
From what I was told, this is very popular for tourists. It’s a big tree house that has historical value. 🙂
Boy Scout’s Tee Pee
Canelar Barter Trade Center
This used to be a thriving trade center until the local government moved the official trading center to Sulu.
The water treatment plant
This is memorable for me not because it’s a magnificent place to visit, but because when I was about to alight from the car, I slipped and hit the concrete. 🙂
Don’t miss the Zacky Fried Chicken restaurant! Their crispy breaded chicken skin is so sinful and so delicious!
Zamboanga del Norte
From Zamboanga city, we went to the northern part of region. We planned to go to Dapitan City and Dakak Beach Resort. There is a regular trip to Zamboanga del Norte. The bus is air-conditioned, very clean and comfortable. We took the night trip. It was scary at first because I had this feeling that the bus will be ambushed or stopped by some armed militants.
The trip was very relaxing. The sceneries were either rice paddies, mountains or ocean shore. It’s ironic that such a peaceful environment is terrorized by some extremists.
The Dapitan City is the place where our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, was exiled to by the Spaniards. There’s a Rizal shrine built in the 16 hectares of land. Alot of things about Dr. Rizal can be learned from the place. If you want to know more, please visit the Dapitan City’s website.
When we reached the bus terminal, we rented a van for PHP1500.00 for a half-day city tour. The places that we went to were:
- Relief Map
- City Plaza
- Old House
- Rizal Shrine
We weren’t so lucky because it was raining so we had a limited amount of time going around.
In the afternoon, we headed to the famous Dakak Park Beach and Resort. It is well maintained and is still in good condition. The cove is an awesome sight to behold. Its calm and clear water is perfect for kayaking, jetskiing and some other water sports.
Since we didn’t plan to stay overnight in the resort, we paid PHP450 for the entrance fee and that includes a free meal in their Italian restaurant.
The overall experience was good. Until now, whenever I remember the trip, it leaves a trail of smile on my face.