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.


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.




zamboanga zamobanga

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.


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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Add Your Comment
    • Drew
    • February 20, 2017

    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!

  1. 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
    • February 20, 2017

    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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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
    • February 22, 2017

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

    • Pedro
    • February 23, 2017

    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. 😀

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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
    • February 27, 2017

    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.

  10. 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
    • February 28, 2017

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

      • March 1, 2017

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

    • Megan Jerrard
    • March 1, 2017

    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!

      • March 5, 2017

      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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