January 30, 2015

Zamboanga Hermosa

Posted in Traveling Minstrel Journals at 15:36 by Miracle

© Miracle Romano

Hermosas © Miracle Romano

A day after we left Zamboanga City last week, a bomb exploded in Zamboanga’s Guiwan Bus Terminal killing 1 person and injuring 48.  My mom’s cheeks that were still pink from frolicking at Pink Beach seemed to pale slightly when the news reached us.

No official statement has been released regarding the motives behind the bombing, but there have been assumptions linking it with the Zamboanga Siege, a standoff between government forces and an arm of the Moro National Liberation Front that paralyzed the economic activity in the city and displaced about a hundred thousand residents in 2013.

Zamboanga City has never held any appeal for me during previous visits and sightseeing was always done on second thought and not without hesitance.  News of bombings and skirmishes every now and then hardly encourages visitors who are unaccustomed to such normalcy to tarry long.  But it was time to have our passports renewed again and the office of the Department of Foreign Affairs in our region was in Zamboanga City.  It also happens to be the most efficient and systematic government office I have ever been to, and so, armed with extra prayers for safety, we headed for Zamboanga City anyway.

Wishing to seize two birds with one stone, I pushed for an excursion to the Great Sta. Cruz Island.  The prospect of finally seeing the Pink Beach and the trip being our first family trip since Italy in 2012 was what got me excited.

Although things would have been much different If I were traveling solo. I would have ventured with my camera into the areas of the city affected by the siege and interacted with the residents, but I was heavily guarded and was expected to behave like a proper only daughter.  Ambling to the city’s Paseo del Mar was the best I could do, but I am so glad I did.

It was there before the dazzling setting sun that I saw the “Zamboanga Hermosa” that I had never seen before: Christians and Muslims sharing the same walkway and greeting each other with smiles; Schoolgirls whispering and giggling and stealing glances at my cute younger brother; Lovers lost in their own worlds; Couples promenading leisurely with newborn babies; Chatter in chavacano that sounded so foreign to me enlivened the air; There was laughter and a tranquil breeze; The enigmatic outline of Basilan decorating the horizon; Beautiful, dark-skinned Bajaus from the neighboring islands in their tiny boats ripping the lucent sea that magically smoothened itself out; And the sea! The silver and mysterious sea seemed to rival the silken, flowing hijabs of the women on land.

Bajau Girl at Dusk © Miracle Romano

The only explosion that I witnessed was that of the sun at sunrise, and the only vestiges of the standoff in that area were the post-siege “No te vayas de Zamboanga” (Don’t leave Zamboanga) pleas printed on tarpaulins.  But even without those pleas, this particular trip was enough for me to understand why many still choose to stay.

We have brothers and sisters who live in a place where peace comes as unpredictably as danger, but for them Zamboanga is hermosa, and for many of them it is home.

Before Sunrise in Zamboanga © Miracle Romano

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Related Entry: Tickled Pink at the Pink Beach

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