I made it!
I thought I'm only limited to explore Luzon and Visayas, but I went to Mindanao, baby! I made it to the farthest part of the country that never in my wildest dreams I've ever set foot on. It was a fun-filled weekend as we toured around Zamboanga and Basilan to explore its beauty. I was still in awe as I write this because I still feel overwhelmed by the experience at this time!
Blame sponteneity for this trip (I think we've already mastered it. XD) since everything happened in a blur, all of a sudden, I booked myself to some destination without any plans whatsoever--6 months ahead of date. I was like, what the heck, just go with the flow. I'm starting to become an adventurer now, so I know I'll be fine. ..and I also got certified lakwatseros/lakwatsera with me, I'm sure it's gonna be a blast.
I went to Zamboanga with 4 of my travel buddies whom I just met on Instagram. We've been places already prior to this, but this particular trip was something we've anticipated for the longest time. BTW, we choose an early flight so we can start our day early too.
I love seeing a sunrise on the plane.
We arrived around 7am and went straight ahead to Chang-V Pension House which is just a jeepney ride away from the airport. For newbies in Zamboanga City, getting to and from around downtown and other places is easy, you just need to ride a jeepney. The fare varies from 8-15 pesos depending on the location. To get to Chang-V Pension House, you need to ride the Canelar jeepney and alight the Atilano Compound, which is marked by Gerry's Grill restaurant in front. You'll never miss it. (photo by @jepepips)
It's the only place in the compound that has an available family room and for a group of 5 people, it's Php1,000 per night. It's pretty cheap since we're gonna be staying for 3 nights there. However, you may explore the compound and check out the other pension houses.
After a quick rest, we rode a jeepney going downtown to explore the city. The fare is just 8 pesos and it's a quick 5 minute ride from the pension house. Mind you, it's safe now in Zamboanga. The chaos has ended and it's pretty safe to roam around even when you have your gadgets with you.
Day 1: City Tour
Our first stop was the city's famous city hall. The facade has an interesting vintage feel to it and according to my friend who lives there, a city ordinance has been made for all of their government buildings to look like Spanish colonial houses.
Even this BPI building looks cool too. :D (photo by @jepepips)
This is to preserve the city's culture and heritage; Zamboanga is Asia's Latin City afterall. It's even prettier at night. Check this out.
Christmas is in the air! :D
Across the city hall is the old Plaza Pershing. They say it has been reopened on 2011 after it's renovation.
For our first food stop, we ate at Tsokolate which serves the best moist chocolate cake ever!
It's a must try! It's only 35 pesos!
They also have interesting interior too, from Christmas figures to aquarium tables, to old vintage stuff alike.
After our late breakfast, we went to Paseo del Mar to check with the tourism office there on how to get to Santa Cruz island, where we will spend our second day. So, we settled our reservations because everyone must register their names for security reasons.
Paseo del Mar, the best place where you can view the sunset in Zamboanga City.
We explored the area more and this is where we found the Vinta! It's so cool seeing one upclose. It's like reliving the images you see on your old grade school books.
Ohhh those colors!
It was super hot and we wouldn't want the mid-noon sun to scorch us before we even hit the beach so we decided to take a Vinta ride later before the sun sets so its much cooler.
We then walked a short distance ahead of Paseo del Mar to Plaza del Pilar where a mini fort is located. It's like a mini walled city of Intramuros, and according to Wikipedia, "it's a military defense fortress built by the Spanish colonial government". However, since it's a weekend, the gates and the museum are closed to so we couldn't see what's inside. Boo.
Then across the street is the Fort Pilar Shrine, or Nuesta Senora La Virgen del Pilar. It's like a garden church where a mass is held in the open area. Interesting note here, when you see the altar, it's filled with pencils.
They say that the students leave it there prior to taking their bar exams, then use it afterwards to get their blessing. (photo by @jepepips)
We resumed our city tour after taking a nap then went for our much awaited Vinta ride at Paseo del Mar. It only costs 50 pesos, but if you're feeling generous, you could give a tip. The ride was short, just about 10 minutes, I guess, for a quick photo op on the famous vinta. It's like reliving my childhood memory of just seeing these colorful sails on my text books, but now, I'm riding one! XD
Vinta ride. More fun only in Zamboanga City!
Aside from a riding a vinta, there are also other things you could do at Paseo del Mar. You could watch the sunset while eating Zamboanga's Knickerbocker.
Sunset + Knickerbocker = B.L.I.S.S.
It's a tasty mixture of fruits (watermelon, mango, melon, coconut, banana and gulaman jelly) with milk and strawberry or vanilla ice cream on top. It's their own version of halo-halo. Aside from Knickerbocker, Paseo del Mar offers a wide variety of food choices, from grilled food to burgers to pizza. You may eat your heart out while watching the beautiful sunset, overlooking Little Santa Cruz Island.
Just look that at picturesque Zamboanga sunset. Simply beautiful for words!
Last part of our day trip is we went to Alavar Seafood Restaurant to try their Curacha dish, served with their famous Alavar sauce.
It's my first time eating something like this and my buddies did a good job in pushing me to try it. I'm like, if it's not fish or shrimp, I won't eat it. But this one was different, it's Curacha with Alavar sauce! Only served here in Zamboanga City! Funny thing is, my friends taught me how to eat Curacha LOL. I'm such a noob.
It was a tiring day, but we still have 4 more days to enjoy our trip! The next part of my blog will take you to the famed pink beach! Before I forget, here's the suggested itinerary and expenses for today's trip, keep in mind that this is a shared budget for a group of five though but I hope you find it useful.
DAY 1: Zamboanga City Tour
7AM - ETA Zamboanga
7:15AM - Arrival at Chang V Pension House
9:00AM - Start city tour
9:10AM - Zamboanga City Hall, Plaza Pershing
9:30AM - Breakfast at Tsokolate
10:30AM - Paseo del Mar
11:15AM - Plaza del Pilar
11:30AM- Church visit
11:45AM - Buy groceries downtown
1:00PM - head back to inn for siesta
3PM - Lunch/Merienda at Paseo del Mar
4PM - Vinta ride
5PM - Sunset watching
6:30PM - Dinner at Alavar Seafood Restaurant
8PM - go home
Budget: (in pesos)
8 - jeep to Canelar from airport
8 - jeep to downtown
65 -Blueberry Cheesecake at Tsokolate
8 - jeep going back to inn
8 - jeep going downtown
65 - Knickerbocker
120 - pizza
9 - jeep to Alavar Seafood Restaurant
180 - shared dinner
200 - shared room rate