Friday, November 26, 2010

Bienvenidos, Zamboanga City!

By Chef Ed Dychauco

Friday, November 26, 2010

For so long a time, I wanted to visit Zamboanga City. Even when I was a kid then, Zamboanga City was like so far south that it seems so impossible to reach. I can still remember the song that goes like this, "Don't you go, don't you go too far, Zamboanga!" as to the reason why, I can't remember. I can't even remember the next lines of the song. That's how long it has been!

At any rate, I finally got the chance to visit and spent a few days there last weekend. Thanks to Ms. Mac Dang. Marketing and Business Development Manager of Altus Communications Inc. (Nokia), and Mr. Henry Ang of Shoppers Plaza, who initiated this one-of-a-kind activity.

I got a call from Ms. Mac a few weeks ago (who got my contact details from my friends, Chari and Ria of PEP Group Events in Manila). After a short negotiation, I was already in for such a wonderful and exciting trip and activity in Zamboanga City, Asia's Latin City!

I was asked repeatedly if I wanted to travel by plane or by land. Being adventurous myself, I took the long land trip. It was quite exhausting but truly breath-taking and scenic. More long and winding roads than the trip to Davao City! Passing through Iligan City, and Pagadian City, it was Ipil and Sibugay and finally to Zambo City! As I saw the welcome sign (to the city), it took me about another hour to finally reach the city proper. I was quite apprehensive because I got into the city past 7 p.m. And since it was my first time, there was an ambivalent feeling of fear and excitement.

I finally got to my destination, Grand Astoria Hotel with the help of a friend, Mr. Henry Luy of Zamboanga Carrageenan Manufacturing Corporation whom I met here in CDOC several months ago. And from there it was Mr. Marlon Alaba, Mindanao Regional Sales Manager of Altus Communications who was my guide until my culinary demonstration the following day at Sky Park Hotel.

It was a very intimate demonstration where I did a few dishes (rice, chicken & pasta) and a few baked goodies (cupcake, cake and brownie) to the delight of the participants. All finished products were tasted and recipes were handed out, too. And just like any other activity, there were picture-taking after the event for posterity's sake.

I purposely stayed for another day, since it was a Sunday anyway, so I can spend some time for some rest and recreation around the beautiful city. I got to visit the famous Pasonanca Park which I have only read in the books during my school days. Went up the famous tree house and checked out their Aviary where different species of exotic and colorful birds and fowls were seen. It was raining that day but it didn't hamper me from visiting the place.

I also got to visit the well-liked & historic Fort del Pilar (named after Nuestra Senora Virgen del Pilar) where an open chapel/church is constructed and mass held regularly, Plaza del Pilar (a revived area and newly constructed open edifice where shops selling various items can be seen against the back drop of century-old giant Acacia trees which give a very picturesque view of the place) and Paseo del Mar which is just right in front. A very well-developed, modern and clean area by the sea with restaurants and shops, illuminating the area well with those same lights we have in our own Divisoria area. There were so much people when we went there on Saturday night and then again on Sunday, being a family day.

Contrary to reports and news that we hear, Zamboanga City is a peaceful and lovely place. Police visibility is seen around the city. And that really makes a lot of difference. I find the people to be very friendly, too. They would smile at you and you just have to do the same! A city of Smiles!

Several well-known restaurants and eateries can be seen within and even outside the city proper area. Some of the restaurants I got to indulge includes: Abalone restaurant of Grand Astoria Hotel where they serve really great-tasting Chinese Seafoods. Alavar Restaurant is another upscale restaurant that serves Spanish-influenced Seafood dishes. Hai San Seafood Market and Restaurant also serve delicious Chinese-influenced foods. Jimmy's Satti is a very simple restaurant that serves chicken, puso (hanging rice) in a very good and spicy sati sauce that literally is more of a soup than a sauce. Will do another article on food find Zamboanga's food trip next week.

Visited also Myrna's Bake House along Pasonanca Street, the very best in the city in cakes and pastries. A soft-spoken lady who has been in the baking business for 25 years! She is also ably assisted by her unica hija, Ivy, a graduate of CCA, Manila.

My guide for those exhilarating & stimulating tour was none other than the tall, dark and good-looking Mr. Jude Garcines, also of Zam Carr, together with his girlfriend Lara. Of course, what is Zamboanga without visiting the Barter Trade? A shopaholic area for beautiful and colorful Batik, candies, food items, and many more. But since we went there on a Sunday, many of the shops were closed unfortunately. But I still had a lot of fun buying some batik shawls, shirts and pants, imported coffees and chocolates. I swear I could have bought more if I just have more to spend!

Many thanks to Mr. Henry Ang (who also gave me a more-than-a-kilo crab!) and Mr. Henry Luy for those wonderful & mouth-watering seafood lunch and dinner! Truly memorable and calorie-enriching diets. Looking forward to more Sea Food Diets!

Now, I should say, Hasta la Vista, Zamboanga! Till we meet again!
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Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on November 26, 2010.

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