Let’s go to Zamboanga City

OK, we’ve been traveling around the Philippines looking at different Cities around the country, and trying to which one might be best as a place to live!  Well, today, let’s go way down South to Zamboanga City.  I know, I know… the first thing that most foreigners think of when it comes to Zamboanga City is that it is dangerous, and it’s full of terrorists.  Well, I don’t think that this is true.  Yes, there are some problems in the general area, but overall, Zamboanga City is safe and not a big worry.  Now, if you venture to nearby Basilan Island, or to Sulu you will probably find some problems if you look for them, but if you remain in the City of Zamboanga, you will likely feel quite safe.  Hey, I’ve even been to Basilan myself, and I lived to tell about it!

For today’s journey to Zamboanga City, we were guided by Arvin, a native of Zamboanga City.  Arvin volunteered to guide us through our list of questions about his home town.  Let’s have a look at my questions, and Arvin’s answers:

1.  What City do you live in?
->Zamboanga City <a.k.a. city of flowers, asia’s latin city, sardine capital of the philippines>

2.  How long have you lived in this City?
-> 25 yrs.

3.  Can you give a price range of housing in the area that would be
appropriate for a foreigner?  Low end?  High end?

->12,500/month in a village in TALISAYAN many koreans live there.
->there is a exclusive village in tumaga beside the newly constructed ateneo high school building
which ranges from 2-5 million pesos/house<this is best when you live here for good>

4.  What kind of amenities do you have in town?  Malls?  Fitness
Centers?  Swimming Pools?  Movies?  Restaurants?

-> Shopping Malls
-Mindpro Citimall<4 storey mall>
-Southway Square<4 storey mall>
-Yubenco Starmall<3 storey mall>(located at putik 2-3 km away from the city hall)
-Shopper’s Center<a 4 storey mall>(under construction)
-Shopper’s Mall<a 10 storey mall>(under construction)
-Gaisano Mall- Pending
-Robinsons Place Zamboanga<still a rumor>
-Midtown Plaza
and a whole lot of Department Stores

the 1st,3rd,4th and 5th mall mentioned above are only having a few meter distances.
example: Southway Square is away from Shopper’s Center for only 10-20 mtrs away..

Swimming Pools
*Inland resort(a great resort for a family holiday)
*Pasonanca Swimming pools
*Monte Verde resort
and a whole lot more
there are also pools @ the hotels<e.g. Garden Orchid Hotel,Marcian Hotel&Lantaka Hotel>

*most movie houses are available at the malls

*Park 88
*Alejandras Grand Complex
*Harry’s Grill
*Mang Inasal
and a whole lot more which includes the fast food chain restaurants like Jollibee<9 branches>
Mcdonald’s, KFC,Chowking&greenwich<not considered as fast food> etc and etc
5.  In general, how would you consider the cost of living in your city?
How much is the price of a Lechon Manok?
-it’s cheap a ride from you’re house to the city commercial proper is at about 25-30 pesos that’s if you’re w/ someone but if you’re alone it only cost 20-25 pesos. depends on the location of your house
-a whole lechon manok cost 120 pesos

6.  How are the roads in your area?
-they are cemeneted and not to mention the traffic here travels smoothly most of the time

7.  Are there many foreigners living in your area?  Is there any kind of
get togethers for foreigners?

-mostly chinese<LOTS of them>
some koreans
there are some indonesians only few americans,british,german etc.

8.  How are the government offices in your area?  Things like getting a
driver’s license and such, how much of a hassle?

-not quite a hassle quite the same process with other cities

9.  What types of transportation are mostly used in your city?
Tricycles?  Jeepneys?  Taxis?

-Tricycles and Jeepneys
(Bob’s note:  When I visited Zamboanga City in 2007, I found that transportation was the biggest drawback in town.  Tricycles vastly overcharged for foreigners, and it was really a hassle getting around town)

10.  How is the weather in your area?  Lots of rain?  Mostly sunshine?
-> we usually have a fair weather, we dont experience that much storm because, we’re outside the
typhoon belt.

