Traipsing Solo in Zamboanga

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.

Barangay Gandawan in the town of Don Victoriano Chiongbian, Misamis Occidental.

Lake Duminagat

Meeting the cutest, most adorable ‘mountaineer’ ever

Mountaineer in diaper: one-year-old Mishka, the daughter of my guide in Misamis. She already knows how to attach a can of butane to a stove; necessary knowledge for a mountaineer, serious fire hazard for a toddler.

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.

Dipolog boulevard at dusk.

Beach at the end of the concrete boulevard.

Climbing the 3,003 steps to Linabo Peak

Not recommended if you hate stairs.

Also not recommended to go there on a rainy late afternoon. This is the view you’ll see when you get to the top. And the concrete stairs end about 40-50 meters before the peak so you’ll have to climb mossy and slippery rocks. There are ropes though so it’s still manageable.

Visiting Jose Rizal’s home in Dapitan

Replica of Rizal’s house.

The same mountain range Rizal would’ve seen from his home.

Being adopted by local mountaineers in Zamboanga City

Bimbim, my gracious host in Zamboanga. He gave me a place to stay, drove me around the city, brought me food and water (and even an icepack for my bukol), taught me how to speak Chavacano, took care of just about everything I needed, and made sure I always had a great time.

Mike, Chucky, Bimbim, Fidel and Jongjong. It was a riot hanging out with these guys. Non-stop laughtrip.

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.

Since Pulong Bato is a monolith, there was naturally some rock climbing involved. (Photo credit: Mike Soriano)

With Chucky, Bimbim, Fidel and Jongjong. Dahil ang mga tunay na mountaineer ay nagpapayong. (Photo credit: Mike Soriano)

Feasting on Pastil and Satti

Pastil is a local delicacy similar to empanada with a filling of either cooked pancit bihon (rice noodles) or sautéed togue (mung bean sprout). What makes it special is the spicy vinegar sauce that each pastil shop competes to perfect.

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).

Another famous delicacy in Zamboanga is satti, a meal composed of puso (rice wrapped in coconut leaves), barbecued beef, chicken or liver, and a special sauce that was probably concocted with some magical incantation because it tastes so damn good.

So maybe I finished four of the five plates in front of me. Go ahead and judge. Thanks to Bimbim and Jongjong for all the free satti!

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.

Malamawi White Beach

Beachineering with Jongjong, Krisha, Daphne, Abdel, Fidel, Chucky, Al and Bimbim.

Learning Chavacano

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.

Fidel, the official tanggero who was happily drunk by this time.

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.


45 thoughts on “Traipsing Solo in Zamboanga

    1. nagbabasang pinoy Post author

      Ayos, tara! Tinatanong na nga ng Zambo guys kung kelan babalik dun. Hehe. Sa Oct. 12 nag-iinvite sila. Hermosa Festival kasi yun sa Zamboanga. May Sta. Cruz Island din na pwede i-sidetrip. Balikan din natin ang Malindang. Makarating man sana ako finally ng North Peak.

          1. Alex "jung-jung" tagbar

            yes pwedeng-pwede. tapos caving tayo and akyat din tayo some mountains in zambaonga del sur or pagadian city after nyo mag Mt.Malindang

            1. Tintin Post author

              Yay!!! Gusto ko lahat yan. 😀 Lapit na freedom climb nyo! Nasa Bukidnon ako niyan. Kita ta. Dala kayo pastil at Red Horse. Hehe.

  1. Alex "jung-jung" tagbar

    thank you for the post tin.. jungjung is here. pagkatapos mo mag zamboanga try mo rin bundok sa zambaonga del sur. we will guide you there also..texttext nalng. hope to see you soon

    1. Tintin Post author

      Aww.. Gracias! I had the best time in Zambo because of you guys. Alegre gayot! Can’t wait to go back para makakain ulit ng pastil kina Chucky at ng satti sa Jimmy’s at nung masarap na cheese bread at pan de mongo sa 24hrs na bakeshop. Hehe. Miss ko na kayo! 😀 Ano ba yan, na-homesick kog kalit for Zamboanga. Haha!

      1. Alex "jung-jung" tagbar

        hehehe.. ayos lang yan. basta pagbalik mo “liba kanamun pasalubong estaba ali na manila ha”. kwidaw tu.

        1. Tintin Post author

          Si! (Bisag wala nako nasabtan ang uban nimong gisulti. Hehe) Bueno ya yo kombersa pati entende lenguaje de Zamboanga pag-adto ulit nako diha. 😀

    1. Tintin Post author

      Uy Al! Ikaw pala ‘yan. Thanks for dropping by. Yep, see you soon! Balik kami diyan sa October. Sama ka samin sa Tawi-Tawi! Seryosong usapan. 😀

      1. cirivla ollip

        yup ako to tin hehehehe binaliktad ko lang name ko..grabeh ka tin ha ang ganda nang page mo..saludo ako sa u dear!!!

        1. Tintin Post author

          Naks naman, thank you! 😀 I’m a sucker for compliments so I really do have a huge grin on my face right now. Haha. I miss you guys!

    1. Tintin Post author

      Haha thanks! Baka gusto mong sumama samin bumalik dun sa October. Me, Vernz, Fred, Des, Myrish, Harrie. With sidetrip sa Tawi-Tawi. Let’s go! 😀

      1. Karen Reyes

        magkano naman ang damages nito Tin?hehe (interested pero di alam kung may budget :p), I heard you already have airfares…. May exact date na kayo ng October?

  2. judy

    tin, pwede ba ako sumama? kaso october na…basilan is one place i really want to visit someday. (next time sana paki translate ang hindi filipino o english na comment ;-))

    1. Tintin Post author

      Unfortunately, I had to cancel that trip because of work. Next time. 🙂 Did you mean the Chavacano phrase that I didn’t translate? Wag na lang, bastos eh. 😀

        1. Tintin Post author

          Oo naman. You guys are the most awesome hosts ever!!! 😀 Ang lungkot lang di ako makakasama kina Fred pero I’m sure di nyo naman sila pababayaan. Hehe. Basta balik ako diyan. Akyat pa tayong Tabo-Tabo eh. Miss ko na kayo sobra! Miss ko na rin ang satti at pastil!

          1. Alex "jung-jung" tagbar

            hahaha… ok lang yan.. may itinerary na kami. day trek bukas tapos mag tabo-tabo peak kami sa 20-21 pagbalik nila. hehehe.. siempre naman hindi namin pabayaan yun…

  3. judy

    tin, how do you make or plan your trips? like how long in advance? or mostly spur of the moments? ksi kung planned, like a year or months in advance, i want to come along, if ok with you….para pag may promo fare, maka book agad lalu na visayas at mindanao;-)

    1. Tintin Post author

      Hi Judy. I book flights pag may promo fares. Yung sched usually random lang, depende kung alin ang available sa seat sale. I don’t really “plan” my trips. I don’t even have an itinerary when I travel. This may not be the best or most efficient way to travel for a lot of people but I’m comfortable with it and I’m having fun. Kaya bihira din akong mag-aya actually and I travel solo most of the time kasi baka maging miserable lang ang kasama ko with my travel style. Hehe. But if you’re okay with this set-up, then tara! But remember, you have been warned. 😀

      1. judy

        nice! magkakasundo tayo, tin! haha…yung booked flights ko from june-dec ’13 (except july) from promo fares un last month (around P6k lang to 8 destinations RT na!) wala pa ding itinerary un. may months i have two trips (kailangang kumayod ng husto para may panggastos..otherwise, sayang ung mga confirmed flights ko :-))


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