My Zambo & Basilan trips

Map of Zamboanga Peninsula & BasilanIt’s my goal this year to travel to as many places as I can in Mindanao. That’s why I did not resist the desire to see Basilan once I set foot on Zamboanga City last weekend.

Going back to Davao, I left Zamboanga with a heavy heart, because my trip was way too short and there were still places I wasn’t able to see (like the Tree House in Pasonanca Park and the beaches of Sta. Cruz). And because I had a restful — and yet invigorating! — stay in Asia’s Latin City. Don’t you just love their city’s tagline?

Flying to Zamboanga last 17 October, it turned out I was on the same flight as Yolynne Medina and her husband. Upon landing in her city, she immediately set the wheels in motion to have my stay as pleasant as she could manage. I owe it to her — as well as to Ryann Elumba, Jerome Locson and the other bloggers — that I enjoyed my first trip to their beautiful metropolis.

What you’ll notice immediately is the city’s clean streets. The early morning of last Sunday, I strolled a few kilometers around the downtown and port areas, and I saw no garbage piled up anywhere. Oh, another thing I noticed: they have many Mister Donuts outlets!

Of course, I didn’t pass up the opportunity to try the famed Alavar Restaurant. There used to be a branch in Davao, but unfortunately they’ve long closed shop. When you go to Alavar, don’t make the mistake of missing their curacha in alavar sauce. It’s a deep-sea crustacean and the dish is to die for! Looks like a crab but the meat is much tastier.

OK, something more dramatic this time: el pueblo boasts of having the oldest bank in the Philippines outside of Metro Manila, and it’s the 2nd branch of Banco de las Islas Filipinas, otherwise known as BPI. (I have a photo somewhere in the album embedded here.) What historians will surely appreciate in Zamboanga is their drive to preserve their heritage. This is evident in their local tongue, which is a mix of Tagalog/Cebuano and Spanish, and in the surroundings.

For example, there’s Fort Pilar, home to one of Mother Mary’s many representations. It is maintained as a monument and as an open church. It’s interesting to note that both Christians and Muslims revere this place, because they all believe that the blessed Mother once protected the city from devastation from the angry sea. Too bad I wasn’t able to see the inside of the museum behind the fort. Next time!

Zamboanga City does have all the modern amenities, such as wifi access in many restaurants and coffee shops, HSDPA Internet connectivity via mobile, all the major banks and other financial institutions, air & sea linkages to and from a good number of domestic & international destinations, etc. Amid the modern, vestiges of the bygone eras are yet deeply rooted in the present.

Here are photos of my first-ever trip to Southwestern Mindanao.

The day trip to Basilan was a very welcome change in pace for me. Idyllic, fresh, quiet, peaceful — those were the words that came to mind the whole time I was there. People who’ve never been to Basilan hold the notion that it’s a perennially dangerous place. Well, we can’t deny that there were incidents in the past that have tainted the island’s reputation. So, I went there to experience the place and try to dispel this notion.

Thanks to my new friends, RJ Ian and his former student Faye, I was able to do a 5-hour tour of Isabela City and the outskirts of the town of Lamitan. The roads were cemented and well-maintained so the motorbike ride was not unpleasant. The views during the ride were breathtaking. There were the orderly rubber-tree plantations, the cool waterfalls, the mesmerizing undulating hills and valleys.

It was my first time to be in a place whose population has more Muslims than Christians. Contrary to popular perception (outside of Mindanao anyway), life in Isabela is harmonious. Christians and Muslims live together in the same space without any visible sign of conflict. There’s a church and a mosque less than a stone’s throw away from each other. There are murals showcasing amity among peoples of different religions.

To visit Basilan, it’s a good idea to have someone local to show you around. For inquiries, please call the City Tourism Office on these numbers: +63(918)945-7316 & +63(906)767-5735. E-mail address:

I’m so pleased I made these trips. I hope that, through my eyes, more people will come to appreciate that Zamboanga and Basilan are amazing and peaceful places. I’ll definitely be back there very soon!

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16 Responses to “My Zambo & Basilan trips”

  1. tonex says:

    During my childhood days, I used to spend my vacations there. My mom is from Zamboanga.

    It has been ages since my last visit.

  2. yolynne says:

    Great article Blogie! Thanks and hope you’ll visit soon =)

  3. Mindanao Bob says:

    Bongao next, Blogie! happy

  4. Blogie says:

    @yolynne – Can’t wait!

    @Mindanao Bob – That’s in Tawi-Tawi, right? I sure would love to go there!

  5. Ryann says:

    let’s climb the mountains blog and visit the subanen tribe. i really want to do that for a long time now. :)

  6. Davao is the only place I visited in Mindanao. Hopefully, to go back in Mindanao again. Basilan would be a ice place to explore.

  7. jamie says:

    your blog was a great help.. the phrase "huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan" is my constant motivation to explore Philippines.. that's why my husband and i wanted to visit different places and zamboanga is one of them… tnx!

  8. lorraine says:

    ano kaya ang oras papuntang basilan nna first trip?

    • blogie says:

      Hi Lorraine. I'm not quite sure anymore about the departure time of the ferry boat… If I remember right, I left for Basilan early in the morning, around 7am I think.

  9. Got a bit envious you had traveled that far south of the country. I might travel there pretty soon. big grin


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