Zamboanga Travel Guide and Itinerary

Layag-Layag Mangrove Village, Zamboanga (Photo: Lester Ledesma)

A language infused with Spanish, a mix of cultures and a pink beach can all be found in Asia’s Latin City.  

About Zamboanga City 

Zamboanga City is located on the western tip of the Mindanao, jutting out to the Sulu Sea towards Indonesia and Brunei. Part of the Zamboanga Peninsula region (Region IX), Zamboanga City is an independently governed city, despite being statistically and geographically grouped together with Zamboanga del Sur province. 

 

Highlights for the Traveler 

In Zamboanga City, you might be surprised to hear someone tell you, “Mucho gusto conocer contigo! Que tiene vos un buen viaje!” The highest concentration of speakers of Chavacano — a Spanish-based creole language unique in Asia — is found in Zamboanga City. 

 

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The colorful mix of cultures here is most evident in the annual Hermosa Festival, or Fiesta Pilar. The festival honors the city’s patroness, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, and is celebrated throughout October.  

The festival also honors the city’s seafaring traditions with the Regatta de Zamboanga, which features traditional outrigger boats called vinta, characterized by their colorful, postcard-perfect rectangular sails.  

Travelers can learn more about the city’s colonial history by heading to Fort Pilar, just an easy 15-minute walk away from city hall. This 17th-century Spanish fort defended the city from pirates and raiders from neighboring sultanates. With a grand courtyard and old brick structures, it now serves as a regional outpost of the National Museum of the Philippines. 

If you’d like to get a better feel of the local pulse, head to Paseo del Mar (literally sea walk), a wide, open space where you can take in the stunning sunset as well as views of neighboring islands of Basilan and Santa Cruz. When night falls, the park transforms into a more festive place with its decorative lamps, food stalls and live bands.  

 

Just Outside Zamboanga City 

With so much color in the sails and in the local fabrics, it’s no surprise that even the beach has an unusual color. Great Santa Cruz Island boasts pink sand that is an Instagrammer’s dream. The color comes from crushed red organ pipe corals that have mixed in with the sand over time. Just a 20-minute boat ride away from Paseo del Mar, the island made it onto National Geographic’s 2017 list of the 21 best beaches in the world. 

 

By Raymond Maymay, as of January 2020.


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