Well-preserved heritage buildings, unforgettable seafood cuisines, unique shopping experience and an unbelievable ethnic explosion of cultures welcome eager visitors in this city.
For over 400 years, Chavacano, the only Spanish creole in Asia is widely spoken in Zamboanga City, one of the reasons why this lively metropolis is marketed as “Asia’s Latin City”.
Here are some suggested activities in Zamboanga City:
The kaleidoscopic vintas used to be visible only in Zamboanga city during the La Hermosa Festival. But June last year, the Department of Tourism Region IX launched the vinta sailing at Paseo del Mar. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 4 PM to 6 PM for a minimal fee of Php 50 (Adult), Php 20 (Student), Php and Php 15 (Child), visitors can now ride the vinta.
Picnic at Sta. Cruz Island
Charter a boat to take you to the nearby Sta.Cruz Island. Bask in its powdery pink sand and azure waters that is perfect for swimming and picnics.
Sightseeing at the City Center
Although the bustling city center is beaming with soaring buildings, well-preserved heritage structures are still visible in some areas. Visit the Rizal Park and marvel at the splendid chocolate-colored City Hall built in 1905 -1907 and its neighboring old colonial buildings. One of the most photographed spots is the 1635 Spanish garrison known as Fort Pilar Shrine which houses the city’s patroness and an impressive museum.
Visit the candle-shaped Metropolitan Cathedral and look for the Immaculate Conception statue created by the National Artist for sculpture - Napoleon Abueva. You can also take a leisurely walk and hang out with the locals while watching the scenic Zamboanga sunset at the R.T Lim Boulevard.
Get wet at Merloquet Falls
If you think Zamboanga city lacks natural attractions, then you may not have been to the stunning Merloquet waterfall yet. This pristine beauty is hidden in Brgy. Sibulao east of the city.
Buy Yakan products
Do not go home without buying pasalubong at the Yakan Weaving Village. These rainbow-colored textiles are hand-woven by the Yakan tribes of Basilan. You can also find other souvenirs here like Maranao brassware, gong, and wooden boats.
Visit the Taluksangay Mosque and village
Another popular tourist spot in the city is the Taluksangay Mosque. It was built in 1885 and is the oldest mosque in Zamboanga Peninsula. You can also find stilt houses of the descendants of the Sama tribe living in this community.
See the dancing fountain
The old Plaza Pershing that was named after the late governor John “Black” Pershing boasts of a colorful dancing fountain at night.
Explore the Pasonanca Park
At Pasonanca Park, there are several spots to see such as El Jardin de Maria, an aviary, a swimming pool, a baseball field and restaurants. Must-see is the serene Boy Scout Ground dotted by the iconic green teepees and trees, and a charming tree house.
Feast on local cuisines
It’s a sin not to try the delicious seafood dishes in Zamboanga; from the famous deep-sea crab called curacha to tasty shrimps, oysters and clams. Also try the inexpensive satti which is similar to the Malaysian satay, the tempting Knickerbocker, Savannah Cow’s Fresh Milk and the signature drink of Asia’s Latin City – The Zamboanga White.
Shop at the Barter Markets
For unforgettable shopping experience visit any of the barter markets in Zamboanga city: Canelar, Sta.Cruz Market, BCC Shopping Center in Baliwasan and the Port Area. Although the concept of barter system no longer exists here, you can still find tax free products from Malaysian and Indonesia, inexpensive malongs, batik, textiles pearls, and imported chocolates and coffees among others.
See the stilt houses of Rio Hondo
This misunderstood Muslim community is home to a long stretch of stilt houses. Tourists can drop by the Bgry. Hall to inform the Brgy.Captain that you are in the area and get assistance to see the stilt houses.
Visit Brgy.Abong-abong, where you can find several attractions like the famous Climaco Park, Freedom Park, Heroes Hill, Mt.Pulong Bato, and the Girl Scout Camp. Hike up Mt.Pulong Bato lined up with the 14 Stations of the Cross and at the summit where a giant cross is standing, you will be rewarded with a scenic view of the city and its surroundings.
Gael Hilotin is the author of The Pinay Solo Backpacker.