When in Zamboanga: Five Things to Put in the List

Zamboanga City in Mindanao is poised with interesting sights to see despite being highly urbanized. Going around for a day or two offers a variety of discovery in food, culture, and religion to any traveler who may be up to a quick yet worthwhile visit in the city. 

1. Light a Candle at Fort Pilar
Fort Pilar used to be a fortress during the Spanish era. The Spaniards occupied the area to make it as a first line of defense against the sultans of Mindanao and Jolo. 

Right now, it serves as an outdoor shrine dedicated to the patroness of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga Our Lady of the Pilar. People usually light a candle after saying a prayer at Fort Pilar. Candles with different colors are sold nearby. They say that the color you choose depends on your personal intention.

2. Try curacha 
Yes, that succulent cholesterol-inviting crab! 

Curacha, better known as spanner crab or red frog crab, is a small reddish crab that is a very popular seafood in Zambonga City. It's usually cooked with alavar sauce, a salty flavorful sauce with hints of garlic, ginger, onion and coconut milk.

Alavar Seafood Restaurant is one of most recommended restaurants in town where you can get curacha. The price usually starts from 800 PHP depending on the size.

I was able to eat curacha twice. The first one I tried was at the said restaurant while the next was home-cooked by a good friend from Zamboanga City. Just like any seafood dish, curacha is best eaten with rice. Keep in mind, however, that curacha is high in cholesterol (watch out for the blood pressure!) It's good to know how to eat it in moderation.

3. Check out the barter goods
Don't miss out going on a quick shopping at what they call as "barter." The origin is from a long tradition of barter, a form of trading products between the Philippines and neighboring countries Malaysia and Indonesia. One of the popular barters is the Canelar Barter Trade Center

An array of products are sold here. Most travelers consider it as a one-stop shop for affordable souvenirs. In fact, fabrics including malong and shawl are cheaper here. Similar to other open markets in the country, one can haggle at barter.

4. Eat like a local
If you fancy for eating something local, try satti. It is a popular breakfast in Zamboanga City. Basically, it is a small piece of either beef or chicken meat that is barbecued on stick. There is also pork satti but it is rare since Zamboanga City has a huge Muslim population. 
Satti is best accompanied by sticky rice cooked and wrapped in woven coconut leaf (the locals call it "puso"). The dish also swims in thick sweet and spicy sauce. 

5. See an ethnic group
While Zamboanga City has been a fast-growing modernized city, ethnic groups remain. Passing by the city's version of Manila Bay Paseo del Mar will let you see the Badjaos who usually live in the sea. 

Most Badjaos paddle their boats to the shoreline to sell handmade necklaces, earrings, and other accessories. Meanwhile, younger Badjaos are talented divers and can get the coins underwater regardless of how far or deep the coins are. At times, they even play drums and dance in the boat.
Have you been to Zamboanga City? What are the things that you did? 






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