Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Zamboanga Hermosa (part 1)


I’m back! Well, I’ve been back since Sunday but you know how it is…trying to ease into the swing of things while your body and mind are still lounging in the warm afterglow of a fantastic holiday. So let me linger a bit longer in this post-vacation bliss by sharing it all with you…

I was eagerly looking forward to returning to Zamboanga after my first eventful trip there two years ago. During that trip I got my first taste of C’s birth-city, my first taste of curacha, and my first taste of being engaged. Zamboanga delighted me at every corner, swirling around me in so many colors like the beautiful batiks you find in the market.

This year we went back with a bunch of friends in tow, which made the trip extra special…and extra fun! Every day was an adventure, whether we were eating (which we did in glorious excess!), shopping (again…glorious excess!), lying on a pristine beach (sweet island life…), painting the town red (viva Zamboanga!), or singing on stage (oh boy…this needs no further explanation I think). Nothing makes a holiday better than a fabulous group of people to share it with :)


Here are some of the highlights* of my trip:

Zamboanga Airport
Laid back and open air, with a roof designed to blend in with the native architecture and sunlight streaming through the skylights. A troupe of dancers sashay to local music to welcome you. Everyone is smiling and the exotic sound of chavacano tickles my ears. It is at this moment when I feel the complete disconnect from Manila and from work. Heaven!

Knickerbockers and Crispy noodles at Palmeras
Palmeras was the lovely hotel we stayed at. Relatively new-ish (compared to the old, venerable Lantaka by the sea), it has nice clean rooms, friendly staff, and a pretty garden to hang out in. It also has a great café that serves Knickerbockers – a pile of fruits (bananas, watermelon, mango) and jello cubes in a glass, topped with a scoop of strawberry ice cream. It is at once sweet & luscious, and cool & refreshing. I cannot count how many of these concoctions we consumed as a group…too many I’m sure! And every other table in the place seemed to be ordering them as well! Aside from the blessed Knickerbocker, the Crispy Noodles with Seafood is also worth a taste – the sauce is thick and intensely flavorful with tender chunks of seafood all throughout, topped with a generous head of noodles, crispy on top and soft where they are soaked by the sauce. Palmeras Hotel & Restaurant, Pasonanca Road, Zamboanga City. Telefax - +63 62 9913284.

Shopping at the Barter Trade
Now who doesn’t enjoy a spot (or more!) of shopping? :) I certainly do! The barter trade is a complex of stalls selling everything from instant noodles to gorgeous batik cloths, malongs, and sarongs. We all went a little bananas here (well, the girls at least). I came away with malongs and batik robes for the folks back home, as well as kantiw (or sawal…are they the same? anyone?) – the loose cotton pants worn by the Muslims in the region – these pants are so comfy and perfect for lounging!


Exploring Zamboanga City Market
I hadn’t been to the main market the first time I visited Zamboanga, but because we had a contingent among us clamoring for durian off we went to get some. While the durian-eaters inspected the fruit, extolling the virtues of each variety, I wandered about looking at all the produce on display. Aside from the colorful fruit stalls they had the hugest daing (dried salted fish) I had ever seen! Later in the afternoon (yes, we went more than once…apparently cravings for durian are wild and unpredictable!) there were big hunks of tuna being loaded onto scales…although we weren’t in our tuna capital (that would be General Santos), Zamboanga is still a treasure trove of all manners of seafood.

Jimmy’s Satti Haus
Another bit of local eats I missed during my first trip. Satti is little bits of beef or chicken on a stick, grilled over hot coals, much like the Malaysian satay (as we are close neighbors the two could very likely be related). It is served with a sticky orange sauce which is both sweet and spicy. The satti is placed in a bowl literally swimming in the sauce together with rice that has been packed so much it is practically solid. I think we were a bit shocked at how small the satti pieces were, but we quickly found a way around that by simply eating more…heehee! We bought our satti at Jimmy’s Satti Haus (Campaner cor. Brillantes)…get it fresh off the grill and don’t forget the sauce and the rice! We ate ours plain because we got it to-go but I would have loved to have it with all the trappings! Next time I am definitely planting myself at a table and getting the full treatment!

Contemporary designers’ take on the Mascota
The mascota is the dress traditionally worn by the high-society Zamboanga ladies of yore. It is said to be Spanish in origin, which is easy to believe as many things in Zamboanga (including its language) seem to originate from the Spanish. So as not to lose this tradition the city started a mascota competition where local designers create their own renditions of this beautiful costume. The competition this year was held in Fort Pilar and the old stone walls of the aged fort proved to be a magical backdrop for the charming models (each of them tall and tan and slim, with dark shining hair and a come-hither smile…I used to dream about looking like these girls when I was a child!) in their mascota finery. Here’s an article you can read about the mascota competition last year.

That's all for now as the “daily grind” calls and I must answer (criminy). But stick around for part two :)

*I'll be posting highlights but if anyone has questions just email me and I'll answer as best I can!

