{Zamboanga 2013} Butterflies and a little local flare

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Coming off my previous post, we had just visited the boy scout meeting place in Pasonanca Park when Milabelle brought us to the Butterfly Garden. Located in the same Pasonanca Park compound, the Butterfly Garden covered a tiny area of the Jardin Maria Clara Lobregat.

Maybe you’re wondering why I decided to cut off my previous post and start this one off this way. Since The Butterfly Garden is one of my favourite spots we visited in Zamboanga, I figured it would be nice to give it some due credit by putting it on the top of a post. It’s not because I saw some rare butterflies in the Garden, but because I was awe-struck by its simple beauty. Butterflies are one of Nature’s most beautiful creations, and whether or not it is a common species, it remains to be a thing to behold.

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The whole time I was in the garden, I was chasing the butterflies amongst all the greenery; following the flashes of colour from its wings as it flitted from one plant to another. I have been wanting to photograph butterflies for the longest time, and I feel very blessed to get an opportunity to do so up close in this Garden.

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On one side of the garden, a real-life display of the different life stages of the butterfly is set up for the scholarly benefit of visitors. There were caterpillars and hatched cocoons…

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And of course, butterflies. Many of them in fact.

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I had lost myself taking photographs and did not even realise that everyone had begun filing out of the garden to get ready to go to dinner! But really, it was definitely worth it. I won’t be forgetting these butterflies anytime soon!

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Our early dinner was to be had in Palmeras, another of the very famous restaurants here in Zamboanga.

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Aside from a small buffet spread of vegetables with seafood, and beef, they prepared a platter of Filipino favourites such as the fried bangus (milkfish), calamares (fried squid), lechon kawali (crispy-fried pork), adobong manok (chicken in adobo sauce), shrimp, and an ensalada mixture of salted eggs, onions, tomatoes, and green mangoes with shrimp paste. Can you say yum?!

For dessert, they brought out giant cups of their extremely famous Knicker Bocker, which is basically made up of sliced fruits (watermelon, mango, banana), red and green jello, cream, and topped with strawberry ice cream. It’s not a dessert for the lighthearted, I must say. You can share a cup with another person and still feel satisfied.

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Waking up with rounder tummies the next morning after such a huge meal the night before, we were off to another round of seeing what Zamboanga has to offer. The theme for this day was pretty much about the people of Zamboanga. Milabelle took us to spots in the city that showcased the livelihood of the local people.

Our first stop was at the Yakan Weaving Village, a small community set up at the hilltop of Calarian. The village is actually easy to miss because the signs aren’t particularly eye-catching, but it’s a different story once you actually get in. At the main square directly in front of the entrance is the first set of stores selling Yakan products. The sellers even made my brother play their local instrument while wearing a Yakan headpiece just to get us into a buying mood! As pretty as all the Yakan products were, I wanted to see for myself how they were made before I decided I wanted to buy them.

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Going around the back and up a steep and rocky slope, several Yakan houses had set up their porches to become their weaving areas. Every house in this area had colourful yakan products hanging from the front. The Yakans are a tribe famous for weaving using looms that suspend about 15 pieces of 20-foot long threads. They are arguably the best weavers in the country, and from what I’ve seen, I’m inclined to agree.

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It takes four whole days to weave about a meter of cloth. Four whole days of sitting in place and weaving using heavy-looking wooden instruments. It really makes you appreciate the Yakan-woven products more knowing how much time and effort is put into each work of beauty. Knowing each piece is handwoven to perfection makes them special. This is proof of how creative Filipinos can get even with the most simple instruments.

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I was so fascinated with the way they weave that I decided you all needed to see how it was done. I’m happy to say I guess now that I’ve upgraded my camera, I can now take videos with it to share with you all! And this weaving that the Yakans do are an absolute must-see. The clinical and deft way in which they do it, in which even the Yakan teenage girls do it, can be mesmerizing to watch.

I still can’t figure out the exact process of it as it looks extremely complicated no matter how easy they make it seem like!

Recognizing that people are more likely to buy their products after being amazed by the behind-the-scenes glimpse, the Yakans have also cleverly set up a store near where most of the weavers demonstrate the Yakan weaving process.

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The products aren’t all the expensive considering they are handwoven with such care. I bought myself a pouch that costs only Php 220 (approximately US$ 5.35) and it is one of the prettiest pouches I now own. You can just look at the quality of the weaving up close and you can see how masterful it is. Not only are the patterns evenly woven, the combination of colours are also well thought-out. These would make great gifts, I tell you!

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When we finally finished ogling all the Yakan-products, we hit the road again. On the way, we passed by several stalls selling fruits, which is another source of livelihood for the locals here. Their most famous fruit in this region is the marang, which is something between the durian and the atis. The marang doesn’t have the super pointy spikes the durian has, but it has a rough exterior reminiscent of a brush.

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The good news is, though the marang does have a smell, it does not smell as pungent as the durian. I know for a fact that a lot of people are turned off by the durian because of its smell, but the marang has a significantly lighter smell than that. The inside is consisted of cotton-like balls of white fruit with a black seed inside each. The texture is somewhat similar to that of a lychee, and the taste… I can’t describe it as anything else but really sweet.

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The coconuts here are also quite noteworthy, as they are incredibly large, full of sweet water, and with the softest coconut meat I’ve ever had! You can just use a spoon to scrape it off as you drink. I love how the liquid inside is just filled to the brim. When they brought over the coconut, I tried to lift the top up to see how the meat looked inside and the coconut water just came gushing down the side of the coconut like an overflowing dam. Definitely one of the best coconuts I’ve had in my life.

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After that fruity break, we were brought further down into the outskirts of the city, to the territory of the water-loving tribe called the Badjaos, the complete opposite of the land-loving Yakans. The Badjaos build their houses on stilts over bodies of water. It is a prerequisite for every Badjao to know how to swim.

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Mostly their livelihood is taken from the selling of seaweed and mangroves. The men take their boats out to collect seaweed, while the women mostly also weave and sell their finished products to tourists. Since we just passed through this area inside our bus without disembarking, we didn’t get the chance to see Badjao products to compare, unfortunately.

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Before heading back to La Vista, we stopped by an area called Barter, which is mostly a flea market of sorts where you can buy an assortment of goods from coffee to beach-wear to batik bags and tablecloths.

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Because Zamboanga is really near Malaysia, the stores here sell all sorts of Malaysian goodies. We got to buy more of the Malaysian coffee favourites we got from a previous trip there. They also have tribal and ethnic-looking clothes apparently imported from Malaysia as well.

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If you’re thinking of buying Zamboanga souvenir shirts, this is a very good place for it. You can get a shirt for as low as Php 150 (about US$3.70) to act as a keepsake for your trip to this nice little corner of the Philippines.

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The only thing I bought here were a bunch of batik bags for giving to my best friends. Batik is a cloth made using a unique process of dyeing to create unique patterns, and these patterns look really good in a bag. As always, I would advice you to haggle because you can get the prices down to at least 20% off the initial quote.

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With our shopping bags full, we decided it was time to call it a day. We headed back to beautiful La Vista to relax for the rest of the evening. After all, we had to get ready for an early trip to the beach the next day!

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