ZAMBOANGA CITY

WHY VISIT ZAMBOANGA CITY?

*It is known as Asia’s Latin City.

*Zamboanga is the 3rd largest City by land area and 3rd oldest City in the Philippines.

*It is widely acknowledged as the Sardines Capital and Chavacano Capital as well.

*The biggest and most modern seaport of the Philippines is in Zamboanga.

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WHERE TO GO?

A. MERLOQUET FALLS: From Zamboanga City Integrated Bus Terminal, take the bus bound to Pagadian, Dipolog or Ipil. Travel time is roughly 2 hours or may take longer depending on the traffic. Get off at Vitali Bus Stop and ride a habal-habal. We hired it roundtrip to lessen the hassle. Prepare for a downhill trek on the stairs for 10-15 minutes before reaching the hidden beauty of Merloquet Falls. It is best to visit on weekdays to avoid the crowd. Don’t forget to bring snacks especially drinking water because stores  are not availble yet.

Budget in Php: (Bus 150, habal-habal 100 roundtrip, 10 parking, 5 entrance fee)

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B.YAKAN WEAVING VILLAGE: I keep on coming back to Yakan Village for the intricate designs and colorful weave. Some of my favorites are their table runners (350-1500 depending on the seater), fashionable body bags secured with zippers, cellphone pouch, purse, coasters and hairbands. Visit in the afternoon when they’re actively weaving and witness how they create the impressive geometrical designs. I strongly encourage you to patronize local products; they’re not just sturdy and cultural but patiently hand-woven by the locals.

From Zamboanga City, go to Valderosa Street at the public market and ride a jeep headed to Upper Calarian. It will take more or less 30 minutes. The Village is on the right side of the road.

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C. STA. CRUZ GRANDE ISLAND: (Little Sta. Cruz Island is restricted to the public due to military use). The bigger Island is called the Pink island of Zamboanga due to the presence of red organ-pipe corals (Tubipora Musica). Its pinkish coraline sand illuminates in broad daylight. There are usually some Vinta/s (traditional boats with colorful vertical sails) along the shore. This is the perfect place to find South Sea Pearl sellers of all kinds. It is a must-visit-island because The National Geographic recently recognized it as “one of the 21 best beaches in the world”.

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Register at the Department of Tourism Office of Zamboanga located inside the Lantaka Hotel By The Sea, Valderosa Street. You will be escorted by designated personnel or armed police officers. Camping and overnight are strictly not allowed for security reasons. You may bring packed meals or ask the care takers to cook freshly caught seafood if there are any available. In our case, we had a large bucket of crabs.

Budget in Php: (Roundtrip motorboat costs 1,000/group of 10 persons, 5/person terminal fee, 20/person entrance fee, 100 small cottage for sharing)

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D. CANELAR BARTER TRADE: This is the best place to buy souvenirs like sarong, malong, cloth bags, duster/bestida and local goodies. What I hoard the most every time I visit are assorted coffee. To be specific: macadamia and almond; noodles, chocolates and matcha sweets that come from neighboring countries in the south are my take home. It is just one trike away from the city center or walking distance to most backpacker’s inn.

Other places to visit are: The Pasonanca Park, Pasonanca National Park, Fort Pilar, Pettit Barracks, Plaza Pershing, Tagbilat Falls, Bayangan Island, Pandilusan Island.

FOOD TRIP:

1. Curacha at Alavar: Curacha is often referred to as the red frog crab or spanner crab. Curacha is sold per kilo like most seafood servings. Zamboanga visit is hyped by these must-eat-seafood (Curacha, ginataang shrimp & seafood platter) in special sauces. My favorite is Alavar’s sauce which base on my tastebuds consist of the dominance of coconut milk, chili, ginger and crab roe. Try their lychee shake; it complements every viand.

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2. Knickerbocker is a dessert similar to halo-halo only that this seems healthier considering the tropical fruits in it (ripe mangoes, banana, watermelon, melon or apples depending on the season). Gelatin and milk are part of the ingredients topped with strawberry ice cream; heavenly! Try their version at Paseo del Mar (Valderosa St. beside Fort Pilar) or Hacienda de Palmeras Hotel & Restaurant (Sta. Maria Rd.)

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3. Dennis Coffee Garden: This cafe and restaurant serves Kahawa Sug (Authentic Sulu coffee). It is a family heritage business that started in 1962. They specialize on Tausug cuisine and sells native pastries like: Pastil, Daral, Wadjit and Panggih-panggih. I tried their Chicken Pianggang (marinated in charcoaled spices), Chicken Satay (marinated in spicy peanut sauce) and Beef Kulma (curry paste) all served with Sambal (hot paste mixture of spicy condiments) usually found in Malaysia, Indonesia & Singapore. For the adventurous: try the special Tiula Itum, a Tausug soup dish made with charcoal. Their branches are at KCC Mall and San Jose Road, Balisawan-my preferred ambiance.

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4. Bay Tal Mal: According to the locals, “Bay Tal Mal” was derived from the Arabic word Bayt-ul Mal meaning “House of Wealth”. The atmosphere itself felt grand and rich yet the menu is affordable. It is the first Muslim restaurant in the region that is Halal Certified by HICCIP thus accredited by the Department Of Tourism. I had to try the Moro cuisine: the Patier Rice, Indo-Malay Beef Adobo, Shrimp-coconut cake and Chicken Kiyaliya. They’re at a very accessible location: Mayor Jaldon Street Canelar.

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“Today, power is gained by sharing knowledge,not hoarding it.”

-Dharmesh Shah

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