41 comments:

Marvin said...

Nice write-up Joey, sounds like you had a great time. Besides the New York Knicks, I've never heard of "Knickerbockers" before. It seems a bit similar to halo-halo no? Just no ice, and lots of different fruit? Ok, maybe it's nothing like halo-halo.

katiez said...

I feel like I was there with you. Your descriptions make me want to visit. Glad you had such a wonderful time...

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

What glorious photos! Pictures and words - this was a glorious time!! So glad it was grand Joey! I'll be back for part 2!

Jen Tan said...

Welcome back joey!!!!=)

mtan said...

Yes! I remember my first sati/satti experience in Jolo. Shocking how tiny they are, but eventually you enjoy the spicy sweetness of the sauce, getting fingers all messy with the meat, and the general conviviality of it all.
My mom has these old photos of the barter trade in the 70's. All my dolls when I was a kid came from there. We used to look forward to her trips back from visiting an aunt, because there would be so many interesting things brought back from the barter trade.

Rasa Malaysia said...

I am so jealous, you go to mini vacation every weekend, to like really exotic places, and I get to go to LA only. :P

oggi said...

Good to hear Barter Trade is still open. I used to fly to Zamboanga just to shop at BT and to eat curacha. Can't wait for part 2!

Tartelette said...

I am so thankful for all your travels, as I get to virtually take a vacation. Great read!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Marvin! Actually it does remind me a bit of halo-halo, but better because it doesn't have all the bits I don't like :)

Hi Katiez! Thanks :) It really is a terrific place to visit :)

Hi Tanna! Thank you! I hope to have part 2 up soon :)

Thanks Jen! :)

Hi M! Yes, we just ate more with tons of sauce :) Next time I'll make sure to try it with the rice too! Cool that your mom has those old photos! It is quite an interesting place :)

Hi Bee! LA can be exotic in its own way :) I try to make the most of living in Asia with all the destinations it has to offer...the Philippines alone already has so many places I want to see! Now that there are many promos for cheaper fares it's much easier :)

Hi Oggi! It was definitely fun shopping :) (and of course we also had curacha...)

Hi Helene! Glad you enjoy the posts! :)

katrina said...

Yay, you're back! :-) I want those crispy noodles and satti!

Glad you had a blast! I can't wait to go that side of the country. Mindanao is so exotic to me. I think that island should be my next local trip, so that I can at least say I've been to "Luzviminda" already. ;-)

I read the article about the mascota, and it sounds just like the Tagalog baro't saya with its bell sleeves, panuelo, tapis, etc. What's the difference? It's great that Zamboanga's so proud of their unique culture, though. Manila seems to be all about erasing the past. :-(

veron said...

What a fun-filled trip, Joey! Love all the pictures. I only remember going to Zamboanga del Norte, Dipolog actually. I was working there on the computerized elections of the owner of Dakak who was running for congressman (I even managed to stay at Dakak for a few days free!)

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

You make the reader want to quickly switch over book some tickets so they can come back and say. "I'm booked for tomorrow!" - It sounds absolutely wonderful and makes me want to travel with the family even more.

Kelly-Jane said...

Sounds like a wonderful holiday! and your pictures are really well done too.

Belinda said...

Joey...I'm so glad you had such an amazing time on vacation...and I can see why from these stunning photos. What a beautiful place, and how lucky that C hails from Zamboanga, so you have many reasons to return. :-) I thoroughly enjoyed every word of this post, and can't wait for part 2! Oh, and of course, vacations are all about the excessive eating and shopping, right?! :-)

maybahay said...

lovely photos. great to hear you had a good time. i had a good time sharing your holiday highlights.

Carina said...

Oh Zamboanga! Grabe. I'm proud to say that I've been there too. It's a nice place to visit. And yes, don't forget to try Knickerbockers and curacha. hayy...

ChichaJo said...

Hi Katrina! You should go! It does have a different "vibe" from the Visayas...the "old colonial" air of the Spanish influences shoulder-to-shoulder with all the Muslim influences makes for a very colorful and interesting mix :) I love it! The mascota does look like the baro't saya and I would think may probably be related by way of our common Spanish influences? Not too sure though...either way, yes, it is wonderful the way they are preserving, and celebrating, their culture! :)

Hi Veron! I have never been tro Zamboanga del Norte...and Dakak! Lucky you :) I have a friend who has been and she really enjoyed herself...More to explore!

Hi Amanda! Glas you enjoyed the post...there is really lots to see over here :) And traveling with family and friends is so much fun :)

Thanks Kelly-jane! It was a great holiday :)

Hi Belinda! Thank you! It is a lovely place to visit and I'm glad I have a reason to go back every year :) I hear you on shopping and eating...why hold back while your on vacation right? :)

Thanks Maybahay! :)

Hi Carina! Nice to hear you have visited Zamboanga too :) Curacha and Knickerbockers...oohlala! ;)

tutubi said...

sigh! I got booted out of my company's seminar scheduled there late this year. the same seminar that took me to Dagupan and Butuan.
better luck nect time :(

at least i'm able to visit it thru your blog

Susan said...

