Zamboanga is a natural docking point for vessels traversing the rich fishing grounds of the Zamboanga peninsula and the Sulu archipelago. Home to a diverse culture, it is a highly urbanized and independent city with a long and worth-knowing history.
A melting pot of cultures, the colorful vinta sails, the 100 year old city hall, the massive and modern Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and Fort Pilar or Real Fuerza de Nuestra Señora La Virgen del Pilar de Zaragoza are but few of the myriad sights that symbolize the city's rich heritage.
When to Go
Every October, Asia's Latin city turns into one big fiesta town as it celebrates its grand annual Zamboanga Hermosa Festival, a month-long festival in honor of the miraculous image of Our Lady of the Pillar (Nuestra Señora del Pilar), the patroness of Zamboanga City.
The festival features month-long celebrations with many lineup activities from the Vinta race / Regatta de Zamboanga to the famous Bandoreal, a street parade with participants in bright colored "Trajes de faraleas", the flamboyant and sexy Flamenco dresses with layers of ruffles in the skirt that swish as they dance to the rhythm of drums and trumpets.
Things to Do
Beaches - Famous for its pink sand beach caused by the pulverized red organ-pipe corals mixing with the white sand, Santa Cruz Island can be reached from Zamboanga City's Paseo del Mar via an outrigger.
Botanical Gardens - 20 minutes from the downtown Zamboanga is La Jardin de Maria Clara Lobregat, a garden park named after the late mayor Maria Clara Lorenzo Lobregat. It also has an aviary park and a public pool nearby.
Churches - The Modern Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The cathedral is known as one of the most modern cathedrals in Asia. Its structure is a cruciform, resembling a cross and its facade is patterned after a candle.
Entertainment - For a magnificent view of the setting sun, head to Paseo del Mar, a seafront parkway adjacent to Fort Pilar. This bay walk is popular early evening hangout. Catribo Complex along Buenavista has restaurants, bars, a club, and a café, too.
Hacienda de Palmeras is Perhaps Zamboanga's leading restaurant. It is also a preferred date-night spot that serves traditional Chavacano cuisine and Asian-inflected seafood amidst a convivial atmosphere.
Myrnas Bakeshop is a low-key coffee shop that's packed at all hours. The original black forest cake and Brazo de Mercedes are especially addictive.
Alavar seafood restaurant, Locals fill the vinyl banquettes here for signature crab and curacha dishes.
Almost all the ingredients for the unpretentious comfort food here are locally sourced.
Golf Courses - Founded in June 1910 by Gov. John "Blackjack" Pershing, the Zamboanga Golf and Country Club is one of the oldest golf courses in the country. The 18 hole course has a fine layout with winding fairways and pink sand bunkers nearby from Sta. Cruz Island.
Museums - The National Museum of Zamboanga City houses ethnographic materials from the Yakan, Subanon, and Sama people such as colorful blankets, weaving loom, model Subanon houses, musical instruments, and dioramas of archeological excavations of the Griffin shipwreck.
There is also a walk-in-exhibit complete with lights and sounds representing Zamboanga's rich terrestrial fauna and their specific habits.
Parks - Rizal Park in Zamboanga City is said the be one of the oldest and most beautiful in the country.
Ruins - Fort Pilar. Founded in 1635 as a garrison during the Spanish period, Fort Pilar serves as a present day open-air shrine.
What to Buy
Batik and Malong -Traditional fabrics native to Malaysia and Indonesia.
Yakan weavings - Intricately designed, the traditional yakan weave takes a week or so to finish a meter of cloth. The cloth is an art in itself - this is the reason why it commands a high price.
Alfajor - A unique Zamboangeno delicacy made out of sticky rice.
Curacha - Also known as spanner crab or red frog crab, the curacha is a local Chavacano name given to a sea crab species found only in Zamboanga.
Zamboanga Barter Center - A major shopping center for souvenirs from colorful and authentic malong or batik cloth to chocolates from neighboring Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.
Abong-Abong Park and Mount Pulong Bato - Zamboanga's sugarloaf mountain is the site of the 14 stations, and is a popular pilgrimage destination during Holy Week.
Santa Cruz Island - The island is known for its pink powder-like sand bar and is the only pink-sand island in the country.
Cawa-Cawa Boulevard - Comparable to Manila's Roxas Boulevard, this bayside roadway with Spanish lamps is famous for its sunsets.
Paseo del Mar na Zamboanga - This new seafront parkway, located adjacent to the walls of Fort Pilar, is a great place to unwind and enjoy Zamboanga's famed sunset and the scenic Basilan Strait.
Pasonanca Park - One of the most visited parks in the Philippines, Pasonanca Park is famous for its beautiful natural flowing pools, the aviary and the Philippine Boy scout training center. Nested 500 feet above sea level, the sprawling 1,146 hectare park is home to 600 different species of orchids.
Plaza Pershing - The historical Plaza Pershing is located right at the heart of the city. Built during the early 190os, it resembles a Spanish plaza.
Yakan Weaving Center - Host to the only Yakan community in the City, the center is located just across the famed La Vista de Mar beach resort. Local people weave intricately hand-woven fabrics on giant looms as well as making traditional brass wares.
Rio Hondo - A colony of coastal Tausugs, Samas, and Badjaos living in frail-looking houses on stilts situated about 200 meters from Fort Pilar.
Zamboanga City Hall - Completed in 1907 by the Federal Government of the United States for the then American Governors of the area which included: Leonard Wood, Tasker H. Bliss, Ralph W. Hoyt, and Governor John J. Pershing of World War I fame. Today, this serves as the City Hall of Zamboanga City where the Mayor holds office.
Fort Pilar - Built in 1635, the Real Fuerza de Nuestra Señora La Virgen del Pilar de Zaragoza is the largest fortress outside Manila. The fortress was built in order to protect the natives from invading pirates.
By Air - Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Airphil Express and Zestair have daily flights to Zamboanga City from Metro Manila.
Touchdown: from Zamboanga International Airport (ZIA), take a Jeepney (P7.00) or tricycle (P20-30) to the pueblo (city center) as there are only few taxis. Plissap rent-a-car and Holiday Taxi charges a minimum of P 150.00.
Trycicles in Zamboanga are way more comfortable than a jeep and is the easiest means of getting around the city.