5 Reasons to Visit Zamboanga City
With its cherry-colored beach like the Bahamas’, a cuisine as diverse as Malaysian’s and Indonesian’s, the undying devotion to Our lady of the Pillar inherited from Spain and a language that is almost Mexican, Zamboanga City is truly a melting pot of cultures. It is a diversified city where different religions, particularly Muslim and Christian, coexists, various ethnic tribes live harmoniously and people have adapted cuisines from a number of Asian countries. It may not be on a traveler’s top destinations list for various factors but the cultural makeup of this ciudad preciosa will make you realize that it has grown as one of the most unique and diversified cities of the Philippines worthy of your visit, providing you enough reasons to include it in your travel bucket list.
Beach lovers who have gone tired of the white sand beaches of the Visayan Islands or the mocha-colored sands in Luzon, will love the pink -colored, almost cherry-colored sands of the Great Sta. Cruz Island. Sta. Cruz Island is accessible by pump boat. The small boat can accommodate 10-12 persons for the price of 1000php roundtrip. Cost –wise, voyage in a group.
The schedule of the last trip for the rower to depart the island is at 2 PM.The berthing point is at the famous Paseo del Mar, a well-known park by the sea. Boat starts leaving as early as 6am. There are no tiendesitas or food stalls in the beach except for some fishes or seafood that soldiers, guarding the area ,can grill for the visitors. Price may vary from 150-300php per order, depending upon the size and type of the fish. Rice not included though.
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For foodies out there, try Zamboanga ‘s famous Curacha, a local name for red frog crabs best eaten with the famous Alavar sauce. Alavar’s restaurant has earned the reputation of serving the best Curacha in town located at Tetuan, a jeep away from the city center.
Other option is to pass along the Pasonanca road where a myriad of good restaurants are lined up. Or take a stroll at Paseo del mar at sunset and enjoy delectable seafood meals with live bands from its various restaurants such a Mano-Mano, Kape Zambo, among others. After a great dinner, try the Knicker Bocker, a healthy dessert made famous by Palmeras’ restaurant.
With 546 square miles land area, walking around downtown Zamboanga to catch sight of its famous attractions is a cherry pie for historic sightseers. The best way to start exploring Zamboanga is at the heart of the city, Plaza pershing – a historical landmark named after American general John “Blackjack” Pershing. To its south is the mall center from South way mall to Mind Pro. Walk further until you glimpse the whitewashed, candle-like design of the Zamboanga Cathedral or formally called as the Metropolitan cathedral of Immaculate Conception , where the Archdiocese seat is. Close to the cathedral is the Ateneo De Zamboanga University.
Next to it is the Universidad de Zamboanga. And facing it is the small Rizal park which is in front of the iconic Zamboanga City hall, a Hispanic building constructed in 1905. Continue walking along the N.S. Valderosa Street ( Calle Espana), the best-preserved street which is aligned with palm trees and surrounded by Spanish and American – fashioned architectural structures.
Keep going until reaching Paseo del Mar, a façade by the Sea, which is a regular place for family and friends. Continue walking along the palm trees, and you will get to Paseo del Mar, a façade by the Sea, is a regular place for family and friends.
Adjacent to Paseo is the Fort Pillar, built by the Spaniards in 1635 as the Real Fuerza de San Jose to ward off sea attacks from the moro warriors. On its left is a plaza aligned with souvenir shops. Alongside is the Sta. Barbara Mosque, one of the biggest mosques in Zamboanga.
Sometimes, the chants of the Muslim prayers from the mosque and the singing of Catholic mass songs are overheard simultaneously during the day.
For the curious about Islam, experience a different side of Zamboanga with an excursion to the Muslim villages. Muslim has several tribes and one of them is the Yakan, who are recognized for their unique weaving skills. Ride a jeep going to the Yakan Village and get wind of the intricacy and rarity of the weaving designs that only these Yakan can fabricate. The end products of this mastery are bags, shawls, handbags, clothes, and many more. Their weaving style and techniques are comparable to the rebozos of Mexicans from Tenancingo, State of Mexico. It is believed that this art was brought by the Muslim tribe to Mexico during the galleon trade.
Walking distance from this village is a ton of houses built along the shore inhabited by another Muslim tribe called the Badjaos, the sea-gypsies. For a hunt of a beautiful Mosque, head 19Kms east from the city center and marvel at the historical village of Taluksangay, where the oldest mosque in western Mindanao is constructed. At the end of the trip, never fail to pass by the Canelar barter trade center to grab souvenir stuffs which are sold cheaper than in any other shops.
Nature lovers can take a leisurely stroll at Pasonanca park, dubbed as the little Baguio of Zamboanga, Pasonanca due to its cool climate. This greenly park is the oldest biggest park having been built in 1912 when Gen. John Pershing was then the governor of the Moro province. This green site boasts campsites for both males and females, an amphitheater and convention center, 3 public and some picnic areas. It also houses the known Pasonanca Tree House which was constructed originally to be the “Youth Citizenship Training Center” in April 1960. One of the added facilities in the said park is the La Jardin de Maria Clara Lobregat and Butterfly Park.
The garden park was named after the late mayor Maria Clara Lobregat which consists of floral and butterfly species such as orchids, roses and colorful butterflies surrounding the garden and an aviary park for the avian species such as parrots, turkeys, and eagles among the birds.
Still have enough spare time? Travel east to experience the beauty of the Merloque falls and Dulian falls. From the city, reaching these two beautiful waterfalls is possible by private vehicle, public van or bus.
The Dulian falls is located at Upper Dulian, a barangay after Bungiao. Ride a van at the van terminal located in front of Southway mall or a bus at the Guiwan bus terminal until getting to Bungiao after an hour and a half. From Bunguiao, ride a habal-habal going to Lower Dulian which can costs about 30php. Then from there, ride another habal-habal to Upper Dulian for a price of 60-70 php. Contact someone from their barangay hall, which is situated in front of Bungiao Elemantary school, for a guide.
While the more famous Merloquet falls of barangay Sibulao, some 78 kilometers east of the city is more than 2 hours away.Hike some 20 minutes more before you finally see the beautiful cascades of this waterfalls. These are the 5 best things to do in Zamboanga according to interests.
So when is the BEST time to visit?
The best time to visit Asia’s latin city though where it is at its liveliest is throughout the month of October where the Hermosa Festival is celebrated, one of the oldest festivals in the country which is held in honor of our Nuestra Senora del Pilar (miraculous Our lady of the Pilar) , the patroness of the city as well as of Zaragoza, Spain. The feast itself of Our lady of the Pilar falls every October 12. Numerous activities are held during this month-long festival.
The major and most awaited events are Regatta De Zamboanga were the famous colorful Vintas of Zamboanga are racing to bag the title; street dance competition where different schools participate in to emerge as the winner, Miss Zamboanga and other special contests. Aside from this cheeriest month, February 26 is also special for Zamboanguenos as it marks the Dia de Zamboanga (Day of Zamboanga), the day when the city was declared as a chartered city under the Commonwealth government in 1937.
Once called as the City of Flowers, recently as the Sardines Capital of the Philippines or consistently as the Asia’s Latin City, Zamboanga City may have changing titles but it’s true , enticing beauty will never change despite the plight and predicament it had experienced.
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