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Asia » Philippines » Mindanao » Zamboanga City
February 6th 2010
Published: February 15th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

Zamboanga, the city is commercially branded for tourism by the city government as "Asia's Latin City," a clear reference to Zamboanga's identification with the Hispanized cultures of "Latin America" or the USA's "Latino" subculture.Officially, the City of Zamboanga (Chavacano de Zamboanga/Spanish: Ciudad de Zamboanga). Zamboanga is a corrupted word for the Bahasa Sug jambangan, which means garden. The highly-urbanized city is located on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. It is one of the first chartered cities and the sixth largest in the country. Zamboanga City is also one of several cities in the Philippines that are independent of any province, though it is usually grouped with Zamboanga del Sur for statistical
The most common languages and dialects in the city are Zamboangueño (a Creole-spanish Chavacano language, also known as Zamboangueño Chavacano or Chavacano de Zamboanga), Bisaya, Tagalog, English, Fookien (a Chinese dialect) and Tausug.

Arriving at the bus terminal in town I struggle to find a trike or motorbike to take me to the Dynasty Pension House, when I ask them how much the fare they say well it's up to you sir, I haven't a clue how much to pay, when i said 20 pesos they balk and complain, I got fed up so I said look dude just quote me a price and If I can afford it I'll pay it, am tired of this game and just want a rest, I hopped on a motorbike. I was worried scared, my big pack is on my back and I struggled to balance it as the driver swerve around the traffic, moments before arriving in the city we saw a motorbike accident in the highway so i told him to take it easy. he tried hard to convince me to stay at Atilano hotel, because he gets a commission so I said why not let's have a look, they have maybe 3 or 4 buildings all owned by different person but all related, price ranges from 300 pesos to 600 pesos i think, fan, a/c I looked at all of them i did not find one I like, they all look mangy, smelly and stuffy even with a/c paints are peeling, I just did not like the vibe so I asked to be taken to somewhere else.

The motorbike driver refused to take me unless I double his price since he won't get a commission! a#@hole! I paid him 50 pesos and walked out to the main road where I found a trike to take me to another hotel called Medio hotel, 600 pesos with a/c cable and wifi, i took it cause it's clean and i can sleep well and tomorrow I will try to find something cheaper. Was told by the security guy about this place where I can buy seafood, at a cheap turo turo place near the Ateneo de Zamboanga and a malll. I found small crabs, snails and seaweed salad, all for 70 pesos, jackpot! this place is bustling I think this will be my place to eat while here.

Woke up already decided to look for a cheaper place to stay 600 pesos is too steep for me so I went for a walk with the old LP Philippines as my guide, the map of Zamboanga is confusing because they now changed some street names, I asked the top hotels, precious, hermosa, Grand Astoria GC Hotel most on Mayor Jaldon street, man they are expensive the cheapest does not go below 800 pesos! I dont need an a/c room or a tv with cable just clean decent room
Lantaka hotelLantaka hotelLantaka hotel

colorful real pearls for sale
and by chance I found David's Inn. It's the 3rd floor of the Chow King restaurant next to Puericulture(pronounced by locals as pyuree) a cheap place to eat,they have ots of eateries for those on budget and I now have a favorite stall, delicious seafoods! and cheap! Anyway you have to go in t the Chow King entrance and go up the 2nd floor and through the fire exit doors and up the set of stairs to the 3rd floor!They have match box rooms with fan and maybe wifi if the signal is good as I was told and all for 300 pesos so I made a booking.

I left to see the Tourist Office which i found but this is the local branch meaning only for the city. They are oh so helpful even printing out where to stay list as I wasn't sure if i really will stay at David's Inn.From there I walked to the DOT office near Lantaka Hotel to inquire about trips to Tawi Tawi. Arlene on of the staff helped me out, giving me a contact number of the Tourism coordinator in Bongao, Tawi -Tawi. For those not on the loop, this area of the Philippines is a bit iffy with Abu Sayaff rebels trying to create chaos, threatening to kidnap foreigners in the area for ransom, mostly in the island of Basilan which is perhaps only an hour away from here by boat, you can see it from the pier on a clear day such as today.Tawi Tawi is further south and sometimes can be iffy so I need to check with DOT first, Arlene said its ok to go so I just may be. I heard about this pink sand beach here on an island called Santa Cruz about 20 minutes by
boat from the city yes you can see it as well from the pier, but you need to fill out a permit and get an escort to go there despite it being so close. Oh by the way let me give you a background on that. About 10 or so years ago a gringo got kidnapped here while in transport going to the island by extremists I was told and so now as an SOP everyone needs to get a permit before heading there, PNP(Philippine National Police) provides an escort free of charge, if you want to tip them
Isla Sta. CruzIsla Sta. CruzIsla Sta. Cruz

approaching the beach
of course is your discretion.