11.  How is the drinking water?  Can you drink tap water in your area,
or do you need mineral water?

-We Drink water which are only sterilized & mineral water,
-to be more safe you’ll need mineral water

12.  How about electricity?  Do you have many brownouts?  Can you give
us the cost of electricity in your area?

-we experience brownouts rarely

13.  Do you have good beaches in your area?
-im proud to say that we do have GREAT beaches not just good but great ones. there is the Santa Cruz island<pink sand beach>,Bolong Beach, La Vista Del mar<currently owned by the Lobregat family to give you a fact >
(Bob’s note:  I agree, great beaches in Zamboanga!  Santa Cruz Island with it’s pale pink sands is a beautiful place)

14.  Is your City served by an airport?  If so, are the number of
flights adequate?

-yes, it is served by an INTERNATIONAL airport
-yes, but unfortunately the airport is not open 24 hrs, we also have an INTERNATIONAL seaport.

15.  Are imported goods and such readily available in your local
stores?  Do you feel a need to make trips to a bigger city to buy such
items?  If so, where?

-most of the imported goods are available in the city

16.  Do you find the area friendly?  Ever feel there is any danger in
your area?

-yes,but also like manila&cebu there are still a few robber/thief and hold-uppers
-to be honest, no, because the locals seems to be friendly enough for me not to fear

17.  Is Cable TV available in your area?
-yes, there are 2 cable tv provider Sky Cable and Mindanao Cable. A satellite TV provider is also available.
for more information about the city heres a link http://www.zamboanga.com/Business/Invest_in_Zamboanga_City.htm
another link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zamboanga_City

A few other notes from Arvin:

Zamboanga is home to three universities
Ateneo De Zamboanga University
Universidad De Zamboanga
and Western Mindanao State University

zamboanga city is ideal for investment on malls, exclusive residences won’t really be a big hit

our city mayor is Hon. Celso L. Lobregat
vice mayor is Hon. Beng Climaco

our city is divided into 2 districts, a 3rd district proposal is not yet approved .

we’ve got a lot of tourist spots
first is the Fort Pilar
second is the Petite Barracks
third is the plaza pershing
the, city hall
the, pasonanca aviary and a whole lot more

Zamboanga City is known to be one of the biggest city in the philippines

If you really would want to experience the beauty of zamboanga
see it for yourself
come and join the zamboanguenos
Adelante zamboanga! viva asia’s latin city!!!

Post Author: MindanaoBob (1353 Posts)

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.

How to Move to the Philippines Manual


  1. Richard says

    Hi Bob I like the city series you are running. Referring to the line at the beginning of your article where you say "I know, I know… the first thing that most foreigners think of when it comes to Zamboanga City is that it is dangerous, and it’s full of terrorists." I would further like to highlight how we are so easily led to believe what the media feed us.
    As you know I'm coming to the Philippines very shortly. The flight has been booked and last week I went to take out medical/travel insurance. When I mentioned to the travel agent that I was going to the island of Mindanao and that I had noticed the travel advisory by the New Zealand Government was "severe" he said that he had better phone the insurance company to see if I would still be covered. The answer was "no". It appears this advisory has come about since the last two bombings in Kidapawan. Now my point, which any local (in Mindanao) will know is that at least the last two bombings in Kidapawan have been nothing to do with terrorists. The local papers have reported that they have been gangs or persons trying to extort money. Now extortion can and does happen anywhere in the world but because the flavour of the moment is "terrorism" that is what is conveniently used.
    Guess the insurance company miss out on extorting a large fee out of me.

    • gary says

      hi narrrrr zamboanga city isent bad at al l i been there 5 yrs i love it and not many white ppl which i find is nice ,not usual bunch drunks i found in cebu ( not all but a fair few ) its quiet, nice places to eat and i found nice and cheap , still im sure it will change when other weatern ppl catch on to how nice it is, so tell every one its bad place to live , ha ha ha, we have 3,500 sqr mtr with our house on and 1000 sqre mtrs for guest house completly private from our home so who ever stop ,s are completly private from ours , treat ppl as you would like to be treated yourself, :) gary /maybel

      • says

        Zamboanga city is safe, traffic during commute time is terrible, Shopping is crowded most of the time, transportation is very reasonable, the people are absolutely great to associate with. Everything to do with the government is a hassle, especially filing for a marriage contract for foreigners, Zamboanga needs cleaning up, but all and all I love the city, yes I am a USA citizen. Been to this city 7 times and will be returning again.

