What comes to mind when you hear the word Mindanao? For most, words like dangerous, scary, and unsafe would come to mind. Well, I wouldn’t blame them since Mindanao has been portrayed in the media as a place that you should stay away from. But we highly disagree. Mindanao has some of the most wonderful places in the Philippines like Siargao, Camiguin, Surigao, and Davao.
Just very recently, we had the opportunity to visit once again the beautiful island of Mindanao and this time we stayed in Zamboanga dubbed as Asia’s Latin City, and the island province of Basilan.
This was just a weekend trip so it was quite short but let me tell you, it was jam-packed with tons of fun.
We arrived at Zamboanga International Airport around 8PM. Grabtaxi is actually available in the city however it was hard to book because of the surge, hence we opted to ride a tricycle instead to take us to Tetuan where the famous Alavar Seafood Restaurant is located. The restaurant had a great ambiance to it as it was designed in such a way that you would feel that you time traveled back to the Spanish colonial period. We were so excited to try their specialty – the Curacha in Alavar Sauce. Curacha is a deep-sea crab that has some similarities with a cockroach. Don’t mind the name though as this type of crab is far superior to the ones we commonly eat such as the blue crabs, and mud crabs.
Pricewise, it was quite expensive. PHP 1500 for an extra large Curacha. It probably weighed more than a kilo and the size of it was almost as big as the plate it was served on. The Curacha contained loads of sweet and tender meat, and the Alavar sauce really complimented the dish. If I am not mistaken, Alavar sauce is made up of coconut cream, a concoction of spices, and latik which gave the sauce its sweetness. Just the sauce itself would warrant boatloads of rice. That’s how good it was. They also sell the Alavar sauce in packets which was nice since it can be easily be taken back home. Just ensure that you keep it frozen to avoid it from spoiling. 1kg of the Alavar sauce is PHP 360.
With our bellies full, we then headed to our rented accommodation, Mulberry Place which we booked via Airbnb. The rate was PHP 900 a night but since we had Airbnb credits, our stay there for that night was free.
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We woke up at around 5 in the morning the following day and it was pouring! But thankfully as we were about to leave, the rain stopped. Our next destination was Sta. Cruz island where the Pink Beach is located. To get there, you need to ride a tricycle to Paseo Del Mar. Depending on where you are, the fair would cost from 40 pesos to 70 pesos.
We then proceeded to the Protected Area Management Unit to register and attend the short orientation. Boats will start serving guests at 7:00am.
Important: Reservation is a must. They do not allow any walk-in clients when they are fully booked. Contact Number is 09056016316.
I love how strict they are when it comes to protecting the island. They make sure the below guidelines are followed 100% of the time while staying at the beach. Mind you fines will go as high as P5000 plus hours of community service so better keep all the guidelines in mind. Since we booked the reservation months before, we were the first ones to ride the boat, all boats will be escorted with 2 police officers.
Boat rental is PHP 1000 (round trip) and the boat can accommodate 10-15 passengers. After about 20 mins of boat ride, we finally arrived at the Pink Beach which was named one of the best beaches in the world. The sand was made pink by the red pipe organ coral that was naturally ground and washed ashore. The beach is great for swimming since the water is quite calm however keep in mind that the water gets very deep quite quickly.
The cheapest cottage you may rent is PHP 100. Just as we were setting up, fishermen arrived and offered us their fresh catch such as squid, crabs, seaweed, and different varieties of fish. They will also cook them for you should you decide to buy it from them.
Important: Littering is strictly not allowed. There are no garbage cans in the vicinity hence all the garbage that you will produce needs to be taken back to Paseo Del Mar.
Important: Guests are not allowed to stay on the island overnight.
After our sumptuous meal, we decided to call it a day and go to our next destination – Malamawi Island in Basilan.
We headed back to Paseo Del Mar just after lunchtime and made our way to Zamboanga port where fast crafts (Sea Jet) to Isabela Port are available. The fare is PHP 170 and the travel time is 40 minutes. If you prefer the regular passenger boats, the fare is only PHP 70 but the travel time is 2 hours.
Upon arrival at Isabela port, we road another outrigger boat to take us to Malamawi Island. The fare is just PHP 5 and the travel time is around 5 minutes. We then rode a habal-habal to take us to the Malamawi White Beach Resort. The habal-habal costed PHP 50 per head and the travel time is around 20 minutes.
Important: Since this is the only resort in the island, you have to make sure that you make reservations! Also, bring food with you. Though there is a canteen in the vicinity, they only sell snacks, cup noodles, and junk food.
The sand was almost milky white and very fine! Very beautiful. You can walk barefoot at the shore without stumbling into small pebbles. The water is clear but the waves are big!
The deluxe room for 2 cost us P2000 per night with free breakfast. The room is spacious and the bathroom is huge. This is a non-aircon room but there were 2 electric fans available. Since we were the only ones in the resort, the whole place was peaceful and quiet.
The beach was really nice, and the sand was as fine as it gets. The waves were huge though but the actual water level was not deep. We really had fun riding the waves. We also made sand castles by the shore and spent several hours there appreciating the beauty of the place.
We woke up at around 6AM and breakfast was already served. After a few hours enjoying the last leg of our trip, we decided to pack things up and head back to Zamboanga City.
TIP: Get the number of the Habal driver that you hire since there are times that Habal-habal/Tricycle is not readily available at the resort.
It was around lunch time when we arrived in the city so we opted to fill our tummies with the famous satti of Zamboanga. Andy’s Satti Restaurant in Tetuan is one of the most popular satti houses in the city though satti can be found in carenderias as well. Satti is really just barbecue but the main difference is it is served with a special kind of thick, yellow, spicy sauce, and sticky rice. It usually cost around PHP 50-60 for a few sticks of chicken, beef, liver etc.
We then headed to Tsokolate to try their popular chocolate pianono for dessert. It really brought back a lot of childhood memories.
Overall, our trip to Zamboanga, and Basilan was really fun and exciting. Though we only spent a couple of days to explore the beauty of this part of the Philippines, we are still very thankful for the opportunity. We will definitely come back to this place no questions asked.
Protected Area Management Unit (Pink Beach) – 09056016316
Malamawi White Beach Resort – 09450628568
Mulberry Place – https://abnb.me/TOKfYhTSUT