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Zamboanga City

Coordinates: 6°54′15″N 122°04′34″E / 6.9042°N 122.0761°E / 6.9042; 122.0761
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Zamboanga City
City of Zamboanga
Flag of Zamboanga City
Official seal of Zamboanga City
Etymology: Malay "jambangan"
City of Flowers[1]
Asia's Latin City[1]
Sardines Capital of The Philippines[1]
Build Back Better Zamboanga
Anthem: Zamboanga Hermosa (Beautiful Zamboanga)
Map of Zamboanga Peninsula with Zamboanga City highlighted
Map of Zamboanga Peninsula with Zamboanga City highlighted
Zamboanga City is located in Philippines
Zamboanga City
Zamboanga City
Location within the Philippines
Coordinates: 6°54′15″N 122°04′34″E / 6.9042°N 122.0761°E / 6.9042; 122.0761
RegionZamboanga Peninsula
ProvinceZamboanga del Sur (statistically only)
District1st (West Coast) and 2nd (East Coast) districts of Zamboanga City
FoundedJune 23, 1635
CharteredOctober 12, 1936
CityhoodFebruary 26, 1937
Highly urbanized cityNovember 22, 1983
Barangays98 (see Barangays)
 • TypeSangguniang Panlungsod
 • MayorJohn M. Dalipe (PRP)
 • Vice MayorJosephine E. Pareja (PAZ)
 • Representatives
 • City Council
 • Electorate445,240 voters (2022)
 • Highly urbanized city1,453.27 km2 (561.11 sq mi)
 • Rank3rd (city)
96 m (315 ft)
Highest elevation
1,358 m (4,455 ft)
Lowest elevation
0 m (0 ft)
 (2020 census)[4]
 • Highly urbanized city977,234
 • Rank5th
 • Density670/km2 (1,700/sq mi)
 • Urban
 • Metro
4,710,000 (Regional)
 • Households
DemonymZamboangueño (Major Ethnicity)
 • Gross domestic product (GDP)₱139.47 billion (2022)[5]
$2.463 billion (2022)[6]
 • Income class1st city income class
 • Poverty incidence
% (2021)[7]
 • Revenue₱ 4,121 million (2020)
 • Assets₱ 19,775 million (2020)
 • Expenditure₱ 3,116 million (2020)
Service provider
 • ElectricityZamboanga City Electric Cooperative (ZAMCELCO)
Time zoneUTC+8 (PST)
ZIP code
IDD:area code+63 (0)62
Native languages

Zamboanga City, officially the City of Zamboanga (Chavacano: Ciudad de Zamboanga, Tausug: Dāira sin Sambuangan, Filipino: Lungsod ng Zamboanga, Cebuano: Dakbayan sa Zamboanga), is a 1st class highly urbanized city in the Zamboanga Peninsula region of the Philippines. According to the 2020 census, it has a population of 977,234 people.[8] It is the fifth-most populous and third-largest city by land area in the Philippines and also the second most populous in Mindanao after Davao City.[9][10] It is the commercial and industrial center of the Zamboanga Peninsula Region.[11]

On October 12, 1936, Zamboanga became a chartered city under Commonwealth Act No. 39.[12][13] It was inaugurated on February 26, 1937.[14]

Zamboanga City is an independent, chartered city and was designated highly urbanized on November 22, 1983.[15]

Although geographically separated, and an independent and chartered city, Zamboanga City is grouped with the province of Zamboanga del Sur by the Philippine Statistics Authority for statistical purposes, yet governed independently from it. And also, it is the largest city of that province and in the entire Zamboanga Peninsula Region.[16]

In 2028, the city's population is projected to hit the 1,200,000 population mark, which will make the city fall under the NEDA's classification of a Metropolitan City.[17]



Rajahnate of Sanmalan


The Zamboanga Peninsula was settled in the late 12th or early 13th century by the Subanen people; it was also the homelands of the ancestors of the Yakan, the Balanguingui, and other closely related Sama-Bajau peoples.[18][19]

The 11th-century Chinese Song Dynasty records also mention a polity named "Sanmalan" (三麻蘭) from Mindanao, which has a name similar to Zamboanga and has been tentatively identified with it by some authors (Wang, 2008; Huang, 1980). Sanmalan is said to be led by a Rajah "Chülan". His ambassador "Ali Bakti" and that of Butuan's "Likan-hsieh" is recorded to have visited the Chinese imperial court with gifts and trade goods in AD 1011. However, the correlation between Zamboanga and Sanmalan is based only on their similar-sounding names. Sanmalan is only mentioned in conjunction with Butuan (P'u-tuan) and it is unknown if Sanmalan is indeed Zamboanga. The historian William Henry Scott (1989) also posits the possibility that Sanmalan instead referred to a polity of the Sama-Bajau ("Samal") people.[20][21]