        • says

          I have been to Zamboanga City a number of times, and I like it there. I feel, though, it is irresponsible to make a flat out statement that Zambo is safe. There have been many kidnappings both in Zamboanga City and also on Zamboanga Peninsula. Among large cities in Mindanao, I would say that Zamboanga is the least safe. There are rural areas of Mindanao, though, that are much more dangerous than Zamboanga. I would say that the chances of getting into a safety issue in Zambo City are remote, but it is still an good idea to exercise caution. To flat out say it is safe is not a good idea. No city in the world is 100% safe.

  2. jim says

    Hi Bob.I emailed you yesterday about the picture of your property in samal.My wife and i bought property i believe is next to yours as our pictures are very close to yours,we oun 2500sq mtrs just as you turn right off the main road on to that ridge.That is the main road and the back road border our property.My father inlaw is building our house at present hope to be done in the summer.Just wondering are you next to us.Thanks Jim.

  3. says

    Hi Richard – Ha ha… funny how the insurance thing works! If they *think* that you might need it, they don't sell it to you!

    Hi Jim – I sent you a response to your e-mail yesterday, did you get it? The way you write, sounds like you are still watching for a response on that. Maybe it ended up in your junk mail filter? Anyway, is your lot in Barangay Limao, right near the famous "White House of Samal?" That is where our land is.

    • MARZ DE SAN says


  4. arvin says

    Zamboanga is indeed a wondeful place to live in………. as a matter of fact our city is one of the highest TAX PAYERS in the philippines, but a little percentage only goes to zambo…. and to Mr. Richard, that travel agent is SARCASTIC… and also guys have you seen the news about the FR.BOSSI kidnapping? the media tries to show that the KIDNAPPING was held in ZAMBOANGA CITY, but as a fact, it was at ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE! and ZAMBOANGA CITY is located at ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR……. and also, our city is PEACEFUL! IF You feel safe when you're in Davao,Gen.Santos,Manila,Cebu…. then INCLUDE ZAMBOANGA IN YOUR LIST! hahahaha!!!

  5. arvin says

    oh that's good… have you been to Santa Cruz Island? and the 7 islands at bolong? it's a must seen…. but, as you can see we are not that HIGHLY COMMERCIALIZED city… and do you know that our PUBLIC HOSTPITAL's facilities are way better than those of the private ones? haha… our city mayor really focuses on projects that would benefit his people….

  6. says

    Hi Arvin – Yes, I've been to Santa Cruz – hey, I've been to Basilan and Tawi too! I went there last year. I get around, particularly around Mindanao.

  7. alex says

    Good day to you…I always see ur blog.Yeah, I must say that Zamboanga is indeed a peaceful place to live. I don't believe on the media that Zamboanga is a home for bombing and kidnapping hmmmp….actually it is outside the city but in the city it ddint happen if you want to know visit and you'll find the place a nice one to live for rather than in Metro Manila where most of the crime happens…Zamboanga is actually a multicultural city in the Philippines…come visit and you'll find this city a place to live in and you'll never regret to come…by the way Our Vice Mayor is not Beng Climaco actually she is the 1st District Congresswoman of Zamboanga, and actually its Manny Dalipe who is the Vice Mayor….(some kinda un inform)Zamboanga is actually a chartered city and hmmp probably not belong to Zamboanga del sur province(the fact we don't vote for a Governatorial)Zamboanga is also a highy urbanized city and highest Taxpayer in the Philippines(ask the BIR about it)zamboanga international airport is a standard airport and meanwhile the seaport are class to bea international port already…so visit zamboanga and you'll find it great to live for…Viva and Adelante….

  8. Arvin says

    oopps… i made some mistakes… lol
    btw, there's a new attraction here it's the PASEO DEL MAR….
    just near the fort pilar……
    as zamboanga's economy is booming, the transfer of the regional offices has begun…….. it will be hard for investors to put up their business here,,, and as they say the executive order that our VERY LOVING AND HONORABLE(SARCASTIC) president does not actually exist?
    she hates zamboanga city so much…………….. i can't wait till she steps down….. for a change…..

