Philippine Trip: Returning Home from Zamboanga City

Returning home! I’ll miss Zamboanga like I always do, but there is no place like home.




My flight out of Zamboanga was early in the morning, so I packed the night before. My family came with me, but because we didn’t have a driver at the time, we took some tricycles to the airport.

Because I was the only one flying, my family had to pay to get into the airport and after I checked in my luggage, we paid 5 pesos each in order to get into the waiting area which I didn’t have to do last year, but whatever. At least it wasn’t much, but I did think it was odd.

Upstairs was the food court and gift shops. I went upstairs to see if there was some last minute gifts I could purchase.

Then it was time to hug my family goodbye, walk outside towards the airport, and was flying towards Manila.

I had to pick up my luggage at the carousel and waited for the free tram to Terminal 2. It felt like forever before it arrived and I was able to check in at Terminal 2.

While I waited for my plane back to the States, I ate some food and purchased even more last minute gifts. I also bought some water because it’s a long flight and I didn’t want to get dehydrated.

EXCEPT. We had to go through metal detectors again to wait in a roped off area and everyone had to get rid of their water! I was so annoyed. We are literally in the same building, same room, and I have to pretend like I was outside the airport and throw away my water that I just bought in the same room? Urgh.

The flight wasn’t so bad on the way back to the States. Once again, I was in the window seat. Aisle seat, how I miss you.

Arrival in LAX meant that I had to go through customs and, after that, pick up my luggage. Going through customs was pretty quick. The only question I was asked was, “Are you Filipino?” to which I replied, “Yup.”

Then it was walking to the domestic side of LAX to catch the last leg of my flight and return home.

All in all, I enjoyed my trip and I am glad to be home.

Someday, when I have money, I am going to book first class seats for my long travels, like to the Philippines. It’d be completely worth it.

Philippine Trip:
1) Don’t Forget Your Luggage Tag!
2) Flight To Manila
3) 9 Hours at Ninoy Aquino Airport
4) Arrival in Zamboanga City
5) Isle of Santa Cruz
6) Paseo del Mar
7) Fort Pilar
8) Alavar Restaurant
9) City Mall
10) Vista del Mar
11) KCC Mall
12) Returning Home from Zamboanga City

Philippine Trip: KCC Mall

KCC Mall is the big mall in Zamboanga City. There are four floors, from the basement where the grocery store is along with plenty of smaller food places to the third floor where the movie theaters are.




Like other malls, the bottom of your car is inspected by a guard and a mirror on a stick before you can drop off someone and/or park your car. Then at the entrance of the mall, any entrance, there are guards and a metal detector.

My family loves coming to KCC Mall. There’s plenty of things to do here, though my mom usually goes to the grocery store more often than not.

It’s been months since I’ve last been to KCC, so I began exploring and taking pictures.

KCC Mall is bigger than some of the malls around where I live, so it’s fun to come here and see the differences between them.

There are a bunch of stores that I explored and, when I got hungry, I decided to have a snack.

I am a sucker for waffles, so I went down to the basement and ate at Waffle Daffle. I ordered Brownie Ala Mode as an ice cream topping and it was delicious. It didn’t cost a lot, only 80 pesos, which is one of the nice things I love about the Philippines. Nomnom, eat all the things!

Philippine Trip:
1) Don’t Forget Your Luggage Tag!
2) Flight To Manila
3) 9 Hours at Ninoy Aquino Airport
4) Arrival in Zamboanga City
5) Isle of Santa Cruz
6) Paseo del Mar
7) Fort Pilar
8) Alavar Restaurant
9) City Mall
10) Vista del Mar
11) KCC Mall
12) Returning Home from Zamboanga City

Philippine Trip: Vista del Mar

West from Paseo del Mar and some odd miles is Vista del Mar, another scenic location right on the water.




Vista is a lot more smaller than Paseo and there’s only one restaurant to eat at here. Plus you’re not allowed to bring food with you. Fortunately, we ate before coming to Vista.

You weren’t allowed to swim on the side with the mermaid statue (the side you enter in from), but there is a spot of beach on the other side where you can. I didn’t have my swimsuit, so I just dipped my toes into the water.

