25 Hours in Zamboanga City, Asia’s Latin City

It’s been roughly seven years since my good friend’s family left for the US. So I wasn’t going to miss the chance to meet them when she told me that they’re coming home for a visit. She suggested that we meet up when she and her daughter visit her home in the heart of Zamboanga City so that I wouldn’t have to travel all the way to Manila where they’ll be staying for most of their vacation.

Deciding to go to Zamboanga was easier than actually planning the trip. It was mainly because of my fear of flying, especially when it involves shorter distances. It probably has something to do with the fact that I often associate shorter trips with smaller aircraft. The last time I traveled to a place that’s approximately the same distance from Davao to Zamboanga, I balked at the sight of the airplane during boarding and almost backed out of the work-related trip. Since then, I’ve always tried to go for 8 to 10-hour road trips rather than get on a smaller-sized plane.

Apart from the (irrational) aircraft worry, I was also a bit apprehensive about traveling to Zamboanga City. I think a lot of places here in Mindanao remain as mysteries and inspire some level of apprehension, even to someone who hails from the same region. It probably had a lot to do with lingering impressions created by some of the bad news heard at some points over the years.

But I’m happy to say that my Zamboanga City trip was a fun and memorable experience. The 25 hours I spent in Asia’s Latin City further proved, at least for me, that Mindanao is a great place to explore. And while bad things can happen everywhere so do the good to great stuff that occur anywhere in the world if you care and dare enough to look.

Touchdown at Asia’s Latin City. Photo op while waiting for cabin doors to be opened. The great weather, bigger aircraft than I expected, and the chatter in Zamboanga City’s dialect overheard while waiting for my flight made it a pleasant trip. Travel time on paper: 1 hour, actual travel time: 43 minutes.
View from one of the stores across the airport building while waiting for my friend to pick me up.
A hotel near the airport. It’s probably less than 500 meters away.
My friend and I walked along the stretch of this long boulevard the night before. It’s undergoing some improvement works. It reminded me of Manila Bay where we used to row sans the floating garbage. I was impressed by how pristine the waters looked although my friend told me that a nearby hospital dumps some of its waste there (much like in Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard).
In front of the City Hall
My goddaughter in front of the City Hall
I wondered what tales this one could tell if it could share its story.
Fort Pilar
Noontime in Fort Pilar.
Quaint structures at the boy/girl scouts camping grounds
Bonfire area
The Treehouse, one of Zamboanga City’s attractions
Going home.

I was in Zamboanga City for only 25 hours this past weekend so I can’t really say if my impressions are the norm. But what struck me most was how quiet the streets seemed to be. There was not much traffic in the areas I’ve been, probably because it was a weekend. There’s 3-hour brown-out everyday, usually in the afternoon towards early evening. I realized how lucky we are here in Davao for not having the same brown-out related woes many people from different parts of Mindanao have to endure regularly.

My friend and I went for a stroll along the boulevard some few hours after I arrived last Saturday. But before we left their home, she and her older sister told me to leave my bag and phone behind. So we left with only some cash in our pockets and enjoyed roaming around with nothing to worry about. The next day, we made a quick trip to the Barter (i.e. souvenir shopping) area before I went to the airport to catch my flight back home. I wished I had more time to look around and check out the wide selection of batiks as well as the various treats and beverage mixes they’ve got there.

It was a great trip all in all. Although I had a pet peeve moment on my flight back home when the guy at the window seat beside me was talking on his phone up until after the plane took off. For someone who has a fear of flying, seeing someone not following one of the simplest instructions of the crew can be annoying to say the least. But I decided to let it slide because I figured it was the best thing to do at that time.