Everybody Was Wrong About Zamboanga

“I’m booked for Zamboanga!” Jubilantly telling everyone, my mom, my relatives, friends, colleagues, my favorite barista, practically everyone.

The response I got? Weird. I get usually frowns and stern looks.

“I know someone who knows someone who can go with you. You need a guide or travel buddy.”

“The people of Zamboanga are not friendly.”

“It’s not safe!? Can you change your flight?”

Seriously. These were true replies I got. Not over reacting or something, but everyone I know seems to have this impression that Zamboanga is not safe. Well, here I am at the airport lounge going back to Manila and so elated and excited to prove that everybody was wrong about Zamboanga.

Every city has a story to tell and Zamboanga is no exception. Flashback to September 2013, entire Zamboanga was under siege from the insurgents of Mindanao. The city was plunged into chaos, trauma and hunger for days.

Back to today, Zamboanga is back on its feet. And it is a story of  the people of Zamboanga and protecting their home at all cost. It is a story of families springing back to life after being displaced from their homes by chaos. It is a story of children going back on weekend afternoons to the breakwater  jumping in delight into the beach. It is a story of teenagers and young love exchanging sweet nothings in the park before evening. It is a story of a city where faith, religion and culture is overzealously protected at all cost.

The craters bored into by mortars and bullet holes are still there in Barangay Santa Catalina, but slowly, at a steady pace, Zamboanga is back to its normal routine of living.

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Walking thru its city streets, where dust never seems to settle and the tricycle is the king of the road, I see obvious evidences of recovery.  Multiple branches of famous fast food hamburger chain in every corner. Shopping centers blasting their upbeat sound system to announce their items on sale. The locals going about their daily routine, spending their weekends for an early Zumba in the park, afternoon playing at the beach and dinner by the bay lit by an orange sunset.

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It is said that get to know a destination and see its characteristics is to walk its streets. You can walk safely around Zamboanga. You can stroll safely after dinner around town and enjoy male teenagers close a portion of the city street and proudly showoff their daredevil skateboarding skills. Zamboanga City is pretty much walkable in any radius and you can reach the city center, the board walk, the famous century-old outdoor church and be back to your accommodation by the end of the day.

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After a short visit to enjoy its famous knickbocker, a sinful creamy dessert loaded with fruits and homemade ice cream, and its beautiful pink sandy beach, I never felt safer in my walking tour. I have never enjoyed talking to tricycle drivers, fruit vendor, fishermen and local beach goers so much in all of my travels. Zamboanga has given me a new insight. There is nothing to be scared of, silly. This realization hits me hard in the head, like what were you thinking?

Everybody was wrong about Zamboanga after all.

Read : Recommended Affordable Places to Stay in Zamboanga City within City Center

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Drew - 9 months ago Reply

I actually had never heard of Zamboanga, so thanks for sharing a new travel destination. It is also interesting to have a conversation about a destination you find intriguing, only to have the other people have the opposite reaction. Of course, I think going to places like Zamboanga, place that aren’t on most peoples’ radar to be far more appealing!

Aileen Adalid - 9 months ago Reply

Lovely post! I’m glad you had a great time there. 🙂 Much like you, most of the time when I travel, people would say things that I shouldn’t go, etc…. and I’m always glad that I still went. It has become somewhat a goal of mine to show just how much the world can be safe and that it’s not always what media paints it to be 🙂

Nicky - 9 months ago Reply

I always think you should visit a place before you judge it! And that’s what you’ve done here! Very informative, and that knickerbocker sounds delicious!

Melissa - 9 months ago Reply

I do had never heard of Zamboanga either – so thanks for bringing it too my attention. I have always found places not high on the tourist list far more interesting – you get a way more local experience at places like this.

Ticker Eats The World - 9 months ago Reply

It’s really heartwarming to see a city that was under turmoil at one time come up again and recapture its glory. And its important for travelers like yourself to write about that so people know because there is often a lot of misunderstanding around that makes people fearful unnecessarily. Glad you took the bold step and had a great time.

Heather - 9 months ago Reply

I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard of Zamboanga until reading this post. It’s refreshing to see that Zamboanga didn’t live up to the reputation of being a scary and dangerous place, but rather friendly and welcoming. I hope fellow travelers will read your first-hand experience and not hesitate to visit Zamboanga to experience all it’s welcoming people and those pink sandy beaches.

Skye Gilkeson - 9 months ago Reply

Good on your for going to find the real story of Zamboanga and its people. It looks like you had a great experience getting among the locals and showing how the city has recovered.

Karla - 9 months ago Reply

I’ve traveled the Philippines but I haven’t been to Zamboanga. It’s about time I should

Pedro - 8 months ago Reply

What an interesting read! I must confess I’m now curious about Zamboanga. I was in Mindanao last year, but only visited Davao “the city of President Duterte”, as everyone would highlight. This year I’m hoping to see more of the Philippines and Zamboanga may just be the “black sheep” that will have everyone talking, as well. 😀

Nat Deduck - 8 months ago Reply

We’ve never heard of this place before! But, you are right! It’s good to go out there anyway and see it for yourself!

Megan Indoe - 8 months ago Reply

Until this post I never even heard of Zamboanga! I am always excited to learn about new travel destinations. I’m glad you didn’t let other’s opinions of the place influence your decision, sometimes you have to just experience places for yourself!

Nathan - 8 months ago Reply

People give me the same reaction when I keep returning to Istanbul, Turkey after all the problems they have faced. Just because there was a problem there once doesn’t mean that it is still there today. I think it’s good you chose to visit now and even better that you had such a great experience.

Toni | 2 Aussie Travellers - 8 months ago Reply

I’m slightly embarrassed that I’d not heard of Zamboanga so your friends and family were one up on me. While I’ll generally follow official travel warnings and am aware of my surroundings I think the best way is to experience it and judge for yourself what feels right. Good to hear you had a good time and didn’t have any issues.

Holly - 8 months ago Reply

Everyone has some opinion about places, especially ones they haven’t been too. Very important to experience and make up your own mind and just heed advice from those who have been. Glad you enjoyed yourself.

Travelwith2ofus - 8 months ago Reply

Great recovery. I say the best way to know the truth about a country or city is to visit for yourself. Look at the wonderful experience you had in Zamboanga. If you had listened to your friends and family you would not have known the truth about Zamboanga.

Erica - 8 months ago Reply

Zamboanga is actually one of the places I’m very interested in. I heard they have awesome less touristy beaches.

    Carla Abanes - 8 months ago Reply

    Oh yes they do! Zamboanga’s got one of the 3 pink beaches in the Philippines!

Megan Jerrard - 8 months ago Reply

So glad to hear that Zamboanga is back on its feet – and I’m glad that you didn’t let the opinions of others who hadn’t been let you miss out on what was obviously a fantastic and rewarding experience. Thanks for the heads up and introduction to Zamboanga – I love visiting these kind of destinations, where the local community is coming back strong!

    Carla Abanes - 8 months ago Reply

    Thanks Meg! Your comments really inspire me more to travel to the road-less-taken kind of destinations. Thanks for dropping by and happy travels!

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