Zamboanga and Mindanao

Over the past years I have had more than a few opportunities to travel across several continents, but there’s still one high-priority area that has eluded me: Mindanao, the southernmost region of the Philippines. Although sidelined by the emergence of the Islamic State last year in the Middle East – when I ended up visiting Iraq – and a commitment to learning Spanish that brought me to Mexico and Central/South America, I remain anxious to visit this largely uncharted cultural destination, risks and all.

For fun, here are a few photos of Mindanao and some of its interesting sights. The images below focus on the Zamboanga Peninsula, it’s largest city of the same name, and the island of Basilan to the south.

A mosque on the island of Basilan, in the southwest of Mindanao.
A mosque on the island of Basilan, western Mindanao, south of Zamboanga City and peninsula. (Click photo for original work, same below)

Visiting mosques is always exciting to me — has been so ever since I strolled through Delhi, India, and ended up at the Jama Masjid, the country’s largest Muslim house of worship. Host to a majority Muslim population, Mindanao is sure to offer me the chance to repeat that exciting experience many times over.

A breathtaking beach near Zamboanga City.
Warm, white sand and warm, blue waters…

This white sand beach outside of Zamboanga City shows that there’s something for everyone in Mindanao, maybe even the casual tourist accustomed to Hawaii or the Caribbean — *as long as they are aware of the dangers that can be found in the region.

Basilan market
A bustling market in Basilan.

Again, I must unfortunately emphasize that I have not been to Mindanao or the Philippines yet, but seeing images like the market above are almost mystical to me. I can only imagine and savor the excitement of getting off a ferry and stepping out into a port with this kind of activity going on all around.

A busy street in Isabela City.
Up for a ride? Three-wheelers will take you around Isabela City – an independent municipality on Basilan island – for the cheapest prices, or so I hear from Filipino friends.

Another street scene, pictured above. I am looking forward to the day when I can post photos and details from an internet cafe about my experiences in the Philippines.

*A word of caution, however, if you are planning a trip yourself. There are a lot of beautiful sights to be seen in Mindanao, but it I must state clearly that dangers persist in this area, especially in Basilan, nearby islands such as Jolo, and the rural areas of the Zamboanga Peninsula due to the threat of the Abu Sayyaf network (a group that recently drifted into the Islamic State camp) and other Islamist militants. Kidnappings and large-scale incidents do occur, as was the case early this year. Even Zamboanga City – which many foreigners consider safe – was the scene of a siege and insurrection in 2013, an incident that left some two-dozen security forces, several civilians and around 200 attackers dead.

That said, if what I hear from local contacts in the Philippines and fellow travelers who have had the privilege to visit is true, Filipino security forces are very professional and the people themselves have been dealing with these issues for years. Major cities have standard protocols and safety expectations, while the consensus dictates that the countryside and the islands are only for the most daring and adventurous travelers.

I hope to be one of them soon enough.

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4 thoughts on “Zamboanga and Mindanao

  1. It’s pretty safe here in Zamboanga City. You can read my friends blog about zamboanga. http://www.joshuadalupang.wordpress.com and maybe you can have some idea how safe it is here. But if you are a foreigner and if your skin color is different from the rest if us, hmmm that’s another story. But you can still visit a lot o sites here in the city. You can try the pink sands os sta cruz island, the yakan weavers village, pasonanca park, fort pilar, paseo del mar, la vista del mar, and so many other things that are pretty close to the city.

    1. Hi, thank you so much for the feedback…it’s great to hear a local’s take on what’s going on in Zamboanga. Obviously, your words carry more weight than mine when it comes to understanding and taking precautions in this fascinating city. As for skin color, well, I’m a blonde, white American…so I’ll certainly stand out. If all goes according to plan though I’ll develop some contacts in Mindanao or travel alongside Filipino friends from Manila, Quezon City, or Marinduque. I’ve been to a lot of places on my own, but it’s always more fun among friends.

      I look forward to visiting your country soon and hope we can stay in touch. I’ll make a list with all the sights you mentioned.

  2. Enjoyable article to read Corey! Visiting the Philippines would truly be a unique experience, different from other Asian countries because every island has its own unique personality. The scenery is like a wild, untamed version of Hawaii, raw and untouched by too much modernization. For the most part the people are very hospitable and love laughing, having fun and are quick to treat you like family. If you can find a good group like this when you travel to Mindanao, you should be safe!

    I could help get you in touch with good people from Marinduque who have travelled to Mindanao, and they might even want to join you. Whatever you decide, I hope that your trip there safely brings you a lot of new and exciting cultural experience, knowledge and happiness!

  3. Corey!hi:) just read your article about mindanao.. I know you’ll soon set foot in this place, though been known as a dangerous place, mindanao is also a paradise. Im sure there are a lot of good things you can discover as you stroll down basilan in a three-wheeler which we call “tricycle”.. And if you given a chance, you can also visit others places here in the Phil.. If you’re up to nature tripping and beaches you can visit palawan;) have a safe trip!

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