Vista is beautiful and it was great coming here. I like how peaceful Vista is (though my mom told me it gets busy with people all the time), so I was glad we came when it was quieter. I took a ton of pictures as you can tell from this post. 🙂

Philippine Trip:
1) Don’t Forget Your Luggage Tag!
2) Flight To Manila
3) 9 Hours at Ninoy Aquino Airport
4) Arrival in Zamboanga City
5) Isle of Santa Cruz
6) Paseo del Mar
7) Fort Pilar
8) Alavar Restaurant
9) City Mall
10) Vista del Mar
11) KCC Mall
12) Returning Home from Zamboanga City

Philippine Trip: City Mall

City Mall is one of the Zamboanga City’s malls. It’s a lot smaller than KCC, but there are still plenty of things to do and stores to shop in.




Sign for City Mall.

I was dropped off at City Mall so I could go exploring. The front of City Mall is drop-off only and on the side of the mall is a free parking lot.

Some of the shops at City Mall.

There are armed guards outside and to enter from any entrance of the mall, there is a metal detector and more armed guards. It’s different compared to US malls, but it didn’t bother me. I like knowing I was safe while at the mall.

When I was there, there was an event going on for taekwondo and a bunch of kids were either competing or practicing off to the side. The front of the mall was crowded with people watching the event, so it took some maneuvering to get through the crowd.

In the front, there was a pharmacy/drug store called Watson’s on one side and a food court on the other side.

Watsons
Food court.

The further into City Mall, there were plenty of other stores and places to eat as well as a playground of sorts for little children to play in.

There are daily events at City Mall like Zumba and acoustics. I wasn’t able to go to a daily event, but they sound like fun.

Philippine Trip:
1) Don’t Forget Your Luggage Tag!
2) Flight To Manila
3) 9 Hours at Ninoy Aquino Airport
4) Arrival in Zamboanga City
5) Isle of Santa Cruz
6) Paseo del Mar
7) Fort Pilar
8) Alavar Restaurant
9) City Mall
10) Vista del Mar
11) KCC Mall
12) Returning Home from Zamboanga City

Philippine Trip: Alavar Restaurant

My family took me to eat at Alavar Restaurant in the barangay Tatuan. I love the food here and Alavar is synonymous with Zamboanga. Every time I visit Zamboanga, I just have to eat at Alavar as well.




The reason why Alavar restaurant is synonymous with Zamboanga is because it’s one of the older restaurants in the city. It’s lasted for both mine and my mom’s years, and with how delicious the food is and how nice the staff, I’m sure it’ll continue to last.

The restaurant is beautiful with its Spanish, rustic charms. You enter through the sliding doors into the restaurant and on the walls are black and white photos of the Alavar family.

One of the first pages of the menu has the story of how Alavar came to be.

There are tables outside with colorful decorations and cages of birds that sing to their delight.

But the real draw for me is always the food. I can’t get enough of the food and I wish there was an Alavar in the States so I could eat there.

Alavar sells jars of their food products like their bagoong, as well as desserts and their famous Alavar sauce. Alavar sauce on curacha (a type of crab that Zamboanga is famous for) is sarap (delicious)!

There’s an Alavar bed and breakfast next to the restaurant which makes me want to stay there for at least a night. I don’t need a bed and breakfast because whenever I fly here, I stay with family, but it’s tempting to have Alavar breakfast.

Philippine Trip:
1) Don’t Forget Your Luggage Tag!
2) Flight To Manila
3) 9 Hours at Ninoy Aquino Airport
4) Arrival in Zamboanga City
5) Isle of Santa Cruz
6) Paseo del Mar
7) Fort Pilar
8) Alavar Restaurant
9) City Mall
10) Vista del Mar
11) KCC Mall
12) Returning Home from Zamboanga City

Philippine Trip: Fort Pilar

Fort Pilar in Zamboanga City is a historical site filled with beauty and calm.




Its origins were as a fort for the Spaniards before becoming a museum in recent days. In the courtyard of Fort Pilar, there is a shrine dedicated Our Lady of the Pillar.

You can purchase candles from vendors outside the fort for about 50 pesos. I purchased some, lit them, and said a prayer as they burned.

It’s very peaceful at Fort Pilar and I saw some people hanging out here as they took in the sight.