During the 13th century, the Tausūg people began migrating to the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Sulu Archipelago from their homelands in northeastern Mindanao. They became the dominant ethnic group in the archipelago after they were Islamized in the 14th century and established the Sultanate of Sulu in the 15th century. A majority of the Yakan, the Balanguingui, and the Sama-Bajau were also Islamized, though most of the Subanen remained animist (with the exception of the Kolibugan subgroup in southwestern Zamboanga).[18][22][23]

In colonial-era historical records, the city was previously known as Samboangan.[24][25][26][27][28][29][30] Samboangan is a Sinama term for "mooring place" (also spelled sambuangan; and in Subanen, sembwangan), from the root word samboang ("mooring pole").[31] The name was later Hispanicized as Zamboanga.

This is commonly contested by folk etymologies which instead attribute the name to the Indonesian word jambangan (claimed to mean "place of flowers", but actually means "pot" or "bowl"), usually with claims that all ethnic groups in Zamboanga were "Malays". However, this name has never been attested in any historical records prior to the 1960s.[32] The city's nickname "City of Flowers" is derived from such folk etymologies.[33][34]

Spanish rule

Illustration of Zamboanga ("Samboangan") and Fort Pilar, detail from the Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica de las Yslas Filipinas, 1734

Spanish explorers, led by Ferdinand Magellan, arrived in the Philippine archipelago in 1521.[35] Zamboanga was chosen in 1569 as the site of the Spanish settlement and garrison on La Caldera (now part of Barangay Recodo).[36] Spain granted the former Rajahnate of Sanmalan protectorate status against the Sulu Sultanate, its former overlord[37] and the kingdom's name was hispanized into Zamboanga and made a city. Zamboanga City was one of the main strongholds in Mindanao, supporting colonizing efforts in the south of the island and making way for Christian settlements. It also served as a military outpost, protecting the island against foreign invaders and Moro pirates.

In 1599, the Zamboanga fort was closed and transferred to Cebú due to great concerns about attack by the English on that island, which did not occur. After having abandoned the city, the Spaniards as well as some Spanish-American soldiers from Peru[38] and New Spain (Mexico) led by the former Governor of Panama, Don Sebastián Hurtado de Corcuera, who also brought along Genoese crusaders[39] who had settled in Panama, joined forces with troops from Pampanga and Visayan soldiers (from Bohol, Cebu and Iloilo) and reached the shore of Zamboanga to bring peace to the island against Moro Muslim pirates.[40]

In 1635, Spanish officers and soldiers, along with Visayan laborers, settled in the area and construction began on Fort San José (what is now known as Fort Pilar) to protect the inhabitants of the area from piracy by the Moro. Specifically at April 5, 1635: it was Cebu that sent a force of 300 Spanish and 1,000 Visayan troops to settle and colonize at Zamboanga City under the command of Captain Juan de Chavez.[41] Zamboanga became the main headquarters of the Spaniards on June 23, 1635, upon approval of King Philip IV of Spain, and the Spanish officially founded the city.[42] Thousands of Spanish troops, headed by a governor general from Spain, took the approval to build the first Zamboanga fortress (now called Fort Pilar) in Zamboanga to forestall enemies in Mindanao like Moro pirates and other foreign invaders.[43] There were also a hundred Spanish troops sent to fortify the nearby Presidio of Iligan.[44] At the years 1636 and 1654, the Presidio of Zamboanga received companies of 210 and 184 reinforcements of Mexican soldiers on those years.[45] The Zamboanga fortress became the main focus of a number of battles between Moros and Spaniards during Spanish rule in the region from the 16th century to the 18th. Spain was forced to abandon Zamboanga temporarily and withdraw its soldiers to Manila in 1662 after the Chinese under Koxinga threatened to invade the Spanish Philippines. Despite the official Spanish forces leaving, the Jesuits remained in Zamboanga and shepherded the civilian Christian population and treated Zamboanga much like their reductions in Paraguay,[46] until the Spanish returned.

