Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Zamboanga's Ardent Devotion to the Lady of Fort Pilar

Zamboanga City - Each October for the past 300 years or so, residents of Zamboanga and neighboring towns flock to the shrine of Nuestra Senora la Virgen del Pilar to pay their homage to the patron saint of the city.

Her image, a garishly painted bas relief of a woman with a child in her arms high up on the parapet of Fort Pilar, is the object of the biggest pilgrimage in Mindanao each October 12.

The fort and the shrine are central to the creation of Zamboanga.  According to historian Noelle Rodriguez, the establishment of a Spanish fort caused various people to come together: Spanish soldiers, their troops from the Visayas and Pampanga, the indigenous tribes called Lutaos and Subanons who settled near the fort for protection from the annual slave-rading, and the runaway slaves from Sulu who took refuge in the city.

These people, having no common language, created their own incorporating elements from the Spanish and from their own native tongues. This is now known as Chavacano.

A Fort to Protect the People

Zamboanga peninsula in predominantly Muslim Mindanao was part of the Southeast Asia slave trade route. Powerful Muslim clans used slavery to produce more food and maintain their power.

A circa 1776 line drawing of a village along the Caldera Bay. Image is taken from the book World Between Worlds: Cradle of an Emerging Civilization.

Fort Pilar was the Spanish government’s solution to the constant slave raiding on the coastal towns of Visayas and Luzon.

Lithograph of a view of Zamboanga anchorage in 1876. The square structure on the right is the fort. Each corner is named after the King of Spain and his three sons.
The image above is called Mapa de Filipinas del Jesuita P. Murillo Velarde. 1974. On the right is the fort and in the middle is walled city.
It was built, abandoned, and rebuilt several times, first in 1597 using only wood. The present fort, made of stone this time, was built in 1635. Over a thousand workers were imported from the Visayas and construction of the fortress was supervised by a Jesuit priest, Fr. Melchor de Vera.

It was on the third and last occupation of the fort by the Spaniards that they renamed it Real Fuerza de Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Zaragoza, following a royal decree that ordered all of Spain as well as all its overseas possessions to have her as patron saint. The Spaniards, seeking her protection, placed her image over the entrance on the easter wall.

The Shrine to Nuestra La Virgen del Pilar

It was only in the 1980s that the fort was renovated. Note that there was no alter or other structure yet now present and the ground was not yet concreted. 

No one knows exactly at what point the fort became a shrine venerated by Catholics and Non-Catholics alike but up to the present, many residents still firmly believe the Virgin has miraculous powers and is actively protecting Zamboanga from any harm.

Then, as now, the shrine is a pilgrimage site. Behind the fort is a mangrove forest and the sea. Now, a state college blocks the view to the water.

The most enduring legends have to do with the Nuestra Senora saving Zamboanga from catastrophes, such as the eartquake and tsunami of 1897, and then again in 1976.

Tales are told of how some people saw an image of the Nuestra Senora floating over the raging waves of the Basilan Strait, hands in front of her, as if commanding the rushing water to halt.

To this day, Catholic churches in Zamboanga, Basilan, and Sulu offer a prayer of thanksgiving for sparing the people during these natural disasters.

An interview with a devotee and shrine helper on why many revere the Lady of Fort Pilar. (Interview is in Chavacano).

The Shrine in modern times

Over the years, the shrine has changed its appearance. But the major renovation took place only in the 1980s. That undertaking was met with mixed feelings by the public. When a major storm hit the city  October the year of renovation, people went around saying the Nuestra Senora was unhappy with her makeover.

Children kneeling in front of the illustrated altar.

The shrine, carved into the wall of a fortress, is a contradictory symbol in itself. a fortress brings to ind wars, invasions and violence. The devotees believe it was the power of La Nuestra Senora which brought about the change of how people perceived the fort, from one that represented violence, to one that stood for peace.

Going to the shrine has become a ritual. Watch this video to see how people show their devotion to La Nuestra Senora La Virgen del Pilar.

  The Fort Pilar and Shrine is in Zamboanga City on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

how to kill hermit crabs

i have seven hermit crabs. i used to have ten but i murdered three of them two weeks ago - inadvertently. i had just given them and their habitat (sand and corals in a big cookie jar) a bath but i did not want to bring it in the house while it was dripping so i figured, why not put it out under the sun for a bit. i did not think it would harm the creatures. where i got them, legions of hermit crabs would parade all over the beach at all times of the day, even under the scorching sun. 

so i observed how they would take to the heat while in the confines of their cookie jar -- and they were having a fiesta! they were all over the place, zigging and zagging all over each other, more active than all the times they were inside the house. 

and of course i was elated. so. this is what you want? then i will let you have some more of it.

i knew the moment i checked on them an hour later - which would be around 11am - that something was wrong. HORRIBLY, HORRID ME wrong.

total death toll: three. the biggest (karl), the guy with the shell that looked like a ferris wheel (marni) and  a non-descript creature (so non descript i did not come up with a name). 

i learned that when hermit crabs die, they come out of their shells. (isn't that sad?)

pre-mortem, i only ever get to see the tops of their bodies, the nasty pinchers and monstrous head. these are the parts that look tough and hard. but the hidden parts that got exposed when they died were soft. like the body of a caterpillar. but deflated.

i lined up the fatalities and took a picture of them while husband looked on with disapproval. "are you going to blog about how you killed your pets?"


