"a caterpillar doesn't just grow into a butterfly. a caterpillar must undergo metamorphosis, and a cocoon is where a caterpillar risks it all: enters total chaos, undergoes total rebuilding, and is born to a new way of living. only in taking the risk of entering that inert cocoon can the caterpillar go from dormancy to potency, from ugliness to beauty."

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

the unplanned part of our tawi-tawi trip: the zamboanga city sidetrip

“A story to me means a plot where there is some surprise. 
Because that is how life is -- full of surprises.” 
-- Isaac Bashevis Singer

thanks to aircraft situation and sunset limitation
this is part 1 of a series entitled breathtaking tawi-tawi: our journey to the philippines' southernmost frontier.

day 1. april 21, 2011. maundy thursday
route: manila to zamboanga city, zamboanga city to tawi-tawi

our arrival in zamboanga city a few minutes past six in the morning

we -- kat and i -- took the first flight from manila to get to zamboanga city. we were supposed to fly to tawi-tawi soon after that but "aircraft situation" (and no further explanation) delayed our tawi-tawi-bound flight -- this, after we already checked in. c'est la vie!

the check-in counter
flight no.: 2P 243. destination: zam-twt. ETD: 10:30am

with a major part of our tawi-tawi day 1 itinerary suddenly wiped out due to "aircraft situation," the moment was ripe for pulling from out-of-the-blue a then non-existent plan B. we went out of zamboanga international airport and decided to go around the city, not exactly knowing yet what else to do.

kuya edwin, a tricycle operator and driver whom we met just outside the airport, became our instant tour guide. he took us, first, away from the airport, then, around the city -- to paseo del mar, fort pilar, pasonanca park, and back to the airport.

kuya edwin, his red tricycle, and kat and i in zamboanga city

paseo del mar
zone IV, zamboanga city

paseo del mar is a seafront parkway, which is very accessible from the main grounds of nearby fort pilar via valderoza street. as a reclaimed esplanade facing the basilan strait, the paseo allows the visitors to see from afar the islands of basilan and sta. cruz during good sunny days. at night, the paseo is the place to be for people who enjoy good food, great company, and colorful lights by the seaside.

a section of paseo del mar

there are numerous food shops in paseo del mar but, since we arrived there on a maundy thursday morning, none of them were open. in fact, we were the only people around. just as well. minus the hustle-bustle and under the scorching heat of the sun, we were able to appreciate the place -- benches, cemented breakwater walkways, brick patterns, and all -- and the sights we saw from there. 

a short boatride away from the mainland: sta. cruz as seen from paseo del mar
sta. cruz is famous for pink coralline sand beaches.

basilan's silhouette as seen from the breakwater of paseo del mar

fort pilar
a major historical and cultural heritage landmark in zamboanga city

think of fort pilar as zamboanga’s intramuros. it is a 1635-vintage military defense fortress commissioned by the spanish colonial government as zamboanga territory’s protection from local pirates and raiders. it started as real fuerza de san jose (royal fort of saint joseph).

a wall of fort pilar as seen from the outside

the present-day name, fort pilar, is short for the royal fort of our virgin lady of the pillar of zaragoza or, in spanish, real fuerza de nuestra señora del pilar de zaragoza, the fortress’ 18th century name.

by virtue of presidential decree no. 260, fort pilar became a national cultural treasure in 1973 and is now a regional hub of the national museum of the philippines.

the main entrance of fort pilar

part of fort pilar, specifically the eastern wall, is an outdoor roman catholic marian shrine. devotees to the patroness of the city, the our lady of the pillar, visit the site to pay homage.

the marian shrine in fort pilar

the bells of the sanctuary to the lady of the pillar

while some portions, particularly those of the southern wall, remain in ruins, the rest of the fort already underwent rehabilitation and they have well-maintained gardens.

pasonanca park
the premier outdoor recreation site in zamboanga city
brgy. pasonanca, zamboanga city

about seven kilometers from the city proper is zamboanga’s “little baguio of the south” and one her highest elevated barangays relative to sea level, brgy. pasonanca -- home to pasonanca park, a main tourist attraction in the city.

the canopies of old, old trees in pasonanca park

once you reach the area and start going uphill, it is difficult to miss the natural cool-and-breezy aura of pasonanca. the park is huge and home to many different species of trees, flowering plants, ferns, and shrubs. the park facilities include swimming pools, an aviary, an amphitheater, a convention center, and camping grounds.

the old tree house
at the main entrance to pasonanca park is a tree house, which, after its construction under the mayorship of cesar climaco in 1960, has since become a symbol of tourism for the city.

