Touchdown Zamboanga City, the Asia’s Latin City.
To be honest, I didn’t feel any unwanted feelings with my first solo trip in the country, until I reached the grounds of Zamboanga City. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I felt something cold in me, something in a in between the borders of excitement and fear. Haha
I felt excited because it was my first solo backpacking trip in the country, at the same I felt so scared about the fact that this city isn’t really an ideal tourist place (for others ) because of its connotation to the never ending peace crisis in this part of Mindanao.
I speak no Chavacano, I only know a word or two of Spanish… but I can speak Bisaya (bisdak ini haha!). Not really fluent though, because our version in Surigao is different from the universal Visayan (Cebuano) dialect. So upon exiting the airport, I kept on practicing my Cebuano so I won’t mumble my words, which I often do when I try to say it fast. I also had to set some rules for this challenging trip.
First rule: it’s always safe to ask a man in uniform. Instead of asking the taxi and trike drivers for directions, I approached one of the heavily armed men in the airport vicinity.
Me: Sir, asa gani pwede mosakay ug jeep paingon sa Canelar (san nga po pwedeng sumakay ng jeep paptuntang Canelar?)
Military man: Ikaw ra usa mam? (mag isa lang kayo mam?)
Me: (bigla ako nakaramdam ng takot, promise!) oo sir, ngano man?
Military man: Taga dire ka mam? (taga rito po ba kayo?)
Me: (confused and little irate – wala pang tulog for the last 24 hrs) naa koy friend sa Canelar.
Military man: Magtricyle ka nalang mam or magtaxi (yes, may taxi sila!)
Me: (jeep ang gusto ko, kasi mura lang) asa ang exit gate dinhi? (san po ang exit gate ng airport?)
Military man directed my way to the exit of the airport compound. I wasn’t really sure if that short conversational made me feel safe or just triggered the fear factor inside me. Whew.
Just in time when I reached the exit gate, there was a Canelar-bound jeep waiting outside. I hopped it and my set my second rule.
Second rule: Act as a local. I may not speak nor understand their native language, but at least, knowing how to speak in Cebuano is a little advantage to not knowing anything at all. Haha. Paid my fare and asked the driver to drop me off at the Atilano Compound – all in Cebuano dialect. I was really trying hard, but I had this feeling that the more I tried hard, the more they didn’t understand. Haha.
It was a short ride from the airport to Atilano Compound. The driver signaled me that it was my time to get off the jeep and he voluntarily pointed the directions to Atilano Pension House – nice! Well, from the main street, it hard to miss the signage of the pension house. Take Gerry’s Grill restaurant as your landmark.
Atilano Pension House is one of the cheapest and highly recommended accommodations in Zamboanga City. I had non-AC room for 420pesos per night.
I haven’t slept properly for the past two days before my trip, so upon checking in my room, I then succumb to slumber and took a much needed sleep. Yes, I felt like I had to travel to Zamboanga, para matulog lang. Di ko na talaga kaya. Haha.
After an uninterrupted 4hour sleep, I decide to start my solo escapade in Zamboanga. I first went to Pueblo (city centre), Fare: 8pesos. Hearing the locals talk in the native Chavacano language instantly made me feel like I was in a different country. Ang sarap nilang pakinggan magsalita. The words ‘porke’, ‘este’, gracias’ ‘pabor’ are just heaven to my ears. I have always wanted to learn Spanish, too bad it was no longer included in our curriculum during college years. I think learning has something to do with our inner culture – after all, we were once under a Spanish colony.
I roam around the city, walking as if I am a local. With that, I meant, no photo shots while walking.( May local bang picture ng picture na parang turista. Haha.) I came across with this fountain beside Southway Square mall. Locals were taking pictures, so did I. It was really a challenge – the no picture taking from time to time. I had to minimize it so as not to draw attention that would blow up my cover as a local (paranoid lang!) – That made my rule number three – do not draw any attention. Haha.
Keeping rule number one alive, I always ask manong guards for directions, until I reached the famous bay walk of the city – Paseo del Mar. It was quite a long walk from the plaza, near the town hall – had I known, I took a trike for it.
It was typical bay walk with lights and restaurant and bars in it… but what made it different and special from others – is the attendance of the Badjaos, paddling their boats in the darkness of the –sea.
Seeing badjaos diving for money in full darkness isn’t an alien to me. I’ve seen those when we were young, while travelling Surigao-Manila-Surigao for years, through different shipping lines. Ah, gone were the shipping days that would always eat up my VL’s. Haha. Apart from diving in the dark for coins, others Badjao children use their banca for selling souvenir items.
I wanted to stay a little more yet it started to drizzle. I didn’t bring any umbrella, thanks to my go-lite backpack. I rushed back to Pueblo, had a takeout for dinner… rushed back to my guest house, and call it a day.