It’s only just begun but the Tokyo Olympics have already stirred up the Philippines with the historic victory of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, furnishing the country with its first Olympic gold medal. Now, if there’s anyone who feels the greatest pride, it’s her fellow townsfolk back home in Zamboanga City. It’s time to shine the spotlight on the town that raised and honed the Philippines’ weightlifting champ, an under-the-radar southwestern city with beautiful culture and gorgeous unspoiled destinations.
Here are the best places that comprise the beauty of Zamboanga City and should be at the top of everyone’s travel itinerary.
Sightseeing & Food Trip: Paseo del Mar
Paseo del Mar is like the Manila Bay of Zamboanga City, a great place to catch the sunset and to fill up with local fare. The vintas or fishing boats with colorful sails resting on calm water make the scenery unique. The boardwalk is also lined with various restaurants such as the locally famous Alavar Seafood Restaurant.
Beach: Santa Cruz Island / Pink Beach
Santa Cruz Island stands apart from Boracay’s white sand beaches with its distinct pink shade. The color may be faint during the day as the fine sand glistens under the bright sun, but the pink beach is most apparent when the sun is closer to the horizon. The beach is hardly commercialized so you can enjoy the island’s peace and quiet. Scuba diving, snorkeling, and mangrove tours are the most common activities.
Nature: Merloquet Falls
Away from the beach, Merloquet Falls is another natural water attraction worth the visit with its unique rock formation veiled by a 10-meter-high, two-tiered waterfall. You can sit on the flat rock at the bottom of the falls and just enjoy the cool natural shower on your back like a massage.
History & Religion: Fort Pilar
Fort Pilar is one of the top attractions in the city, ripe with history and architectural beauty. The vast 17th-century fort houses a National Museum branch where you can find collections of ethnographic and archeological artifacts among others. Fort Pilar is also home to a shrine for Nuestra Señora del Pilar, the patrones of Zamboanga.
Culture & Craft: Yakan Weaving Village
Yakan Village in Upper Calarian, Zamboanga City, offers an insight into the amazing craftsmanship and livelihood of the Muslim community. Here, you can meet local women, clad in colorful yakan cloth themselves, and watch them produce geometric designs out of colorful threads stretched and wound around a wooden loom. Yakan fabrics have a lot of use, from fashionable clothes and scarves to bags and pillowcases. You can buy some from the village as well.
Souvenirs: Canelar Trading Center
Shopping at Canelar Trading Center, also known as Canelar Barter Trade, in Camino Nuevo feels like shopping at a flea market in Malaysia. Aside from local delicacies and colorful yakan products, there are souvenirs you’d usually find in Malaysia and Indonesia such as Mi Goreng, Maggi Kari, and OldTown coffee. The best part is they’re cheap!
The victory of Hidilyn Diaz has not only shifted the limelight on weightlifting as a sport but also on Zamboanga City as a beautiful Philippine destination. And the spots highlighted above are a testament to the town’s secret charm.
Celebrate the wins and cheer for the rest of the Filipino athletes throughout the Tokyo Olympics with these snacks you can enjoy at home!
*Featured image via Hidilyn Diaz on Instagram & Wikimedia Commons