Zamboanga, Asia’s Latin City, Celebrates Hermosa Festival

October 7, 2007 at 2:51 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

A Muslim woman waits Sunday Oct. 07, 2007 for the start of the annual Regatta de Zamboanga, a race of Moro vintas, off Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines as Muslim and Christian boaters prepare themselves. The race of wooden boats with colorful sails is one of the highlights of the weeklong celebration of the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival in honor of the Virgin Mary held every October 12. The festival draws thousands of people and tourists in Zamboanga City. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 07, 2007) – More than a thousand people flocked Sunday to Zamboanga City for the much awaited Regatta de Zamboanga, an annual sail boat race.

The race was one of the highlights of the week-long celebration of Mindanao’s Zamboanga Hermosa Festival where Muslim and Christian boaters paddled their vinta, a traditional wooden boat fitted with colorful sails, off the Moro Gulf.

Zamboanga, now branded as Asia’s Latin City, is celebrating Hermosa festival in honor of the century-old statue of the Virgin Mary, called Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza, brought here by the Spanish colonizers and believed by many locals to be miraculous.

Local festival songs and music played during the entire boat race. The winners were given awards and cash prizes.

Councilor Gerky Valesco said the city would also host Thursday a public feast, where locals will eat homemade Spanish sardines and steamed rice, in one single line in Zamboanga, perhaps the longest “boodle fight” in Philippine festival history or probably in the Guinness Book of World Records.

“This is something we will really be proud of. It will be the first in Zamboanga, perhaps in the country or we may even break the Guinness record of the longest ‘boodle fight’ with our delicious homemade (Spanish) sardines, ” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

The festival also features week-long novena masses, cultural shows, agricultural fairs, art, photo and flower garden exhibits, torch parades, fireworks, and carnivals. It all ends with a solemn procession and a mass at the Fort Pilar, where the statue of the Virgin Mary is erected. With thousands of pilgrims converging in Zamboanga City, this is the peninsula’s biggest, most-awaited, and entrancing fiesta.

“This is really fun. We have been waiting for this festival and we make sure that we come to Zamboanga City every year to join the festival and enjoy the warm reception and hospitality of the Chavacano people,” said Dennis Marano, a traveler.

A Spanish television crew was also spotted filming the boat race. Several foreigners were also enjoying the festivity. “It is nice out here. The sun is great and festival is great,” one Caucasian said.

Mayor Celso Lobregat has been promoting Zamboanga City, about 460 nautical miles from Manila, as a major tourism area in southern Philippines, noting its rich culture and historical past and the use of the Chavacano language, a mixture of Spanish and local dialects, that gave Zamboanga its brand new moniker as Asia’s Latin City, from its previous title as City of Flowers.

Chavacano is spoken by a majority of the people here, in Basilan and other parts of the Zamboanga Peninsula. The growth of Chavacano in Zamboanga can be traced to a concentration of Spanish nationals in Zamboanga at the height of the Spaniards colonization efforts in Mindanao that lasted for centuries until the late 1800.

Lobregat said the branding of Zamboanga as Asia’s Latin City spearheaded by the League of Cities, the World Bank and the involvement of the different local sectors. Local officials said this would give the city a positive shift since it carries an international appeal and anchored on the rich Castilian influence and history of Zamboanga City.

The branding of Zamboanga will provide the city with a competitive global outlook instead of just comparing it with other cities in Mindanao, according to Lobregat.

Zamboanga City had been under Spanish rule in the past and was also used as a base for American soldiers. The city is also popularly known as “Zamboanga Hermosa.”

The area around Zamboanga Peninsula has been occupied by indigenous people as early as 30,000 years ago. The first inhabitants were the Subanons and Lutaos and later, the Islamized ethnic groups of Samals, Bajaus, Tausugs, and Yakans. (Mindanao Examiner)


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