Thursday, July 5, 2012

bonding over music

when i met my husband, he was at the terminal stage of his relationship with death metal, listening to bands with names like Slayer and Feisty Cadavers and Venom. he tried to make me like it, but i very graciously said no. it was very nasty music, all shouting and growling and banging drums and distorted guitars.

i forgave him his temporary fit of insanity and in return, he was very gentlemanly when i admitted that i know by heart the lyrics of almost all menudo songs and that my goal in life was to marry ricky martin.

(for those born after 1985, that's ricky martin - yes, ricky martin -  on the extreme right.) 

we eventually discovered that on the whole, we like the same kind of music and as importantly, we abhorred the same kind of music. ariel and i cannot stand the following:

1. R & B
2. Rap
3. Ballads

there are exceptions of course. i like some eminem songs. and he likes his rock ballads. but we both haven't heard a rhythm and blues song we like. we both would rather die than listen to boyz ii men. 

we both like rock - 70s, 80s, 90s mostly. we are both very slow in appreciating new bands and songs. we both like new wave but i would guess that's because those were the songs of our salad days. i would like to put it on record that ariel experienced his salad days a few years ahead of me. he will be decrepit soon.

Friday, June 22, 2012

why do we want sm in zamboanga?

for the life of me i cannot understand why people would want an SM in Zamboanga.

i really do not.

so we will look like metro manila? 


people have even concocted conspiracy theories about why they are not here yet. a popular one is that a coalition of local businessmen are blocking sm's coming. 

AS IF!!!

i bet if henry wanted to come here, he would come here. full stop. 

the reason why sm is not here is because they do not want to be here. yet. wake up and smell the dead cat, people. he has $9.1B for crying out loud. 

they are not here most likely because the business prospects are not that promising or because of the usual peace and order concerns. 

believe it or not, i heard tell that this issue will be used in the upcoming elections. sheesh. 

but take heart. sm is already eyeing zamboanga with the intention of, i quote Hans Sy, “We would be bringing in the lifestyle of Manila here, with the same price and style".

that actually scares rather than excites me.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

a monster in my son's room

i have an idea! a most glorious, wondrous idea!

why not this

or this

for rashdi's room?

it will solve so many problems, foremost of which would be the forever state of mess his room is in. last year when we were sprucing up Jana's room, we asked him if he wanted his room repainted and fixed up a little. to no one's surprise, he said no. 

but he might be amenable to this. the two loves of his life are robots* and books. well, you can throw in video games and music and his dog george but the two would be the ones on top of the list. 

so a robot book case to help him keep organized? 

now how to tell husband to make this happen. 

* do not make the mistake of calling the creatures arrayed on his shelves robots. and if you value your sanity, never ever call them toys. ever.  the acceptable terms are:
1. gundam models
2. plastic models

Saturday, June 9, 2012

i am not a call girl

i was looking at the blog stats this morning and confirmed what i have long suspected.

a number of visitors are here because they think i am running a call girl site. 

i am sure it's because of the name. zamboanga girl. 


go away. i am not a call girl. and if i were, you will regret hiring me, i swear. i will be your worst investment. go away for your own sake.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

the websites i like best

i have a love-forget relationship with my blog. blame that on my short attention span. or my constantly full to overflowing plate. glutton kasi.

heniways. rediscovered this post in the drafts folder. the poor thing had been languishing there for almost a year. am going to publish it now to take it out of its misery.

this is a list of the top ten sites i love and frequently visit. since almost a year has passed since i first drew the list, i tweaked it a little to make sure 1. the sites still exist, and 2. i still like them. i have added one or two. here they are, in no particular order:

1. lastfm. for music. i used to like grooveshark but when i visited the site recently, they made some changes. without asking my permission! the nerve.

2. huffingtonpost. best news aggregator. haha

3. wikipedia. where will i be without thee? as i always tell people, i have this abnormal desire to know everything. the more useless, the more inconsequential the information is, the better. wikipedia is the ultimate enabler for people with this addiction.

4. anthropologie. i just love the look and feel of this online store. and the shoes here are to die for seven times.

5. style. someone made the mistake once of asking me why i like looking at clothes i cannot afford. hahaha. the poor thing got a self-righteous lecture from me. 

6. marketmanila. a personal blog about food and lifestyle. he makes me laugh.

7. dooce. she makes me laugh harder. 

8. google art project. great concept. great service. and most of all, access to all those preetteee pictures.

9. tedtalks. for when you want to be inspired. which is all the time, right?

