I had been assigned to a lot of places around the Philippines (mostly around Luzon) and my almost two (2) year assignment in Zamboanga City, had been one of the challenging (at first-since I had set some unlikely expectations-which is my bad) and at the same time most memorable.
The City of Flowers
The officer-in-charge at the Zamboanga site had to be replaced due to some work related conflicts. I was the lucky one (‘unlucky’ at first as I had said) to be deployed and be assigned for the next eighteen months. Personally, I did not find any conflict since I do not have had my own family to leave behind. The only family that worried the most was my mom (as always). I pretended that I was okay to ease the tension my mom was dealing with. Nonetheless, I was in a way worried since I was hearing and seeing a lot of not-so good news through media then.
I started my search some historical background of Zamboanga City to make me relaxed in a way. I was confused of what I was reading when it was described as the City of Flowers, ‘El Orgullo de Mindanao’ (The Pride of Mindanao) and ‘Zamboanga Hermosa’ (Beautiful Zamboanga). At the back of my head I said then, ‘this is interesting!’ Zamboanga had been regarded at tourism as the Asia’s Latin City.
Mixture of Diverse Culture
At the moment I arrived at Zamboanga, I felt a spine-tingling sensation and I know everything was going to be fine. In Zamboanga, for the next couple of months, saw and witnessed how dissimilar cultures of Muslims and Christians jived to come up with colorful festivities and holidays. The ‘Dia de Zamboanga’ had been a commemoration of the place when it was declared a chartered city during the Commonwealth Government times. It was usually in February that it was commemorated. Usual Christian or Catholic Holy Days like Christmas, Fiesta de Barangay or Fonda de Barangay (feasts in honor of their patron saints), Fiesta se La Immaculada Conception (feast of the Immaculate Conception), Fiesta Pilar or Zamboanga Hermosa Festival, the Santacruzan, the colorful Flores de Mayo and of course, the Holy Week are faithfully observed by Christians, Catholics and devotees alike in a very creative manner. For the first time in my life as well, I experienced some noted Muslim Holy Days such as the Festival of Sacrifice (Eis al-Adha) or ‘Greater Eid’-which observed the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God and this had been commemorated worldwide as well. Another Muslim commemoration was the Eid al-Fitr or Hari Ray Puasa which marked the end of fasting period and the Isra Wal Miraj; an event observing the nocturnal journey and ascension of Muhammad.
These festivities or commemorations had really changed my attitude regarding my impression of Mindanao, specifically of Zamboanga City. It had been a home for me for almost two (2) years and the place had welcomed me as one of their natives. I realized after my assignment the first (1st) impressions of the foreign navigators who discovered the place, how they were mesmerized and fascinated by the beauty of now the City of Flowers in the Philippines.