Owing to its prominent Spanish heritage, the city of Zamboanga in Western Mindanao is dubbed “Asia’s Latin City”. A significant aspect is the Spanish creole called Chabacano spoken primarily by the Christianized population. However, the city is cultural crossroad shaped by centuries of immigration and colonization. The settlement was established as early as the 12th century, with the earliest inhabitants being the Subanen, an indigenous tribe of Malay Origin. Later on, Islamized tribes such as the Tausug, Samal, Badjao and Yakan arrived. The Spanish colonizers arrived in 1569, having chosen the settlement as the site of a strategic fortification against Muslim pirates and foreign invaders.
• The adventurous can start the walk at Rio Hondo, a stilted Muslim village where you can admire how pre-Spanish Zamboanga would have looked like. Due to safety issues, explore this area with a local guide. More information here.
• Stroll to Fort Pilar – or, in full, Real Fuerza de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza (Royal Fort of Our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza) – a Spanish fortification established in 1635 in honor of the patron virgin of Spain, Our Lady of the Pillar. The fort houses a branch of the National Museum (Open Mon-Fri 9am-4pm;
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays by appointment) that showcases endemic marine life and archaeological finds from an 18th century shipwreck.
• Nearby is Paseo del Mar, a seaside parkway lined opened in 2009 with views of the Moro Gulf, Basilan province and Santa Cruz Islands. Return to this spot at night, when the place comes alive with al fresco dining and live bands.
• En route to the Zamboanga City Hall, drop by Lantaka Hotel by the Sea – a 50-year-old seaside hotel that grew from an American Officers Club. Sample their mouth-watering seafood dishes at the restaurant. Try the Zamboanga specialty, curacha (red frog crab)!
• Admire the period structures surrounding the Plaza Rizal: Zamboanga City Hall (built 1905 to 1907), Plaza Manila Building (est. 1928) and Plaza Pershing (est. 1915). Originally known as “Plaza de Don Juan de Salcedo” in honor of a 16th century Spanish conquistadores, Plaza Pershing was renamed in 1915 in memory of General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, former governor of the Moro province.
• End your walk at Cawa-Cawa Boulevard (presently Gov. Lim Avenue) – best enjoyed during sunset. Another option to end your walk is to catch a jeepney bound for Sinunuc at the public market to get to the Yakan Weaving Village, 7km away. Or catch a jeepney to Brgy. Mercedes, where you can take a motorbike to the Taluksangay Mosque (est. 1885), the oldest mosque in Western Mindanao.
Plaza Rizal, Plaza Manila Building & Zamboanga City Hall
Young villagers at Rio Hondo
Royal Fort of Our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza
1. Foreigners are strongly advised to take a local guide, most especially when visiting Rio Hondo village. For tourist assistance, contact the Department of Tourism – Regional Office IX, located at Lantaka Hotel by the Sea, Tel no. +6362 992 6242.
2. Do this walk only during the day. Best to avoid walking around alone at night, especially if you are not familiar with the city.
3. Despite its proximity to Basilan Island, Zamboanga City is not a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. However, stay relaxed yet be alert and maintain a low profile when exploring the city.
4. Dress down conservatively. Keep an eye on your belongings – watch out for touts, beggars, pickpockets and other lawless elements.
Welcome to my website! I’m travel writer, photographer and online influencer Edgar Alan Zeta-Yap from the Philippines. Join me as I hike, dive, fly, eat and do pretty much anything in between across 7,641 islands and beyond. Need to reach me? Please write me an email.