I had a brush with this uneasy question. It shook me when I was asked if I've cleared with our security head, if we are given the green to travel there. Awkwardly, I was told that for locals, yes. For expats, no. Okaaay...
Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines. Home to a diverse culture of Muslims and Christians. And indigenous tribes. It is an island with centuries of strife woven into the fibre of its history.
Colorful both in ethnicity and socio-economic struggle. Rich with natural resources: timber, wild animals and precious gems and minerals. And peopled with a unified struggle for sovereignty. Hence, the arm movement.
And thus, the fear it instill to the rest of our countrymen and foreign guests. But there's more to this beautiful island than violence.
To begin with, the places are beautiful and worth exploring. Fortunately, my work took me there for the first time. Imagine my excitement. I was bursting in nervous anticipation.
Ha, the islands surrounding the peninsula from an aerial perspective were already amazing. Small stretches of white beaches; cove like. At the airport, I got transported to a Latin-speaking country. Chavacano (the dialect) is awesome to hear. And the mestizos look like they were plucked out straight from Mexican/Portuguese telenovelas. Absolute eye candy. I know it's just icing on the cake.
But what can I do? I only have one day to get a glimpse of the city's character. Eagerly, I took what I could. Tasted the scrumptious seafood that's aplenty here.
|Curacha (P600 only). Cholesterol alert!|
And the PX Market is divine. Zamboanga is the back door of the Philippines. The whole of Mindanao, the gateway to the ASEAN countries. The Barter Market (used to trade in barter system; now, cash is the accepted norm) is teeming with imported stuff from neighboring countries, Malaysia/Sabah.
I left the city with my curiosity still unfulfilled. Yes, I have created and enjoyed an experience. But I still want to explore it some more. Dakak Beach Resort, Dapitan and the rest of Zamboanga's charm are worth coming back for. So, yes, Zamboanga is only half-crossed in my bucket list.