  9. says

    Hi Arvin – Really this site is not for the purpose of Political commentary, as a matter of fact it is a subject that we try to avoid. Thanks for keeping that in mind.

  10. says

    great one Bob…great read. Zamboanga is the only city in Mindanao with rich history to boot compared to Davao and Cagayan de Oro. Zamboanga may not have SM and Gaisano but its got the largest fortress ouside manila ( Fort Santiago – Intramuros!)

  11. says

    Hi Ram – Certainly Zamboanga has a rich history, but I am not sure why you would feel that other Mindanao Cities have less of a history. Davao and CdO have rich histories too. Marawi is perhaps the most culturally rich place on the Island.

    Thanks for visiting.

  12. Jerome says

    I would just like to correct something that the person you interviewed said: You can drink water in Zamboanga city which comes from the faucet. Occassionally there are rumours of the water being contaminated (only happened twice the entire time I lived there *20 years* and those are the only times that you have to boil your water and take extreme measures like buying mineral water.

    Also, when it comes to foreigners, there are actually a considerable number of turkish and middle easterns living in the city. As for Koreans, I didn't know there were koreans in the city.

    Just FYI,

    Zamboanga city is a 1st class city highly-urbanized city. It is one of the first chartered cities and the sixth largest in the country. Zamboanga City is also one of several cities in the Philippines that are independent of any province.

  13. alex says

    Hi bob ……just wanna say something as i read ur blog i just wanna comment about the guy you've interviewd and he talks about the water here actually you can drink water in faucet its safe but in some maybe not if you live in squatter areas and some of its answers are somekinda un informed and not really study well before he answered heheh…….and now a day zamboanga city is booming many infrastracture have been building…hehehhe…zamboanga is place to be a place to love for….come and visit our city..thanx muchias gracia….

  14. Melissa says


    planning to go next month. Is it safe to visit now? what's the best mode of transportation to maximize just a 1 day's trip to zamboanga city?

    what's the cost of rent a car with driver? is it advisable?

    can u recommend an itinerary for a day? :smile:

  15. Arvin says

    oohh. im sorry alex…..
    fyi, interviews can't be updated….

    hey louise, i don't have any…

    hey bob, how you doin?

  16. says

    Thank you so much for featuring Zamboanga. A lot of this has happened since this interview =)

    Ping me if someone needs more info about the city.

    God Bless!

  17. Rhaingel says

    Hi Bob!

    Thanks for giving us a positive feedbacks on our BELOVED ZAMBOANGA CITY…It is true that zamboanga city is a beautiful place to live in. A place where you can relax and breath fresh air…Unlike manila and cebu, their place is quite congested and heavy trafics are anywhere in the city…In fact, last october, I had two japanese visitors and they were really amzed with the scenery of the place.. The two (japanese) were very very happy touring around the beautiful spots in the city… As a matter of fact, they both joined walking the shore on the strecth of the boulevard watching the beautiful setting of the sun…They also joined me walking around the city proper as if they are just an ordinary and native people of zamboanga…The only thing I would like to comment is on the media or news…If anything happen to a place outside zamboanga city, why are they always placing zambonaga city in their headlines…Hope they can realized that what they did is a big drawbacks to the city as well as to the people of zamboanga city…

    Thanks Bob and may God bless you always…

  18. Cassey says

    Hello Bob!

    There are taxis in Zamboanga City which can usually be found at the airport. There are lots of private cars for hires too if you want to go around the city. The drivers who hang out at the airport will usually point out to you if you want a taxi or a private car. There is also a rent-a-car infront of Garden Orchid Hotel.


  19. says

    Hi. Taxis are quite rare, in fact I haven't much luck riding one yet.

    To get around, there are many public utility jeeps and tricycles – which are like taxi-motorcycles (taxi-cles?) and "underground" habal-habals – motorcycles where you get a ride as a pinion rider.

    If you're lucky, you'd be the only rider. Most of time there are two or three more people sharing the bike ride, driver excluded. People in ZC like it tight and close.

    Arivin, Zamboanga city is a chartered city, and independent of Zamboanga del Sur. The LGU has been bugging the NSO to generate independent stats for Zamboanga city, but they keep lumping them with Zamboanga del Sur.