the pasonanca tree house, a symbol of tourism painted on a stone

personally, i consider the house as a part of my family history. my parents visited the place and climbed the tree house when they were still in the courtship stage. growing up, i saw the tree house in my parents’ photo albums and i used to wonder what it's like to be there.

the tree house in zamboanga city's pasonanca park
more than 30 years ago, when they weren't yet married,
my parents had their pictures taken here
and it was my first time last 04.21.11 to experience this place. very surreal! :-)

my mama said that, when they were there, the house only had a bench. when i got there, the tree house was already furnished with a bed and cabinets  --  basic amenities for a short stay and very reminiscent of dorm living.

according to zamboanga.net, permit to use the tree house to pass the night and commune with nature can be obtained at the office of the mayor.

the marcos-era convention center as seen from the tree house
the building is unfinished but its basement is being used
as the regional office of the department of interior and local government.

camp atilano and the scout park
not far from the location of the pasonanca tree house is the arch marker for camp jose t. atilano and the entrance to the scout park.

boy scouts of the philippines zamboanga city council office
official name: scout antonio m. limbaga memorial training center

the scout park has very well-maintained lawns which serve as camping grounds to boy scouts and girls scouts especially during jamborees.

it is actually a park of the boy scouts and was developed in honor of the 24 boy scouts and scouters of the philippines who perished due to a plane crash somewhere in the arabian sea and indian ocean while they were on their way to marathon, greece for the 11th world jamboree in 1963. one of the boy scouts was antonio m. limbaga, a 15-year old zamboangueño, first class scout, and son of zamboanga’s city engineer at that time.

these green teepee-inspired structures are made of steel

there are 24 green teepee-inspired tent structures in the camping grounds and 24 concrete stands arranged in a circle around the campfire area of the amphitheater. they are dedicated to the 24 scouts and scouters, whose names, by the way, were also used to rename the streets of quezon city's barangay obrero, laging handa, and paligsahan. their bodies were never recovered; streets, monuments, and markers were named in their honor.  

the water tank of the scout park
these two photos of me "climbing" the tank are owned by kat.
no, i didn't climb all the way to the top.

after kat and i took all the pictures that we wanted to take, kuya edwin offered to take us to the swimming pools but we weren’t in the mood to swim so we passed on that one. we asked to be taken back to the airport instead.

the zamboanga international airport

facade of the zamboanga international airport terminal building

we had just gotten back to the airport from our unplanned but fruitful enough zamboanga city tour when an announcement related to our tawi-tawi flight was made over the public address system: our initially “just delayed” flight was already altogether cancelled due to "sunset limitation" (and, again, no further explanation). at that point, our tawi-tawi day 1 trip totally got wiped out. we had no choice but to stay the night in zamboanga city while looking forward to the next day's special flight for tawi-tawi.

we learned from our chit-chat with the locals at the eatery just outside the airport that the “aircraft situation” meant a technician had to be flown in to zamboanga first just to fix whatever was wrong with the plane. due to this delay and because the plane had to fly first to jolo before going back to zamboanga to take passengers to tawi-tawi, “sunset limitation” caused our flight to be cancelled for the day.

the airline, air philippines, arranged and paid for our overnight stay in grand astoria hotel and scheduled for us a next-morning special flight.

on our way to grand astoria, kat and i were given the opportunity to make friends with clint and tessa, fellow passengers from the cancelled flight (and of the next morning’s special flight, too) and who turned out to be members of the mountaineering group that we were to meet up with in tawi-tawi. it was from them that we learned the explanation for “sunset limitation”:  the airport in sanga-sanga (pronounced as “sang-ga sang-ga”), tawi-tawi is not equipped with runway lights and arrival of the aircraft during dim conditions is not advisable. 

my facebook status update on the 21st of april 2011, 2:44 pm philippine time

our assigned room in grand astoria hotel along mayor jaldon street

so there. having accepted our fate for the day but still with high spirits, we gave ourselves a gastronomic treat at alavar seafood restaurant where we had a very sumptuous all-seafood dinner with rice.

all things yummy | alavar seafood restaurant

verde manga con bagon gata and zamboanga white
unripe mangoes with shrimp paste and lychee shake, zamboanga city-style!

with all that said, this could have not existed if it weren't for "aircraft situation" and "sunset limitation." here's the blog article counterpart of my photo album tribute to those two rhyming phrases!

all's well that ends well. we squeezed in an unplanned zamboanga city tour to our 4-day holy week trip and still eventually got to tawi-tawi and had our 2011 summer adventure in the philippines' southernmost province. :)

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