They say that “people make the place;” and now I understand that we are living in a “lonely planet.” Its a lonely planet if you take away the encounters with locals along the way.
This STRANGE[R] ENCOUNTER project is the “heart and soul” of all my journeys and I gladly share this to all my readers.
Strangers who became my friends: Gammar “Kuya Gams” Hassan
Meeting Place: Rio Hondo, Zamboanga City
Dates: July 2008 and March 2011
It was my first time ever in Mindanao (2008) and was foolish enough to believe the negative stigma that media men give to Mindanao. Prior to our meeting I was wary of the Muslims; things changed after my professor referred me to Kagawad Gammar. Gammar is a Tausug and a leader of the community when I first visited the place. I was doing a research in Zamboanga and Basilan at that time.
I was invited to see the real situation at Rio Hondo (a Muslim community on stilts at the southernmost part of Zamboanga City). I was treated closer than a brother and given respect and honor as a fellow. I was even invited for breakfast before I go to Basilan.
I promised to visit back.
I fulfilled my promise to visit the community again. Was surprised to learn that there were more visitors now. I was introduced to more friends from Rio Hondo, that paved the way to tour Rio Hondo and Mariki on a paddleboat (Check the Youtube link and take a peek of real life on the stilt community.
2008. I treated Kuya Gams dinner and we talked a lot of things, most memorable is our exchange of thoughts regarding faith and religion. After 2 days, he invited me in their house for some breakfast before I head out to Basilan.
2011. I was invited again in their house this time with more friends. He arranged for my paddleboat tour along the stilt houses of Rio Hondo and Mariki. A tour not experience by usual tourist visiting Zamboanga.
My last visit to Zamboanga City was a memorable one because I was able to share my story and a suggested 3D/2N itinerary on a budget for Cebu Pacific’s SMILE. You can download the free Zamboanga Travel Guide here.
STRANGE[R] ENCOUNTERS is a new feature on JourneyingJames, recounting the encounters I had with the locals in the places I visit. It’s my aim that the reader would meet the individuals I will talk about. They have become a part of my journey here on earth.
We met and said “hello” as strangers; we bid “good-bye” as friends.