Zamboanga Sibugay

The obelisk at the roundabout stood high and bright against the dark skies. It is the newest landmark of Ipil, the provincial capital of the province of Zamboanga Sibugay.

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Roundabout Obelisk of Ipil

The Zamboanga Peninsula used to be divided into two provinces, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur, with Zamboanga City as the commercial and administrative hub of the region. In 2001, a new province was founded out of the western towns which were under the third district of Zamboanga del Sur. This province became the 79th province of the Philippines.

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Being relatively new as a province, Zamboanga Sibugay is slowly molding its character, apart from the two other provinces in the peninsula. The economic plans and the tourism development still have a long way to go but it does not necessarily mean that the province has no places of interest for tourists and visitors.

At the center of Zamboanga Sibugay is the town of Ipil. The rotunda obelisk in Ipil was inaugurated in 2015 to mark the province as a central part of Zamboanga peninsula. It serves also as a memorial to those lives lost in conflicts. The 1995 Ipil attack by 200 Abu Sayyaf militants was one of the saddest days in the province.

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At present, Ipil has already moved on from the tragedy and is gearing towards progress and development. Tourism in the town, and in the province, is still on its infancy stage. Travel blogs and social media come in handy for people who intend to explore Zamboanga Sibugay.

This is my first visit to Zamboanga Sibugay. For this time, I just focused on two towns: the capital town of Ipil and the old town of Titay.

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St. Joseph the Worker Cathedral

To get to the capital town, you may take a flight to Dipolog, Pagadian or Zamboanga City. Ipil is about 3-4 hours away by bus. You may also take a ferry from Cebu to Ozamiz, then bus to Pagadian and then another bus to Ipil. Construction of an airport in Ipil is underway.

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The integrated bus terminal of Ipil

The Rural Transit Bus Terminal is located a few hundred meters before the obelisk. Take a tricycle to bring you to the town center or to your hotel. Ipil has plenty of hotels, pension houses and inns to choose from. Most of these accommodations are located at the busy section of the town. I chose to stay at GV Hotel on Climaco Drive which is just near popular fast food chains, banks and shops.

Places of interest in Ipil are:

1. Rotunda Obelisk
2. Ipil Town Hall and Park
3. Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Capitol
4. Buluan Island

The Rotunda Obelisk
This marker glowed so bright against the dark gray clouds near sundown. Each of the two sides of the obelisk has a clock and the letters of Zamboanga Sibugay in Baybayin (old Filipino alphabet). The east side bas relief depicts the major product of the province, the rubber tree with a woman harvesting the sap or rubber gum. At the west side is a bas relief of a river that flows from the mountain to the sea. A vinta boat is at the lower end of the relief which may depict fishing as an important way of life.

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Rotunda Obelisk

Ipil Town Hall
The Ipil Muncipal Park in front of the town hall has interesting installations. There are posts that resemble the ‘super trees’ of Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. Ipil Town hall is located a few blocks away from the rotunda obelisk, at the corner of Ipil-Dipolog Highway. Ipil is the most populous town of Zamboanga Sibugay.

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Ipil Town Hall

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‘Super Trees’ at Ipil Town Plaza

The Provincial Capitol
Zamboanga Sibugay’s provincial capitol building is one of the most uniquely designed capitols in the country. Built on top of a hill overlooking the town and the Sibuguey Bay, the structure is a combination of Subanen and Muslim influences. The capitol has massive columns, metal rings and roof extensions that are Muslim-inspired. The building is as colorful as can be.

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Provincial Capitol of Zamboanga Sibugay

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Interesting architectural details of the capitol

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Massive interior columns

Buluan Island
It lies 7km from the port of Ipil. This island has a stretch of white sand beach and clear waters, due to the fact that it is a marine protected area. This marine sanctuary got an award in 2015 as the best in the country under the marine protected area category. Should you plan to visit Buluan, just head to Brgy Buluan and book a boat ride to the island. Owners of the boat can coordinate with the local volunteers who can guide you around the island.

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View of Sibuguey Bay and Buluan Island

I was able to visit the first 3 spots. If I have the opportunity to visit Ipil again, I’ll include Buluan Island in my itinerary.

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