Perhaps it can be said that no other city in the Philippines piqued my curiosity as much as Zamboanga in the western tip of the island of Mindanao. There’s just so many things that differentiate it from the rest of the country. Nevertheless, I had to think twice about coming here. My main consideration was not really about the sights to see or the things to do but more about the reputation. As far as I can remember, newspaper datelines containing the name “Zamboanga” usually detail not so pleasant news. Not all of them paint an accurate picture of the city however – Zamboanga can actually be used to describe other points in the peninsula rather than just the city and most of those incidents that appeared in the papers actually did not occur in the city.
the zamboanga international airport
The city of Zamboanga is distinctive in a couple of things. First is their language – Chavacano. It’s an interesting Spanish-based creole that has mosly died off in other parts of the Philippines. In Zamboanga, it lives on and is commonly used in the public sphere. It was interesting to see the same print ads with the same celebrity endorsers that I often encounter in Manila but translated to the heavy Spanish slant that is Chavacano. The other thing about Zamboanga is of course, its proximity to the far reaches of the Philippines. By far reaches, I am referring to the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi; places that are only a few hundred miles away but seemingly a lot farther based on people’s perceptions. This means that the city is a melting pot of cultures, and the modernist cathedrals, temples and grand mosques in the downtown area attest to this. To a greater extent, Zamboanga of course also functions as a jumping point to Sabah, Malaysia, and as of this writing there are plans to re-start flights between the city and Sandakan in April.