Arlene walked with me to the place where boatmen hang out and we arranged a boat for me self, normally 1,000 pesos RT I got it down to 800 pesos with Arelene's insistent plea to the boatman that I am here to promote tourism, I promised to write this on my blog. So he agreed, first I need to run and check out of Medio Hotel and put my stuff at David's. Flagged a trike, trip normally is 20 pesos some drivers charge more if really far but you can bargain down to 15 pesos if you are lucky, I asked him to wait down at the lobby as I wont be long, he then proceeded to David's which is next to Puery. I need to get up the
3rd floor rushing as I promised the boatman I should be there at the pier by 10:30am and it's now 10! The security guard at the entrance of Chow King wanted to see what's in my big backpack, you got to be kidding me, these are all my belongings, clothes and what not I explained, but he insisted, pissed so bad by now I told him clearly you haven't met a backpacker before haven't you? He did not answer but politely thanking me for letting him have a look inside, yes I was an ass but I am in a rush! On the way out I apologized to the poor fellow realizing my mistake, he simply replied, just doing my job sir, what a noble man.

At Puery went to my favorite stall and ordered food for lunch in the island I have to count in the police escort and the boat guy when buying food. I took a trike to the meeting point, the PNP headquarters near the pier, room A-10 I was told by the guard, I knocked on the door, this buffed up dude opened the door looking annoyed, I explained who I was and am just picking up my escort(doesn't sound good but that's what it is really!) he said he told Arlene he has no one to escort me to the island because everyone is already been sent out to guard some businessman guy. But he gave Arlene a ring and she told me another dude will come with me, an escort police that works in their office so I should just wait for him there. I chatted with this fella, he explained they are not military but a police force, he explained to me since 1996 no kidnappings have happened in Santa Cruz island but the bad guys may just be lurking around as it is open sea when you cross to the other side hence as a precaution we need an armed guard. Jun my escort came and I kid with him do you have a gun? he nodded so we are off.

The boat guys were already waiting for me there, 10 pesos for port use and 15 minutes later we are on Santa Cruz island, the sand does give a pinkish hue especially when it's wet due to the corals present in the area(pink), over the years they became fine powdery sediments that mixed with the white sand. I saw an orange coral on the beach, maybe we can have an orange beach in the future too! I went for a walk about half an hour the beach is so gorgeous! I found a village further on and then a path leading to the lush middle part, I followed it and ended up in a mangrove forest, cool! there's a lot of burrows and I hear this clicking sound, I stood and see where it is coming from, It was from the small bright red crabs, there's gazillions of them here they hide in their burrows when I move so I have to stay still if I want photos of them. it is so hot now and I decided to head back and go the other way, Jun told me never go astray past the Police Detachment area as it is facing the open sea, if there are bad guys they can easily snap me what with their fast boats now, really does not make me feel comfortable but I still went past it just to see, no one there!

I wanted to snorkel I rented a pair but one leaked from the mask the other from the nozzle you breathe on I got tired of changing each time there's defect so I told him never mind, plus I did not see many fish in my short time and I got scared dudes the sand suddenly dips down about 20 feet from the shore, when the green color ends its the deep end already, the island is one huge sand bar that suddenly dips and no corals, well hardly, it freaked me out so I decided not to snorkel anymore and save me 75 pesos for the rent. We had lunch then I paid the 20 pesos entrance fee and we are off at 1:30pm, you need to be out of this island by 3pm apparently huge waves come by then and hard for boats to go through, and as i finished lunch i noticed the ocean started swirling, crap! whirlpools! I got worried and Jun did not help, he enjoys scaring me, he asks if I can swim because he can and smirks at me saying we might tip over! The current here is quite strong and I can see the mini whirlpools though mild I have not seen this before! The trip back was fine! Jun just hyped up the danger cause he's bored, he does this every time and is probably bored by now being an escort.

Trying to sort out my Tawi Tawi trip I ended up at a travel agency, they don't sell SEAir tickets she told me go to the airport, so I did and inquired at their office there they fly once a day between 9-11am I think, depends on the day, 3,556 pesos one way, can't afford it. Next up I visited the Alyson Shipping line office and the info i got is they leave for Bongao, Tawi Tawi MWF at 6pm arriving next day at 11:00am, leaves Bongao for Zamboanga TThSat also at 6pm. There used to be a fastcraft from WEESAM but now they don't run, they are losing money because not a lot of people use their service, they used to go to Sandakan, Malaysia via Bongao but now nothing! If I want to get to Borneo I have to go back and fly from Zamboanga, what an inconvenience. I went to the Fort Pilar but the museum is shut by pm and next to the wall a mass service is happening .

I walked to the Paseo del Mar, the waterfront where you can see the sun set and lots of people do, when you look out in the water you see this young kids in pairs in a small dingy boat asking people to throw coins at them and they dive and fetch them! what a hard way to beg! the water is polluted here, lots of floating debris, mostly plastic, we saw lots on the way to Santa Cruz and there's a stench about near the port, human wastes empties to the sea,on my way back to the hotel I walked just after dusk and I noticed up in the buildings what I thought were bats but turned out to be small birds, thousands of them flying about in the sky, some are perched in electric cables, power lines and tops of buildings! really cool they are so tiny, like hummingbirds!

