Zamboanga City & Tawi-Tawi Backpacking Tour (Part 1 of 4)
How can you write about a tour you would never imagined would happen or at least you would never knew will be fully-booked?
MINDANAO. Too much negative publicity and scare reporting has come out of it. Okay, let’s zero in at Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. Maybe true and maybe not, but more and more travelers prefer Cebu and Bohol or Davao and CDO over Zamboanga City. Wanting to prove the media’s general portrayal of Zamboanga, Tawi-Tawi and the Muslims wrong, I tried on organizing a cultural backpacking tour of Zamboanga City and Tawi-Tawi. It is my way of telling people that it is safe in Mindanao and Muslims are friends, in fact brothers and sisters, fellow Filipinos who want to have Tagalogs and Bisayas as friends.
“It is my way of telling people that it is safe in Mindanao and Muslims are friends, in fact brothers and sisters…”
I was actually surprised that in less than a month, 6 slots were already full and all of them have their airplane tickets ready (that was February of 2013). After the long wait, 3 out of 6 arrived at the Zamboanga Airport (June 5) and we started the tour with feasting satti at Jimmy’s and curacha of Alavar. Lester, Banggi and Anna became my companions I revisit the sites of Zamboanga City.
Peaceful Taluksangay Mosque
We then went around the city and kicked it off at Taluksangay Mosque. Interestingly, it was Lester and Anna’s first time to enter a mosque. We arrived at the Taluksangay just after the 3pm prayer and so we were able to meet some Sama Bangingi fathers who were heading out of the red mosque. My tour participants were having mixed feelings- kinda scared and kinda surprised of the friendliness of the people they have met so far. The kids were all smiles to have their photos taken and all were game in front of the lenses. IKR! Islam teaches “the way of peace.”
“My tour participants were having mixed feelings- kinda sacred and kinda surprised of the friendliness of the people they have met so far.”
Colorful Yakan Weaving Village
After going to Taluksangay Mosque, we headed to the other side of the city- Yakan Village to see the Yakan women weave some clothes. The Yakans originated from Basilan and some parts of Zamboanga.
It was perfect timing as we saw two ladies weaving a long red and violet cloth. I also met a Yakan weaver who proudly showed to me her handicraft. She said, she memorized the patterns of her recent craft. It took her months to complete a 3ft table runner. Truly amazing!
Then we headed back to pueblo (downtown) to eat at Paseo del Mar with our local guide, Leo, a Tausug from Jolo.
Heart-Breaking Rio Hondo
When we had our stomaches full, we went to Rio Hondo floating village, a Muslim-community feared by many, to look for a stilt house where we can spend the night. We ended up in what they call HongKong Village because its separated from the main island. You can only reach this by doing a stunt above the ultra-narrow wooden bridges built by the locals. If you are poor with your balance you end up using your butt to move forward like what Lester did. In the process, cleaning the bridge with his khaki shorts. What a sure way to gather head scratches and laughs from the Badjaos who were still awake when we crossed the bridges. Thanks Lester aka #OperationLinisTulay for doing some community service.
We managed to find our respective places of sleep and before long we were all like babies. Yes, we did sleep with the community- on stilts.
“They offered us a place to sleep, coffee and bread for breakfast and free show of local talent WITHOUT ASKING FOR A DIME.”
All of us woke up early as the locals were already doing household chores pass 5 o’clock in the morning. We were very fortunate to witness the golden sun as it brightened the village on stilts. We saw small wooden boats passed by along the waterways- some going to school, some going to work. The kids started playing in their simple playground, or should I say the playsea? Anyway, these Badjao kids sure know how to entertain us. They jumped and dove like dolphins in a theme park and capped it with traditional dances to the tune of Dayang-Dayang. What made me smile is that they did this just because we were there and we don’t even gave them a peso or anything just to pull those moves. They did it just because they have visitors.
I actually wanted to cry and kick myself for the many times I shoo-away their kins in Luzon (not verbally but in my mind). But them? They offered us a place to sleep, hot coffee and bread for breakfast and free show of local talent WITHOUT ASKING FOR A DIME.
It was an eye-opener and heart-breaker for me and I’m sure to the rest of the group I was in.
It was time to say good-bye as we are going to the Great Sta.Cruz Island for finally see the Pink Beach.
Zamboanga City’s Pink Beach coming up next.
Zamboanga City & Tawi-Tawi Series:
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Cebu Pacific flies daily to Zamboanga City and 4x a week to Tawi-Tawi. For bookings and inquiries, go to www.cebupacificair.com or call (02)7020-888. The latest seat sales and promos can be found on Cebu Pacific Air’s official Twitter (@CebuPacificAir) and Facebook pages (/cebupacificair).