Philippine Trip:
1) Don’t Forget Your Luggage Tag!
2) Flight To Manila
3) 9 Hours at Ninoy Aquino Airport
4) Arrival in Zamboanga City
5) Isle of Santa Cruz
6) Paseo del Mar
7) Fort Pilar
8) Alavar Restaurant
9) City Mall
10) Vista del Mar
11) KCC Mall
12) Returning Home from Zamboanga City

Philippine Trip: Paseo del Mar

Paseo is located by the ocean and is a popular place for people to hang out, especially in the late afternoon/night when it starts to cool down and stores open up for the public.




An I Heart Zamboanga City sign at Paseo.

There are places to eat here and a great view of the water.

Paseo is also where you get on the boats to the island of Santa Cruz.

At night, the fountain in the middle of Paseo has dancing water and music. I sadly went in the day, so no dancing water for me.

I walked along the edge near the ocean, including a bridge over the water, to take plenty of pictures.

The bathrooms at Paseo require you to pay 5 pesos to use them. Also, at least during the earlier part of the day, when you leave through the gate, you also have to pay 5 pesos. But considering 5 pesos is barely anything in US dollars, I don’t mind paying.

Philippine Trip:
1) Don’t Forget Your Luggage Tag!
2) Flight To Manila
3) 9 Hours at Ninoy Aquino Airport
4) Arrival in Zamboanga City
5) Isle of Santa Cruz
6) Paseo del Mar
7) Fort Pilar
8) Alavar Restaurant
9) City Mall
10) Vista del Mar
11) KCC Mall
12) Returning Home from Zamboanga City

Philippine Trip: Isle of Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a protected island off of Zamboanga and to get here, you need to have permission from the Department of Tourism. This was my first time going to Santa Cruz, but it’s a popular destination because of the pink sand on the beach. The pink sand is from the pink shells from the ocean that wash up on the shore.

Pink sand at Santa Cruz.

Boat rides to and from the island end about 2 pm because after that time, the waves are too strong to use the small boats.




My family managed to get permission so we went to Paseo bright and early in the morning to wait for the small boat to take us to Santa Cruz. When it was our turn to get on our boat, we were given a speech about the island, what to do and not do, and we put on our inflatable vests before getting on the boat.

Starting out from Paseo.
View of the water from Paseo.

Some of the things the guide mentioned was you cannot take anything from the island, not even sand, don’t leave anything behind like trash, there is no drinkable water there (so bring your own), and bring your own food as well if you’re going to stay a couple of hours.

Santa Cruz off in the distance.

I suggest bringing earplugs with you for the boat ride because the engine on the boat is very loud.

A closer view of Santa Cruz.
The boat that took us to Santa Cruz.

It didn’t take long for us to arrive to the island and we were greeted with a large “I heart Zamboanga” structure. There were plenty of huts with a table under the roof for people to sit at and have their picnics.

I heart Zamboanga structure.
Huts on the beach.

There are locals who do live on the island and sell some food for a lot cheaper than what it’d cost if you bought it in Zamboanga. My mom bought some food to take back to cook with.

Isle of Santa Cruz sign.

There are guards who walk around the island to keep people safe, but you can just ignore them. By the way, you are not allowed to pose with them and take a picture.

The view of Zamboanga from Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz is a beautiful place and I enjoyed visiting there. People come here to picnic and swim, as well as enjoying the view. There is also a lagoon on the island that you can visit while on a boat for 50 peso per person. The money goes to the locals who live on the island.

A stray cat living on Santa Cruz.

By the time we left Santa Cruz, it was a little past 1 pm. We had packed up everything, put on our vests, and got back on the boats towards Paseo.

Philippine Trip:
1) Don’t Forget Your Luggage Tag!
2) Flight To Manila
3) 9 Hours at Ninoy Aquino Airport
4) Arrival in Zamboanga City
5) Isle of Santa Cruz
6) Paseo del Mar
7) Fort Pilar
8) Alavar Restaurant
9) City Mall
10) Vista del Mar
11) KCC Mall
12) Returning Home from Zamboanga City

Philippine Trip: Arrival in Zamboanga City

Welcome to Zamboanga City!

I arrived in Zamboanga City in the morning before the sun rose. Zamboanga’s airport is tiny. When we were allowed to leave the plane, we exited off the runway and walked into the airport building.




