<< Rewind: 2008
I was discouraged by the locals of Zamboanga City to even try visiting Rio Hondo. During that time, kidnapping is so rampant that just 3 days before I arrived, a Chinese businessman was kidnapped. But that incident didn’t deter me to visit the community of stilts in Rio Hondo and Mariki. I was surprised by the enthusiasm and warm welcome of the Muslims; I even gained a friend, Kuya Gams Hassan.
March of 2011
I went back to the same community. This time I wanted to dig deeper, to really see how the locals live in this condition of the changing of tides so I hired a paddleboat to tour the community. I even wished that there is a motorhome insurance comparison site to help me but there was none.
It seem like the LGU has forsaken this part of the city. I was comparing the state of this village with what I saw 3 years ago. Only a little changed except that more and more are visiting the stilted community. I was glad to have met some Germans, Canadians and Americans visiting my friends; all of us are welcomed, smiled upon and treated as honored guests.
Into the depths of Rio Hondo and Mariki
Rio Hondo means deep river from the Spanish words “river” (rio) and “deep” (hondo). It was low tide when Ton started to paddling into the water village. Steve explained some of the Islamic culture as we passed by houses nestled above the waters of Zamboanga seas. I become aware of the importance of these waters to the locals; this is where they get their livelihood, their way of transporting good, a place to bathe, a playground for the kids and of course what they call their home.
It was a very humbling experience just trying to imagine how these tribes live their life here. I wish I can experience homestay the next visit. I believe that others will really admire the resiliency of my Muslim brothers down south as I did many times.
How to experience the Mariki & Rio Hondo Paddleboat Tour?
Should you plan to pay a visit, you can contact Gammar Hassan at 0906-457-1563. Be sure to call him in advance. It would also help if you mention me. Not into paddleboat? You can just do a walking tour by the stilt bridges that connect one house to another.
How to get to Rio Hondo:
There is a jeepney terminal from Zamboanga City, near Plaza Pershing going to Rio Hondo (just ask around). Fare is Php6 to Rio Hondo.
Alternatively, you can just walk for 10-15 minutes from the Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza shrine at the back of the Zamboanga City National Museum. The Rio Hondo arch can be seen from the shrine.