The Spanish returned to Zamboanga in 1718 and rebuilding of the fort began the following year. The fort would serve as defence for the Christian settlement against Moro pirates and foreign invaders for the coming years. There was deportation of mostly Spanish-American and Spanish vagrants from Manila to Zamboanga which helped advance a colonizing program against the Muslim south, further illustrating how the resistance to Spanish sovereignty in Mindanao and Borneo determined imperial policies on the islands.[47][48]

While the region was already dominated by Catholicism, Muslims kept up a protracted struggle into the 18th century against the ruling Spaniards.[49][50] A British naval squadron conducted a raid on Zamboanga in January 1798, but was driven off by the city's defensive fortifications. During 1821, the Uruguayan, Juan Fermín de San Martín, brother of the leader of the Argentinian Revolution, José de San Martín, was commander of the fortress-city of Zamboanga for a year.[51] At 1823, inspired by the Spanish-American Wars of Independence, the Spanish-Americans who had been sent to Zamboanga and Philippines as soldiers, joined in the revolt of Andres Novales, and he fought for sovereignty and became the short lived Emperor of the Philippines.[52] Due to the era of the Latin American Wars of Independence, Spain feared that the large Mexican and South American population in the Philippines would incite the Filipinos to rebel, thus the Spaniards direct from Spain were imported (Peninsulares) and the Latin American class in the Philippines were displaced and were forced into a lower rank of the caste system, which they reacted negatively to.[53] In 1831, the custom house in Zamboanga was established as a port, and it became the main port for direct communication, trading some goods and other services to most of Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America.[54] The American invaders arrived in the Philippines during the time of Spanish Governor General Valeriano Weyler, with thousands of troops to defeat the Spaniards who ruled for over three centuries.

The Spanish government sent more than 80,000 Spanish troops to the Philippines. The Spanish government completely surrendered the islands to the United States in the 1890s.[55]

Establishing its own Republic

Inauguration of the Municipality of Zamboanga with Datu Kalun (1901)

The Republic of Zamboanga was established directly on May 28, 1899, after the Zamboangueño revolutionary forces defeated the last Spanish government in Zamboanga. Fort Pilar was turned over to General Vicente Álvarez, who between May and November 1899 was the first president of the República de Zamboanga. He assembled a revolutionary army which was diverse and filled with Christians, Muslims, and Lumads.[56] This republic continued to exist until 1903, with Isidoro Midel as its second president under a puppet government of the United States; he was succeeded by Mariano Arquiza.[57]

American occupation


Upon the firm establishment of American colonization and dissolution of the Republic in 1903, Zamboanga, as a municipality, was designated as the capital of the Moro Province, a semi-military government consisting of five districts: Zamboanga, Cotabato, Davao, Lanao and Sulu. It established itself the center of commerce, trade, and government of Mindanao Island.[58] During this period, Zamboanga hosted a number of American regional governors, including General John J. Pershing, who was military commander/governor of the Moro Province from 1909 to 1914.

In 1920, Zamboanga City ceased to be capital of the Moro Province[59] when the department was divided into provinces in which the city became under the large province of Zamboanga. This encompasses the present-day Zamboanga Peninsula with the inclusion of the whole province of Basilan.

Commonwealth era and city charter

President Manuel L. Quezon signing the City Charter of Zamboanga in a ceremony held at the Malacañang Palace in (1936)

When the Commonwealth government was established in 1935, calls to convert the municipality of Zamboanga into a city increased. On September 23, 1936, through Assemblyman Juan Alano, the National Assembly of the Philippines passed Commonwealth Act No. 39 making Zamboanga a chartered city consisting of "the present territorial jurisdiction of the municipality of Zamboanga, the municipality of Bolong, the municipal district of Taluksangay, the whole island of Basilan and the adjacent islands, i.e., the municipality of Isabela, the municipal district of Lamitan, and the municipal district of Maluso."[12][13] It was later signed by President Manuel Quezon on October 12, 1936. The charter made Zamboanga City as the largest city in the world in terms of land area. During these times, Zamboanga was the leading commercial and industrial city of Mindanao.

Before World War II, Pettit Barracks, a part of the U.S. Army's 43d Infantry Regiment (PS), was stationed there.

World War II


When the Japanese invaded the Philippines, they were headed by Vice Admiral Rokuzo Sugiyama, accompanied by Rear Admiral Naosaburo Irifune. The Japanese landed at Zamboanga City on March 2, 1942.[60] The city became a branch hub of Unit 731 for human experimentation conducted by Japanese doctors. Among the experiments include amputations, dissections, and vivisections on live Filipinos.[61][62]

The Japanese government in the city was overthrown by American and Filipino forces following a fierce battle on March 10–12, 1945.[57] The rebuilt general headquarters of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Philippine Constabulary was stationed in Zamboanga City from March 13, 1945, to June 30, 1946, during the military operations in Mindanao and Sulu against the Japanese.[citation needed]

Contemporary history


After World War II


After the war, citizens on the island of Basilan found it difficult to appear in courts, pay their taxes, or seek help from the mayor and other officials. Going from Basilan to the mainland required three or more hours of ferry travel. To fix the problem, Representative Juan Alano filed a bill in Congress to separate Basilan from Zamboanga City. The island of Basilan was proclaimed a separate city through Republic Act No. 288 on July 16, 1948.[63]

