Coming from all points of Metro Manila, as far as Quezon City, we arrived at various times at the airport, with Alan the earliest to check in. I was the fourth, in a group of six traveling to Zamboanga, to arrive, and I thought I was already late. From force of habit, I directly went to the pre-departure gates immediately after checking in when I should be meeting with my other companions having their breakfast at the second level foodcourt of the NAIA Terminal 3. Few minutes before four in the morning, the airport terminal looked like this:
One by one they came and accompanied me at pre-departure gates before taking our AirPhil Express flight to Zamboanga. It was hard telling what they were feeling during those few minutes before they were to board a plane taking them to Zamboanga, a place, which, for some, makes a good setting for terror-related stories. Timmy, my officemate, however, openly showed excitement.
1. I am taking responsibility over these five people since I am taking them to Zamboanga. It's scary to think of bad things that might happen to them there.
2. I hope their first visit to Zamboanga will be a memorable one. They spent five thousand pesos each for a round trip ticket! It better be good.
3. Will I make a good host?
4. Lord, hear my prayers.
|This time, fare at AirPhil was cheaper than Cebu Pac|
We touched down safely in Zamboanga. I was relieved. Two days prior, a small plane crashed leaving three of its four passengers missing; later on, the three were found dead.
When we finally alighted from the plane, I could see my guests smiling. They were admiring the airport and immediately took out their cameras for photos. "So far so good," was all I could say.
We left our stuff at my house in Zamboanga, which was going to be our base for the next three days, and headed to the port to catch a ferry to Basilan. I had to admit that I had mixed feeling about what we were doing. I have never gone to Basilan. There were attempts in the past when I was younger to go to Basilan, but my mom would not let me, citing the peace and order situation. At 28, I was taking my first trip to Basilan with five Manilenos, two of whom are light-skinned dudes aka 'potential kidnap victims.'
|For P40 one way, we had our taste of Basilan|
|Nearing the port, plenty of mangroves|
|Bienvenidos a Basilan!|
We were welcomed by mangroves and houses on stilts as we made our way to the port of Isabela City, Basilan. The breeze, air and water indicated tranquility, foretelling of an interesting three-hour stay in Isabela.
First stop is the church, a Catholic Church, standing proudly in the heart of the city. Its mosaic art was admirable. A much needed prayer was said here.
|Back to mainland Mindanao|
After our lunch at the only Jollibee in Basilan, we ended our peaceful journey to Basilan. The trip taught me few things: a) ignorance will do you no good b) good company disperses all fears, and c) Basilan is not bad at all; it holds a lot of promises.
|Zamboanga's icons: Vintas|
The sea craft took only 45 minutes to get us back to Zamboanga, but we paid P150 this time for an airconditioned commute. There was plenty of time to do other stuff, so we were able to squeeze in a tour of the city center, the old fort and the seaside attraction, the Paseo del Mar.We enjoyed the cheap food and drinks capping our very full first day.
I am not to describe at length the things we did for day two. Let me just say that it was eventful and tiring but fun.
On our last day, however, we made a quick trip to Pasonanca Park and sampled some Muslim delicacies. The taste can actually deceive their appearance. Look below:
August 21, late afternoon, we were waiting for our flight back to Manila. Another work day is waiting for us the next day.
|Newly-renovated Zamboanga Airport. The second level had food stalls for the the hungry passengers.|
|The plane to take us back to Manila|
|AirPhil flight attendant.|
There. We arrived in Manila with all our limbs intact and a few thousands poorer. But I was happy to show them around. They expressed their appreciation. I hope they were able to see a different glimpse of Mindanao that was far from what they see on TV or read on papers. To help in the enlightenment or in the education of people in whatever way is something all of us must pursue. I don't mind doing it again, and besides, they were all fun tourists. We might just do something similar again, perhaps, in Tawi-tawi next time around.