It was raining a little, so some of the workers handed out umbrellas as we exited the plane stairs. My jacket is waterproof, so I didn’t take an umbrella. I was just happy that I was finally at my destination.

As soon as you enter the building, there’s just the little carousels for Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air flights. I waited on a bench because everyone else crowded around the carousels waiting for their luggage. There is free wifi, but only if you have a Philippine phone number to type in. Alas, I don’t.

I finally got my luggage and walked outside where I saw my mom. We had a driver, but I’m pretty sure there are tricycles who can pick people up as well. Before we left the parking lot, we paid some pesos.

What are tricycles? They are motorcycles with a hooded sidecar and are one of the major modes of transportation for people around the city. It’s amazing to see how many people can fit into a tricycle. They’re pretty much a low-tech version of a taxi and I’ve ridden in them a few times.

The other form of public transporation is the jeepney. I’ve never actually rode in one before, but I see them everywhere. Specific jeepneys have specific routes that are listed on the side of the jeepney. I’ve seen a jeepney so crowded that people were hanging off the end and some people were sitting on top of the roof.

There are plenty of barangays (towns) in Zamboanga and places to eat and shop here. While I traveled here to visit my family, I also came here to see the sights and eat all the food. 😉


Sign on the road.


Traffic on the road. It can get even more crowded when scooters fill up the empty spaces between cars.


Ateneo de Zamboanga University


Tiny store


Tricycle and jeepney

Philippine Trip:
1) Don’t Forget Your Luggage Tag!
2) Flight To Manila
3) 9 Hours at Ninoy Aquino Airport
4) Welcome to Zamboanga
5) Isle of Santa Cruz
6) Paseo del Mar
7) Fort Pilar
8) Alavar Restaurant
9) City Mall
10) Vista del Mar
11) KCC Mall
12) Returning Home from Zamboanga City

Philippine Trip: 9 Hours at Ninoy Aquino Airport

Once I picked up my luggage at the carousel, I knew I had to wait at the airport for 9 hours until my flight departed the airport. I wish my layover was barely a layover at all, but that was never going to be the case. Unfortunately, there are only three flights that depart to Zamboanga from Manila and I had missed the last flight of the day by a couple of hours.




To get to my terminal, I knew I had to take a shuttle because the Ninoy Aquino airport is huge. Fortunately, there’s a free shuttle between PAL flights, so I went from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 on it. It took awhile to get to Terminal 3, but I finally reached with my luggage. Since the PAL counters weren’t open, I had hours of waiting ahead of me before I could enter the inner part of the airport. I found a Passenger Holding Area on Level 3 and sat down there, taking out my tablet to watch some TV episodes I had downloaded. While I sat there, there were also some guards, so I felt safe.

Via Pinterest

Level 4 has a food court that was open the entire night I was there. I didn’t eat anything, but it was nice to know that I wouldn’t go hungry if I needed to buy something to eat.

The airport has free wifi and I took advantage of it by checking my email and my facebook on my phone. I also messaged my mom to let her know I was safe at the airport.

The PAL counters opened after midnight, closer towards 1 am, and since I already had my Zamboanga ticket from LAX, I went to the bag drop off line. Once I dropped off my luggage, I then walked off towards the terminal and waited there until it was time to depart.

It is possible to charge your phone at the airport without a converter/transformer which was nice because my phone needed some juice. Just expect your phone to get hot really fast. I also recharged my iPod because I’ve been listening to music on it for hours on end.

My layover at Ninoy Aquino airport was pretty uneventful, which is perfectly fine for me. It was a good thing I brought things to entertain myself and time flew by. Soon I got on my plane and was heading towards Zamboanga.

(There’s a lack of pictures during this leg of my trip because it was so late and I was so tired, so I didn’t want to take pictures. Next time!)

Philippine Trip:
1) Don’t Forget Your Luggage Tag!
2) Flight To Manila
3) 9 Hours at Ninoy Aquino Airport
4) Arrival in Zamboanga City
5) Isle of Santa Cruz
6) Paseo del Mar
7) Fort Pilar
8) Alavar Restaurant
9) City Mall
10) Vista del Mar
11) KCC Mall
12) Returning Home from Zamboanga City