    I've been staying in Zamboanga city for a few months now, but every time I leave Zamboanga for Davao or Manila (or some other bigger city) I always get this feeling of being relieved from many tiny inconveniences we take for granted.

  20. marissa says

    Hi Bob, thanks for featuring Zamboanga City. I was born and have lived in ZC half of my life. Since then moved to New Zealand and have been here now for 20 years. But I've always been proud to be a Zamboanguena. I have always wanted to go back for good, but work and family commitment have stopped me from doing so. My husband and I have built our retirement nest there, so utlimately we'll be home for good. Hubby's from Manila by the way but he prefers to live in ZC. We have been back there many times to visit and have always felt safe walking around town. It's sad how the rest of the country and perhaps the world have perceived otherwise, mainly due to bad press. I must say Mayor Celso Lobregat and his team have done a wonderful job in promoting our city and in trying to reclaim our once great reputation in the tourist industry (back in the 60's and 70's as I recall). Also, thanks to blogs like this for the positive feedbacks at long last. May I add about the comments on taxis or the lack of it these days. It's all to do with supply and demand. Unfortunately, there aren't enough visitors to sustain taxi companies. Face it, it's a lot cheaper to run tricycles for livelihood than airconditioned cars. But I can assure you once tourism booms it'll create the demand for it.. and we're not far from it. To my fellow zamboanguenos out there, stay proud and keep promoting our city. Muchas gracias.

  21. Edward says

    Hello everyone,

    I definitely agree with you Bob, Zamboanga City is a wonderful place. You know, i fell in love with that place, I have been there at least 26-30 times since 2001. I worked for a company here in Manila that owns vast tracks of land in Zambo as far as IPIL and Pagadian. During those travels, I have never experinecd a hassle or was never been a victim of crime. Lantaka Hotel was my home. I feel so relaxed when i seat on the bar in the afternoon overlooking the port/sea. I even had a road trip travelling several times to Pagadian to Zambaonga on bus. It was really cool and memorable journey. I miss Zamboanga and looking forward to visit that place again real soon.

  22. steve says

    Hello I was there for 3 weeks in jan 2009—Tumaga–Visting my new family-Had a great time. Going Back This May 20. To Stay . My New Home. Steven

  23. lisa says

    knowing nothing about zamboanga city and planning on moving there, i found your informantion usefull, thanks all for sharing! takes away a whole lot of ignorance

  24. len says

    hey Bob,i just wanna ask you.how far is Zamboanga city international airport to city hall.my husband and i are going there this year.we might stay in garden orchid..so please tell me how far is the city hall.we never been there.i hope u help us.


  25. Howard says

    Hi Bob,
    I plan on making a trip to Ipil in October from the USA. Do you think it is a safe area for me to travel to? Is there anything that I might need to know or any pointers you may have for me?

    Thanks Much,

  26. says

    Hi Bob,

    thank you for sharing good thoughts about my city and making this article to closely reiterate other filipinos who hate their country instead of appreciating it.

    in many cases, We have seen how foreigners look down on us and puts us in a mineral bottle.I hope you who have seen how Filipinos who looks up to you in different level will not take advantage of our land.

    Good luck to you and to your friends who hopes to invest and enjoy our city’s pride

    • says

      Thank you Therese. I don’t think I am in any way taking advantage of your land. On the contrary, I believe, and am proud that I am making a contribution to Philippine society.

  27. says

    Hi Bob,

    thank you for sharing good thoughts about my city and making this article to closely reiterate other filipinos who hate their country instead of appreciating it.

    in many cases, I hope you who have seen how Filipinos who looks up to you in different level will not take advantage of our land.

    Good luck to you and to your friends who hopes to invest and enjoy our city’s pride

  28. says

    Hi Cassey – When I visited Zamboanga in 2007 there were no taxis at the Airport. I rode a tricycle to the Garden Orchid. There was also no rent-a-car in front of the hotel either. Seems that things must be improving there a bit. I do wonder, though, since I know for certain that tricycle prices were hugely increased, based on the color of your skin, are the car/taxi prices like that too?

  29. says

    Hi marissa – it seems like all of Mindanao is perceived poorly by the world. But, you are right, Zambo in particular is looked at as nothing but a terrorist haven. It's really a sad thing, because there is so much more to the City and the entire island.

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