The one and only Latin City of Southeast Asia – mainly because they speak a language derived from Spanish called “Chavacano”, a Spanish Creole language spoken by over a million people.
A Hispanic city where Christian churches and Muslim mosques stands side by side; where businesses are Chinese monopoly and a city lay-out that dates back to Spanish times.
If not because of the Americans, Zamboanga could have been another Southeast Asian country. This city used to be the capital on the short-lived Republic of Zamboanga when Spain handed over the Philippines to the Americans. Zamboanga became a chartered city in 1936.
This is a port city, the commercial center of the south-western part of Mindanao Island. It is closer to Manado (Indonesia) and Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia) than Manila which explains the closer commercial ties to these neighboring cities.
Get a load of this…Here is where you will see cars with speedometers on the right-hand side and the steering wheel is on the left-hand side! I was in awe. Totally speechless. All I can say was – “Dude!”… then I went silent. These are cars from Malaysia and converted to left-hand driving, leaving the meters on the right. Amazing ingenuity!
What to do here? Well, Zamboanga is a destination for tourists with culture and loves the sea. The waters of Zamboanga Peninsula are among the best diving sites in this part of the Philippines. You can meet sea gypsies like the Samal or Badjao people – they can be really friendly, mind you. Santa Cruz Island is the jewel of the crown. Serene, unspoiled and long stretches of pink sand beaches.
Lim Boulevard is the site of colorful regattas. Zamboanga’s premiere icon is the “Vinta” -- A kind of boat with really colorful sails and distinctly Zamboangan. We came off season and staying for just a short while so, we won’t see this amazing spectacle which happens in October.
Don’t expect much. Shopping-wise, nothing extraordinary except if you really fancy batik fabrics. No taxis *no laughing please*, no massive malls like we see in other Philippine cities either. But they do have McDonalds so, everything will be just fine. Ha!
Zamboanga City is the backdoor of the Philippines. You can reach Malaysia from here by boat (Fastcrafts) to Sandakan. If you’re coming from Manila, it’s about 1 hr 50 mins flight. From Cebu is about an hour.
Zamboanga City’s Official website.