Let us consider Zamboanga del Sur in the eyes of Pagadian City, it’s major city and capital.
This city is nestled between highlands of Zamboanga Peninsula and Illana Bay. It is dissected by FS Pajares Avenue that runs from the rotunda to the city port. Pagadian is an interesting city because of its network of roads that are mostly sloping.
The public transport, the tricycle (tuktuk) has adapted to the inclined streets with its design entirely different from the rest of the country. The Pagadian tricycle has become its iconic symbol.
Iconic Pagadian tricycles
Pagadian City is an important trading area in the past. There are several theories on how the city got its name. The Subanen were the native inhabitants before the Muslims came to settle in the area. Christians came to the city in the 1930s, adding to the co-existence of communities of varying faith.
How to get to Pagadian:
The city is accessible by air. Pagadian has a classified principal airport class 1 and has daily Manila-Pagadian flights and almost daily flights from Cebu. The popular way to get to the city is through land travel. Rural Transit buses have trips to and from Ozamiz, Dipolog, Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro.
For this particular weekend escapade, I took a boat ride from Cebu to Ozamiz via Trans Asia Shipping. After disembarking at Ozamiz port, it’s a tricycle ride to the integrated bus terminal. Please do note that there’s no more public utility vans plying the Ozamiz-Pagadian route so the only option is the Rural Transit Bus (Php 105).
The trip was an hour and a half. From Pagadian, I had to take a bus to Ipil first, spent a night in Zamboanga Sibugay then took a Rural Transit bus for Pagadian the following day. From the integrated bus terminal, the option to get to the city proper is either the multicab (Php 10) or the iconic Pagadian tricycle (Php 20). Outside of the bus terminal, you can also ride a habal-habal (motorbike) and haggle the fare down to Php 40.
I chose to ride the iconic tricycle. From the bus terminal, we passed by the rotunda and then to FS Pajares Avenue heading down to the city proper (Php 20). The main street of Pagadian is Rizal Avenue. Several hotels, malls, banks and shops lined this main transport artery.
Where to stay?
I have always been a fan GV Hotels. GV Hotels are almost in every major city in Visayas and Mindanao. It was my first option in Pagadian but unfortunately it was fully booked that time. I didn’t have a prior reservation, most GV Hotels only accept walk-ins on a first-come first-served basis. So I walked the length of Rizal Street as well as the parallel roads to search for a place to stay. It is not a cause of worry though because Pagadian City has a lot of pension houses, inns and hotels to choose from. I got myself a room at Pensione de Yllana for Php 549 a night. The pension house is just across the City Commercial Center.
Places to visit and things to do:
1. Hike the length of FS Pajares Avenue and Rotunda
2. Visit Plaza Luz and watch the Fountain Show
3. Eat 2-peso barbecue
4. Visit the Pagadian City Market
5. Take Photos at Cultural Village
6. Pagadian Baywalk
7. Paradise of Pagadian
8. Dao Dao Islands
9. Puting Balas Sand Bar
10. Zamboanga del Sur Capitol
FS Pajares Avenue
I decided to wake up early and do a morning walk along FS Pajares Avenue. This inclined road starts from the port area of the city up to the rotunda at Balatoc Hill. It is an uphill hike with a promise of a great view of the city and Illana Bay. At that time, a building with a view deck was being constructed at the rotunda.
FS Pajares Avenue
Building under construction at Rotunda Park
No horses for now
Viewdeck building with wall fountain
Supposedly you can do horseback riding at the rotunda park, but there were no horses. From Rotunda Park, it’s a downhill walk back to my hotel.
This park is in front of Pagadian City Hall located between Benigno Aquino Street and FS Pajares Avenue.
One of the attractions in the park is its dancing fountain, said to be the first one in Mindanao. There’s a water show involving a display of lights and music at a scheduled time. Plaza Luz comes to life in December where it is the venue of the Paskuhan Christmas Structure contest participated in by various government agencies and NGOs. The park also has a giant taclobo (clamshell) stage.
Try the 2-peso pork barbecue
Hawker stalls and barbecue shops surround Plaza Luz and Pagadian City Hall. Popular treat is the pork barbecue which costs Php 2 a stick. This was generally intended as a student meal but it’s also fit for the budget conscious travelers.
The popular 2-pesos barbecue
Try munching on these barbecues as you walk down to the city center.
Pagadian City Public Market
If you view the public market from Benigno Aquino St crossing Rizal Avenue, the main gate building somehow reminds us of Ho Chi Minh’s Ben Thanh Market.
Pagadian City Public Market
Dried fish section of Pagadian Public Market
Pagadian’s public Market occupies an entire block formed by the streets of Araullo, R. Magsaysay, FS Pajares Ave and Marcelo Dablo Avenue. All sort of items are sold in the market such as dried fish, handicrafts, textile, fruits and vegetables.
The Cultural Village
If you have time to spare, try to visit the cultural village at the Agro-Tourism and Heritage Complex (AHC). It is located at the Provincial Government Center near Unity Park and the Boy Scouts Provincial Camp. It’s 5 minutes away by tricycle. The cultural village is a sprawling park representing every town in Zamboanga del Sur. It also has a butterfly park, zipline and canopy walk.
The bay walk starts at the entrance gate of Pagadian City Port and stretches to the east. People visit the bay walk in time for sunset. Spider boats can be seen at the eastern side of the bay walk. Food stalls are also available near the entrance (city port side).
Pagadian City Port
Pagadian Bay Walk
Near sunset view
Paradise of Pagadian
Not much is written about this spot near the City Public Market. Paradise of Pagadian is located between the Seaside Boulevard and Marcelo Dablo Avenue. What sparked my interest was the castle-like structure that serves as a gate/entrance to the area. The colorful castle structure is connected to the high perimeter fence. If you happen to know something about Paradise of Pagadian, please do leave a comment.
Dao Dao Islands
These islands are visible from the Pagadian rotunda. Dao Dao Dako and Dao Dao Gamay composed these islands which is just 10 mins away from the city. Dao Dao Gamay is an islet which appears at low tide.
A view of Dao Dao Dako from the rotunda
This is a sand bar which is accessible by a few minutes ride from the Pagadian seaport. Puting Balas literally means white sand. Simply head to Santiago port and look for a banca that can take you to the sand bar. Best to tag as many friends as you can and do check the time for the low tide as well.
Zamboanga del Sur Provincial Capitol
I made a late afternoon visit to the provincial capitol of Zamboanga del Sur. It is a few blocks up and behind Pagadian City Hall and Plaza Luz, along P.L. Urro St. The capitol is an unpretentious modern building with 6 high pillars in front.
Zamboanga del Sur is my 68th province. I’m inching closer to my Project81 goals.