Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Zamboanga Delight

Next stop in MOTY: the city of Zamboanga.

When one thinks of Zamboanga, you imagine the colorful vintas and the uneasy peace situation. When I first visited Zambo, I thought all these vintas would line up the harbor or the coastal areas. It turns out that these are only seen during the Hermosa Festival. And about the uneasy peace situation? Yes, there were military all around, but Zambo looks like any ordinary peaceful city, surprisingly clean and organized.

We stayed at the Lantaka Hotel, already a landmark in Zambo. It has undergone a much needed renovation, so the restaurant area looked new and modern already. It was a great place for breakfast. They had one of the best bacon and eggs I have tasted (so crisp). New rooms are being constructed and the old ones, renovated. It is a relaxing hotel as it is situated beside the sea, with a small beach (not swimmable) and just beside the ferry. It has a pool with cabanas around it.

Again, we visited 3 nominees for the Microentrepreneur of the Year Awards. One had a business of crab fattening. They buy small crabs and feed them until they are fat and huge. One crab I saw was huge and heavy at 4 kilos. These crabs are fed in crab pens submerged under lakes and surrounding mangroves.

Of course, we ate these wonderful crabs.

There was this boat named HINDER. I thought it was weird but interesting.

Okay, going back to the center of the city, we passed by another nominee, a bamboo furniture maker. The nominee had a German customer who orders from her twice a year. She ships these to Europe in container vans.

The highlight of the shoot was when we visited our last nominee, the makers of Topher's Ice Candy. The ice candy was special as it wasn't hard as ice, but was more like sorbet in a narrow plastic bag. It tasted really great.

They freeze the special mixture of coconut juice, milk (Alaska), coconut bits and cheese by submerging it in a freezer of saltwater. It was really interesting how they do it. No wonder they achieve a soft "sorbet" like texture.

Finally, let's talk more about food. We visited two popular restaurants. The first one was dinner for the 1st night: the much talked about Alavar.

This seafood restaurant is known for its crabs as well and indeed, it was succulent.

I also enjoyed the baked clams they served. It was drizzled with sugar, which gave it an interesting flavor and texture.

We ate so much, as we were a group of 20 people.

We then had lunch the next day in Greenfields, an open air resto serving Filipino food. We had crispy pata and lechon. Talk about cholesterol.

But Greenfields was known for their Kalderetang Kambing, so we had to try it. I didn't like it though so much, as I am not a fan of the kaldereta sauce.

We then headed back to Lantaka, and had some dessert. Their selection of cakes and pastries was interesting as it had cheesecakes, chocolate mousse, durian tarts, sansrival, quiches, huge cookies, and even truffles.

Finally, because our flight was delayed, we walked down the street near the airport to grab dinner in Chinito's. It was a new restaurants, and had a nice ambience. It served Zamboanga White, a lychee and pineapple drink popular in Zambo. The food was not that great, but it was a nice place to hang out.

All in all, Zamboanga is one of the best cities in the country for me. It is clean, organized, and had so much culture and interesting places to go to. I like hearing Chavacano as well, which is a blend of Spanish and Bisaya. Si senor. You'll feel you're in Spain. Even though the situation in Zambo is alarming (they were on red alert when I visited), you will still feel safe, compared to other places in Mindanao.

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