Samba, Mambo... ZAMBO!!!
if there's one place in the Philippines
where Spanish speaking should be encouraged,
where TV Patrol CHAVACANO
is broadcast daily on ABS-CBN Zamboanga at 5:30pm!!!
Most folk from MetroManila are deathly afraid
of Zamboanga's violent reputation:
the Abu Sayaff terrorists;
rogue cop Rizal Alih, scourge of Camp Cawa-Cawa;
the assassination of Mayor Cesar Climaco.
Eddie Garcia has starred in so many movies
about dramatic real-life characters from Zamboanga,
the rest of the Philippines thinks of the city
as a permanent war zone like bloody Bosnia or Beirut.
Zamboanga is a bustling city
with the surest sign of development:
malls rapidly rising one after another.
just outside downtown,
there's a beautiful bay where vintas glide by,
and in the distance,
the pink sand beach (!) on Sta. Cruz Island.
I love Zamboanga.
I love hearing the locals converse in Chavacano,
the only Philippine dialect that is 75% Spanish.
Parts of Cavite used to be Chavacano-speaking as well,
but my best friends from Etivacs
now only know one Spanish word : P*TA!
I totally disagree with GMA's cunejo-brained idea
to re-institute Spanish in all our schools nationwide;
I'd recommend that it be brought back formally,
but only in Zamboanga, where immersion in that
romance language is the easiest thing to accomplish.
Just check out the airport restroom:
Zamboanga is geographically closer to Malaysia than to Manila,
and one of the interesting places to visit
is the Barter Trade,
wherein tourists can buy all the
malongs & sarongs they want,
plus all the Halal chocolates and sweet goodies
that are brought in from Malaysia and Indonesia.
But as far as I'm concerned,
the best thing to buy in Zamboanga is this,
Alavar's BAGOONG GATA!!!
I've never had anything quite like it anywhere else.
It really doesn't taste like
the salty bagoong Pinoys are used to;
it's more like a rich sate sauce
cooked in the creamiest coconut "unang piga".
during my recent birthday party,
I served it with Mangang Hilaw as pulutan.
At the end of the evening,
there were still lots of sliced manggoes,
but the Bagoong Gata was wiped out.
My friends were eating
the creamy coconut-y shrimp paste
the way Joe Black ate his peanut butter,
straight off the bottle!
I bought a case of the good stuff
to give out as Christmas Gifts:
Here are some more unique pasalubongs from Zambo:
just like the famous sardines from Dipolog;
these are beef strips, thinner than tapa,
steeped spanish-style in oil/peppers/pickles/carrots!
chewy glutinous mini-rice cakes,
available in chocolate, peanut, or buko pandan,
perfect for dipping in coffee; think round biscotti.
the Chavacano version of barquillos;
they look like rolled-up banigs
made out of rice fibers.
This time of the year,
the century-old, well-preserved City Hall,
which looks, well, like the facade of a Spanish fort,
is all lit up, a December tradition
that is enjoyed by all, Christians and Muslim alike.
And right in front of City Hall,
a vestige of the American Occupation,
a monument to Jose Rizal
that bears all the signs of Manifest Destiny:
complete with a Dalagang Filipina
version of the Statue of Liberty!!!
One thing's true though,
as the Americans are wont to say,
prudence is still the better part of valor,
specially in Zamboanga.
It's best to go around and tour the city
with a Zamboangueno who knows the ins and outs,
where to go and what not to do,
lest you meet people like these dudes from Basilan,
just an hour's boat ride away from the city,
who were sentenced to life in prison
for the Dos Palmas kidnappings.
On the way home,
I was praying that no retaliations
would be forthcoming from their Abu friends,
specially NOT while I was at the Zamboanga airport!
I couldn't help but think about it,
as the class pictures of their batchmates
were prominently posted in the pre-departure area!
Zamboanga also has some of the largest, fattiest
crabs and prawns in the Philippines,
not to mention the easy availability of abalone!
Vamos a comer!!!