Why, thanks for sharing your beautiful photos with us. I'm so pleased you had such a lovely time.

Christy said...

HOLIDAY!!I need one too!! Your writing and pics are really great and tempting me to plan for a vacation...:D:D

ChichaJo said...

Hi Tutubi! Sorry to hear you missed that chance...but I'm sure another one will come along :)

Hi Susan! Glad you enjoyed the photos :)

Hi Christy! Thank you :) Have fun planning your holiday!

zero_flash said...

buenas dias! i hail from this lovely city that you so picturesquely described as a wonderful city. it's such a shame that all negatie publicity overshadows our lovely hometown. your blog, i can say, is nothing short of amazing! keep it up.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Zero_flash! Thanks for the lovely comment! :) I enjoyed both my visits to Zamboanga immensely and hope to go back soon! You have a fantastic city with such a unique personality and ambience :) And yummy food!

EURICE said...

HI!!....IM FROM ZAMBOANGA....ITS NICE THAT YOU APPRECIATE THIS CITY....I LOVE KNICKERBOCKER TOO.....I LOVE EATING AT THEIR CHINESE/DIMSUM RESTAURANT(PALMERAS).....I LOVE WATCHING T.V INSIDE THE RESTAURANT...BCOZ IT FEATURES CHARLIE CHAPLIN.....

ChichaJo said...

Hi Eurice! Zamboanga is gorgeous and I love to visit! And those knickerbockers are truly addicting :)

BUDDHA BANANA said...

great review on Zamboanga and oh, one great thing - it aint negative.

reading your blog made me miss tito gregs' knicker backer.

will definitely be the first on my list when i get to zamboanga this december.

Ram

ChichaJo said...

Hi there Ram! You're going in December? Lucky you! I love that place and yes tito Greg's knicker backer should definitely be on your list (I know him too! Isn't he the sweetest? :)) Enjoy your trip!

BUDDHA BANANA said...

hey Jo, Tito Greg's a good family friend. he sends us a huge bottle of homemade coconut candies every christmas..cant wait. I've not visited in ages, this December will be " food time in Zamboanga", ive to really take advantage btw, you're from Zamboanga?

ChichaJo said...

Wow! Small world Ram! :) I'm not from Zamboanga but my husband's family is :)

BUDDHA BANANA said...

Small world really! Haha I might even know his family. I’m from the Bucoy – Atilano ( Paternal) and Lopez-Vito ( Maternal) clan of Zamboanga

ChichaJo said...

He's from the Blanco family :)

BUDDHA BANANA said...

Lola Nena Blaco? Butch Blanco?..wow small world

ChichaJo said...

Hi Ram! Yes, oh my goodness, small world indeed! That's his dad!

BUDDHA BANANA said...

Hi Joey,

we have an event next thursday ( new dining, lifestyle and events venue opening in Manila)February 12and I'd like to send you an invite via e-mail.

Ram

ChichaJo said...

Hi Ram! My email's on the sidebar :) eighty_breakfasts(AT)yahoo(DOT)com. Sounds great!

lyn said...

Hello!
I'm from Zamboanga City..
It is really a great pride that you enjoyed your stay here in our place.I was amazed by your article.It is really pleasant to know that there's somebody who appreciates everything that we have.It made me proud as a Zamboangueña..
Hope you can visit here again...

ChichaJo said...

Hi Lyn! Zamboanga is such a lovely place! We had a great time and hope to return soon! :) Glad you liked the post!

ME BUDDHA BANANA said...

Hi Joey,

Off topic but hey love your scandiv inspired space. Saw it in marie claire hehe

Ram

ChichaJo said...

Hi Ram! Thanks, glad you like it :) But guess what, we moved! Our new place is being done in much the same style though...because we love the look :)

misisko said...

Hi there..I read this post recently and I am glad to hear good stuff about my hometown. The food there is just awesome! And affordable too.

Our seafood there are ever so fresh!I so miss this! I remembered when I was a kid, mom would buy live crabs,and just placed them on the kitchen floor.She went to do other stuff,came back and saw the crabs near the backdoor.Hilarious! That's how fresh our seafood are.

And our lechon are so good as well! I honestly prefer our lechon over the ones from Cebu. But then it's just me. And did you get to try the barbeque from Airbase?Sooo good!

And the fruits! OMG. I'll forever miss the Sweet mangoes, Marang, Mangosteen, Lanzones...

Palmeras and Aristocrat are the very best..

Suddenly I'm Homesick :(

ChichaJo said...

Hi Misisko! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! I loved Zamboanga and hope to return one of these day. You are right about the fabulous seafood and fruits...and the lechon! Yes, it is absolutely delicious! Are you in Manila? Palmeras opened a stall in SM Mega Mall food court selling their knickerbockers :)