A couple of weeks ago, JG volunteered to proctor this year’s foreign service exam in Zamboanga. As part of our quest to visit as much of the Philippines as we can before we get posted, we thought that this was a good opportunity for us to go to Mindanao.
We originally wanted to go to Davao but someone else had taken the slot, plus some apprehensions since we Manilenians have always had this idea that Zamboanga isn’t exactly the safest place here in our country. Considering the many instances of kidnapping and bombings caused by rebel troops there. But we thought that how dangerous a place is relative to every place, that we are more likely to get mugged here in Metro Manila than to get blown up or kidnapped. So to Zamboanga we went.
When we got there, since it was our first official DFA trip (well for him, that is, since he just took me along), we were welcomed by RCO staff, complete with bouquet necklace. And it was all really pleasantly weird for me, because I’ve never experienced the VIP treatment,it even felt awkward every time they called or referred to me as Ma’am or Madam. JG says I should get used to it, since we will be experiencing a lot of it in the future.
The weekend was mostly spent of them driving us around the city and telling us about each landmark. One of my favorite parts was the eating parts, every time we went out to eat there was so much food, and the seafood was exceptionally great. Crabs bigger than my fist. When JG had to leave me behind to proctor the exam, I decided to eat in a small Carinderia outside the hotel. I didn’t want to spend too much and didn’t want to go to far, afraid of getting lost. And even there, despite the lack of high end ambiance, the food was still great, at a fraction of the price in the hotel.
One of our interesting trips was to Yakan Village to buy Zamboanga’s famous table runners. Yakan is one of the 13 Moro groups in Mindanao, and the village is famous for their women and their weaving skills.
Another highlight of the trip was being invited to a Muslim wedding, it was truly a different kind of experience because of the many interesting traditions during the wedding. For instance, the caterer had to set up tables outside because you had to invite all your relatives. They invited cultural dancers, plus a special traditional number by an elderly relative, where other relatives pinned money on her clothes while she danced.
Regarding the safety concern, according to the DFA staffs, Zamboanga city isn’t what the media always projects it. Any terrorist incidents hardly ever happens, and not always in that city in particular. And even in those very rare occasions, like bombings, experienced have taught them that the bombs are mostly just scare tactics, but never really badly hurt or murder innocent bystanders.
In ending, I must really thank the staff of RCO Zamboanga, they have made our stay really relaxing, informative and interesting. They were not only nice and friendly; what I liked about them is their love for their city. The stories of their family, their work, and everyday things (including getting used to living so close to terrorism), shows how much living there is a big part of their lives. I can only hope that I have that same love for my home town.