10. pinterest. i am not a member (yet) just a voyeur. you can get lost here, in a good, serendipitous kind of way, just looking looking looking at, again, all those preetteee pictures.

for obvious reasons i have not included the following: facebook, google, gmail, human nature, adzu, and my bank's online site.

Monday, June 4, 2012

how i spent the last few days of my summer in manila

so. what to do with four free days in manila? take the road less traveled, that's what.

on june 24, this road was embodied by the dirt road to the gawad kalinga enchanted farm in angat, bulacan. it was a very eventful trip that started at 5:45am and included getting lost in pasay (where the H is the OLDE international airport???) to fetch my sister blanca who just flew in.

we spent the good part of the day getting lost in the farm. it was hot, literally and figuratively. 

so here is me and blanca, looking very jologs. i was here only seven months ago and so much has changed. they do not seem to stop constructing here.

these are gk kids working on the new herb garden. our tour guide, scientist/agriculturist jong noriel, called it the sorriest herb garden ever. but i doubt it will stay that way long. 

if this pool had water, i would have dived in. or at least dipped my feet in.  that while drinking their yummy enchantea would have been heaven.
and near the heart shaped pool is this bahay kubu cum nail spa. isn't the idea simply great? to have your nails done here. the view must be great. but i would probably be lulled to sleep by the peacefulness of it all...

but for many reasons, the highlight of the day was lunch. first because i was hungry and lunch was delicious (grilled meats and some kind of vegetable and fresh pineapple). second because we had it picnic style in the shade of a duhat tree. and third because of the great company. we had the great fortune to have gawad kalinga founder tony meloto join us for lunch. (but who really joined whom? we were at the table first, he arrived with other staff members when we were halfway through our meal already. but i have a feeling the staff set that table up for him hehe). but conversation was really great. in the photo below is tony - what a patriot! - and senior staff members of gk enchanted farm as well as interns from abroad, mostly france.

the interns and staff reminded me of my jvp years. so refreshing to be amongst them, if only for a little while. then we had to leave. blanca had other appointments. we left with a lot of kesong puti, a product of one of several social enterprises operating from within the farm and benefiting residents there.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


i am steeling myself for the time in the not so distant future when jana will roll her eyes and snort at things i say and do. but in the meantime, let me enjoy the blind adulation.

jana's mother's day gift to me was this. she has always been sweet, our jana. and good thing too because it would be beyond ironic to be crabby and named dulcinea.

the gift actually reminded me of the newsletter my sister maita and i published when we were in grade school. it had the unfortunate name of CB Bears. maita used to be evil and manipulative. she has since changed her ways, thank goodness. at that time, i did not know that CB Bears stood for Carmel Blanco Bears. yes, maita's birth certificate name is Carmel Blanco. I do not know why she appended the word Bears. me thinks it is a concession of sorts to me. maybe i wanted to name our publication after the cartoon characters care bears? who knows. all i know is that i was too dumb to know i was being hoodwinked.

but going back to jana.

her gazette was a four pager. and everything in it was an ode to ME! glorious, fantabulous ME!

to quote from the top story: "my mom is wonderful! she is amazing!"


"she is good at drawing, journalism and reading."

"she is really the best!"

ah. i can feel my liver doubling in size.

but wait. good at drawing, journalism and reading? only?

what about my other...skills? cooking, for example. parenting? leadership? teaching? makeup-ing?

i mean, what is she trying to say by focusing just on these three?  

i am no good at drawing. she knows she is better than me. way way way way way better.

and journalism. i can hear the collective snorts of my journalism professors, if they can see this. (is there a way to hide this blog post from chay hofilena, luz rimban, karl wilson, kim kierans, et al? or did i just made the opposite happen by putting their names here?) 

and reading. well. i concede on this. but this has no meaning whatsoever. what does good in reading mean? that i read fast? that i choose my reading materials well? an irrelevant skill.

but the best part of the paper was the one that was not about me, directly. it's the classified ads section. while it is not about me, it is directed at me, as you can see. 

"this kid needs more computer time. help kids who need computer time."

this is simply classic among the blanco-delgado kids. our kids have rules, complex ones, about computer time allocation, that they promulgated themselves and which they self-impose. 

this does not mean however that no stray kid appeals in secret for higher courts (aka papa and mama) to intervene. this is one such appeal. done in behalf of diego, because in the image, a long haired girl is at the keyboards while a forlorn looking boy is looking directly at the reader. in an appealing way.

and the survey on souvenirs. ah. using empirical data (albeit invented) to argue her case and not-so-subtly hinting for me to ask her already what she wants as pasalubong. this gazette is a loaded gift.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

an exercise in self-restraint

this is what i am reading now.


and this is what i WISH i were reading now. :) 

it's a good thing that there is at least one book in the "have to" pile that i can read in bed without going to sleep after 3 seconds:

i am going to report on this curry book for my asia since 1900 class. i enjoy reading it so much it feels like cheating.