I just came from a 13-day solo trip in Zamboanga Peninsula. I landed in Dipolog, went on a three-day trek in Misamis Occidental, visited Dapitan, traveled on economy buses late at night from Dipolog to Zamboanga City via Ipil, hung out with local mountaineers, pigged out on pastil and satti, and went on a day trip to Basilan.
It was 13 days of discovering new things, feeling brave, getting scared, making new friends, getting homesick, doing laundry (because I only brought five shirts and two trekking pants, and it turns out five shirts were too much), learning a language, eating a lot, drinking beer, and having a blast.
I hope I could get around to writing about the details of the trip but for now, here are the highlights:
Three days of trekking through seven villages from Zamboanga Del Norte to Misamis Occidental
I was looking forward to climbing the North Peak of Mt. Malindang but that didn’t push through because of chaotic permit issues. So I settled for a lake, a hot spring, eight river crossings, and the warm hospitality of the Subanon people who offered me and my guide free accommodations for two nights.
Meeting the cutest, most adorable ‘mountaineer’ ever
Afternoon walk on the boulevard in Dipolog
The sunset view was great and it was the perfect place for a food trip, from siomai and balut in the afternoon to barbecue and beer at night.
Climbing the 3,003 steps to Linabo Peak
Visiting Jose Rizal’s home in Dapitan
Being adopted by local mountaineers in Zamboanga City
Day Hike in Pulong Bato
It was actually a half-day hike since we started trekking at 1:45pm and was done by 5pm but it was still a fun climb on a slippery trail in the rain. Fun climb na nga lang, gumagapang pa rin ako sa bato at putik.
Feasting on Pastil and Satti
Chucky owns a pastil shop and I had an eat-all-you-can access every time I was there (which was pretty much everyday). Good thing I was only in Zamboanga for a week or I would’ve driven him to bankruptcy with all the free pastil I was devouring. He said I now hold the record in his shop of eating the most number of pastil in one sitting (15 pieces).
Day trip to Malamawi Island in Basilan
The Zamboangueño mountaineers made sure this was one trip I’d never forget and their idea of making it memorable was to take me to a beach in Basilan.
Ketal ya tu? (How are you?)
Cosa de tu yo nombre? (What’s your name?)
Sabroso el pastil. (Pastil is delicious.)
Conambre ya yo gayot. (I’m really hungry.)
Kere ya yo comé satti. (I want to eat satti.)
Coño bonana. (Uhm, very bad words.)
The best way to learn Chavacano is over rounds of Red Horse. Nothing motivates you to learn the local language like being left out of a joke or a funny story because you can’t understand what people are saying. Fortunately, everyone was patient enough to translate for me and teach me a few Chavacano phrases.
I’ve done quite a few travels on my own in the past, from Surigao to Palawan to Batanes. I feel a certain amount of anxiety every time I travel solo but this Zamboanga trip was probably the first time I felt seriously nervous. I’m ashamed to admit that even if I’m a Mindanaoan myself, I still fell into the trap of judging certain places in Mindanao based on stereotypes and simplistic media reports. I still harbored the prejudice that all of Zamboanga Peninsula was dangerous and Basilan must be avoided at all costs. I’m only too happy to have been proven wrong.
It was said that going on an adventure means getting out of your comfort zone. But getting out of one’s comfort zone doesn’t just mean riding on rickety, non-aircon buses or sleeping in cheap hostels with filthy bathrooms. It also means laying aside your preconceptions, keeping an open mind and making an effort to understand the social realities of the communities you’re in.
This was a solo trip but I was never really alone for the most part. Like all my other travels, I was again blessed with the utmost kindness and generosity of strangers. More importantly, I’ve come to love the part of Mindanao I once thought was dangerous and must be avoided at all costs. I promised I’ll be back.