Next morning I went back to Fort Pilar to visit the inner garden, you need a photo ID! I sweet talked my way inside as I have no ID whatsoever with me, nice courtyard and I was allowed up the 2nd level even if it said no entry, nice view from top, then I decided to head to Kawa Kawa district where the Aleson shipping line has an office and bought my Tawi Tawi ticket, cabin is 1,200 pesos. Then headed to the mall next to Puery to cool off, it is already so humid and its only 9:30am! I was told by a vendor it's worth going to Pasonanca Park, it is 7km away and had to take a jeep, there is a tree house nearby and this Boys Scout camp thing other than that the park is crap so give it a miss, apparently there are public pools but this I did not see, waste of time folks give this a miss!!

Visited the public market at late afternoon, not much going on already and is a bit dodgy, people staring at me so I left in a hurry. Bored i went for a massage at Body and Sole, on the Catribo complex next to Medio Hotel, 300 pesos($6.5)for an hour and 15 minutes. Then off to Paseo del mar again for the beautiful sunset that Zambo is famous for. Had a late dinner and a Red Horse beer at Puery, i enjoyed wathcing everyone glued to the tv watching this soap opera unfold it's finale episode, everyone stops and eyes on the screen, some women shrieking, maybe even crying when someone dies in the episode, funny!

Additional photos below
Photos: 76, Displayed: 32


Isla Sta. CruzIsla Sta. Cruz
Isla Sta. Cruz

orange and pink corals
Isla Sta. CruzIsla Sta. Cruz
Isla Sta. Cruz

mangrove forest
Isla Sta. CruzIsla Sta. Cruz
Isla Sta. Cruz

tiny bright red crabs at the mangrove forests
Isla Sta. CruzIsla Sta. Cruz
Isla Sta. Cruz

a small hut inside the mangrove forest
Isla Sta. CruzIsla Sta. Cruz
Isla Sta. Cruz

magrove forest

15th February 2010

Amazing article and awesome pictures. Loved reading your blog...I was searching for Phuket Hotel Deals on the Internet when I came across your blog. I love reading travel blogs and that's why have bookmarked your blog :) hope to read more of similar postings...
15th February 2010

What a wonderful blog! Thanks for sharing! Several times I thought of writing my own blog, but never had that patience. But your article has inspired me so much that I've started to write about my Travel to China. Lets see if I can do justice to it :)
8th June 2010

Alguna página de turismo en castellano o chavacano??
Me parece muy interesante esta ciudad y las playas, quisiera visitarla, pero hay poca información en castellano o chavacano (que hasta donde he leido. lo entiendo bastante bien). Bueno, espero tengan información, hasta luego!
10th July 2010

your blog.
Great photos. And the info is very helpful. So there aren't anymore passenger boats to Sandakan via Zamboanga> How about Lombok or Sulawesi via other ports in Southern Philippines? Hope you could enlighten me dude. Thanks.
27th February 2011

the only latin city
I am proud to be part of asia's latin city which is Zamboanga city.
24th April 2011
Paseo del Mar, Zambo waterfront

One of the finest developments in the City of Zamboanga near the Fort Pilar. Your photos shot of the view and different locations bring good memories to those Zamboanguenos and Zamboanguenas living abroad. Thank you. - Peter Shearer / USA
20th September 2011

Contact details of DOT Zamboanga
Hi, Do you have the contact number of Arlene of Department of tourism? I was trying to call the landline number of their office but I cant get through. Me and my friends are coming this October 11 in Zamboanga and I wanted to have an advance reservation (if any) going to Sta Cruz Island. The island is really fascinating and I am more excited to visit the island after reading your blog. Thanks a lot. C5
20th June 2012

Awesome blog!!! Had the same experience with the trike incident by the way. Sadly, the Pasonanca Mountain Park is not as famous as it used to be. There are new places that i have personally visited and saw on the local tv in Zamboanga City. * Paseo Del Mar is now a hub for foodies and alike. Best time to be there is still sunset. With a bottle of beer and a platter of mixed seafoods, you can enjoy seeing the majestic sun slowly eaten away by the sea. If you miss the old Baywalk in Manila, then this is the place for you. They even copied the lighting. Remember the ball-shaped colored street lights? Best part is, there is secure parking because the City developed it to be tourist friendly. A dancing fountain was also added to the attraction a couple of months ago. * Waterfalls are a new attraction. I heard there are several but the one I saw on tv is the Kambal Falls. The name speaks for its self. Two waterfalls having the same stream of water. The other one is situated at a higher level and flows through the second one going down. * For those who are less adventurous, two newer malls were built less than a couple of years ago. Gateway and Southway. Not associated with the Mall Giants in Manila though. If you are looking for familiar places where you can eat, there\'s Jolibee, Mcdonalds, KFC, Greenwich, Chowking, Goldilocks, Red Ribbon, and even Gerry\'s Grill and Max\'s Restaurant. * Lucky for me I have relatives in Zamboanga so I didn\'t find a hard time looking for a place to crash. * If you have extra cash to spare and into a more luxurious setting, the recently expanded Garden Orchid Hotel offers the best fill. It is also just across the airport so for business travelers and alike, this is the place for you. There is also a good restaurant beside the hotel called the Village. They have the best Chicken Barbeque that i have ever tasted in my whole life! Other food items are also above average and is surprisingly affordable.

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