This busy port city was formerly tagged as The City of Flowers, mainly because of the colorful blooms one would see everywhere in the city.
According to Wikipedia, it got its name, from the Malay word “jambangan,” which means “garden of flowers.” These days, however, these blooms are sparse and are no longer the city’s main attraction.
Nevertheless, this week’s column takes us to the beauty of Zamboanga City, as seen through its rich,diverse culture, heritage and natural attractions.
What gave the city its rich history? Zamboanga was a very important part of the Spanish colonization of our country, which explains the residents’ Chavacano dialect, a Spanish-based creole language variety, but with grammatical structures similar to Cebuano. The city was not only a seat of government, but was also a cultural center of Spanish heritage and tradition.
To protect it from “Moro” attacks, the Spaniards built a fort, now called Fort Pilar, and originally installed the image of the Nuestra Senora del Pilar at its main entrance. Fast forward to how it is today, the city residents’ devotion to the Blessed Mother has become legendary because of the many stories of miracles and apparitions supposedly witnessed by some faithful devotees.
The title of this week’s column not only describes what tourists see during their visit but it also refers to the annual Festival in honor of the city’s patroness, Our Lady of the Pillar or the Nuestra Senora del Pilar. Zamboanga Hermosa is a month-long festival, most awaited in the region, and is one of the oldest and colorful festivals in the country.
Let’s take a look at how the city was before the pandemic set in, so we can add it to our list of leisure destinations once quarantine levels go back to “almost normal.”
Numerous activities are featured during the celebration, like the street dancing competition participated in by the different schools in the city.
There are also talent shows that showcase the city’s different barangays and what each of them has to offer.
One of the highlights of the celebration is the Regatta de Zamboanga, where colorful vintas race to win the coveted title and prize money.
Aside from the historical Fort Pilar and its religious importance, what else is there that captivates tourists?
The Paseo del Mar, the bayside park and walkway, offers visitors a front-seat view of spectacular sunsets, the city’s busy port, and the neighboring Santa Cruz Island. At night, live bands, food stalls, and attractive decorative lamps perk up the place further, drawing in more crowds to the area.
Approximately 20 minutes away from downtown is the Yakan Village, known for its colorful, high-quality woven fabrics bannering geometric designs. The Yakans are known to be among the country’s finest weavers.
There they also sell antiques, for those who appreciate heritage pieces, and bundles of attractive accessories to perk up anybody’s wardrobe. Every visitor to the village always leaves with bags of the treasured Yakan weave, which has become even more popular now after having been included in our Tourism Secretary’s fashionable wardrobe.
Of course, there is also the popular Pasonanca Park which offers visitors several picnic areas and three public swimming pools—one that’s Olympic-size, another that’s a natural flowing pool, and one for children which includes water slides.
The park also has the La Jardin de Maria Clara Lobregat, named after my late mother-in-law, the beloved former “multi-termer” mayor and congresswoman of the city. A fitting tribute to a lady so well-loved by her constituents, the garden features beautiful and rare floral and butterfly species, and has a separate aviary for colorful parrots, eagles, and turkeys.
Pasonanca Park has a tree house, a small one, that was originally built during the time of former Mayor Cesar Climaco, to accommodate one of his guests. However, I recommend, instead, a visit to the better version, a more “de luxe” Tree House, the main feature at Vista del Mar, the city’s beautiful seaside resort.
There, the tree house has all the facilities for comfortable accommodations and is rented out to guests who want to experience “living on top of a tree,” with all the modern conveniences.
Natural attractions also lure tourists to Zamboanga City. Of course, we’ve all heard of Grande Santa Cruz Island, with its world-famous pink coralline sand and is only 20 minutes from Vista del Mar.
This seemingly magical sight is the result of pulverized red organ pipe coral washed ashore and mixing with the white sand on the beach. For reasons of conservation, the city government limits the number of visitors to the island, so a tourist permit is required, and staying overnight is not allowed.
There is also the breathtaking Merloquet Falls, a unique 10-meter-high, 15-meter-wide stair-like waterfalls, which ends in a shallow pool below. From afar, it looks like a white flowing curtain set against a wall of lush greenery, indeed, a sight to behold! This awesome, one-of-a-kind natural wonder is 2 hours away from the city, near the border of Zamboanga Sibugay.
With all these interesting attractions, and many more, it’s small wonder visitors to the city are one in their mantra, “Zamboanga hermosa, de hecho!”
YOUR MONDAY CHUCKLE:
JUST THINKING—You know that indestructible “Black Box” each airplane has, why don’t they make the whole plane from that material?
For feedback, I’m at bobzozobrado@gmail.