On April 7, 1953, by virtue of Republic Act No. 840, the city was classified as first-class city according to its revenue.[64]

On April 29, 1955, a special law changed the landscape of the city government when Republic Act No. 1210[65] amended the City Charter that made elective the position of city mayor and the creation of an elective vice mayor and eight elective city councilors. The vice mayor is the presiding-officer of the City Council. In November 1955, Liberal Party candidate Cesar Climaco with his running-mate, Tomas Ferrer won the first local elections. They were inducted into office on January 1, 1956, as determined by the Revised Election Code.[66]

Martial law years


On September 21, 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081 placing the Philippines under martial law. Zamboanga City's local government came under presidential control for the first time since 1955. Marcos extended Mayor Joaquin Enriquez's term when his tenure was about to end in 1975.

President Marcos reorganized the local government on November 14, 1975, and the city council was replaced by a Sangguniang Panlungsod with the mayor as its new presiding officer and its members included the vice mayor, the chairman of the Katipunan ng mga Kabataang Barangay, the president of the Association of Barangay Captains, and sectoral representatives of agriculture, business and labor.[67]

When Mayor Enriquez resigned and bid for the newly created Interim Batasang Pambansa in 1978, Vice Mayor Jose Vicente Atilano II was appointed by President Marcos to replace him.

Climaco's return and assassination (1980–1984)


In 1980, Cesar Climaco staged his political comeback when he was elected again to the mayoral post under his new party, the Concerned Citizens' Aggrupation. He had gone into exile to the United States in protest against Marcos' declaration of martial law.[68]

In the 1984 Philippine parliamentary election, Climaco was elected a member of the Regular Batasang Pambansa. However, he declined to assume his seat until he had completed his six-year term as mayor in his consistent protest against Marcos. Climaco's protest against the dictator earned Zamboanga City the distinction of 'the beacon of democracy in Mindanao'.

On the morning of November 14, 1984, Climaco was assassinated as he was returning to his office after overseeing the response to a fire in downtown Zamboanga City.[69] A man approached from behind the mayor and shot him in the nape at point-blank range.[70]: 92 

Marcos administration officials pinned the blame on a Muslim group led by Rizal Alih,[70]: 4 [71] but Climaco's widow publicly expressed belief that it was Marcos' forces who were behind the murder.[71] Climaco himself was said to have remarked before his death that if he were ever assassinated, the military would blame Alih for the murder.[70]: 4  The family banned military personnel from the wake, except for a relative who happened to be in the Air Force.[71]

Climaco's funeral at Abong-Abong Park in Zamboanga City was estimated as ranging from fifteen thousand people to up to two hundred thousand people,[71] and he was later honored by having his name inscribed on the wall of remembrance of the Philippines' Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Memorial of Heroes), which honors the martyrs and heroes who fought the dictatorship.[72]

21st century


On November 19, 2001, the Cabatangan Government Complex in Barangay Cabatangan, the seat of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, was raided by former MNLF fighters in protest of Misuari's ouster as Governor of the autonomous region in which they took residents hostage. The complex also houses the different regional government offices such as the Commission on Audit, Population Commission, Civil Service Commission, Area Vocational Rehabilitation Center, DECS Training Center and the Zamboanga Arturo Eustaquio College Department of Criminology. An air strike by the military began on November 27 in which the hostages were later released after the government agreed to escort the rebels to a safe zone in Panubigan where they were allowed to go free.[73]

In 2013, Maria Isabelle Climaco Salazar, niece of former Mayor Cesar Climaco, was elected the second woman mayor of the city.[74]

Zamboanga City crisis


On September 9, 2013, a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under the leadership of Nur Misuari seized hostages in Zamboanga City and attempted to raise the flag of the self-proclaimed Bangsamoro Republik, a state which declared its independence earlier in August, in Talipao, Sulu. This armed incursion was met by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which sought to free the hostages and expel the MNLF from Zamboanga City. The standoff degenerated into urban warfare, and brought parts of the city to a standstill for days.[75]

Mayor Climaco-Salazar and her administration are relocating the internal displaced persons (IDPs) affected by the crisis to transitory sites and later, permanent housings in various places around Zamboanga City.[76] Her rehabilitation plan, "Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery and Rehabilitation (Z3R)", envisions building back a better Zamboanga City and rehabilitating the areas affected by the crisis.[77]

Post-Pandemic Era






The southwest and eastern sides of Zamboanga City are bounded by irregular coastlines with generally rocky terrain and occasional stretches of sandy or gravelly beaches. The coastal profile usually descends abruptly towards the sea. Where rivers enter the sea, bays have formed, and the surrounding area has filled up with alluvial soils, producing small to large coastal plains.[citation needed]



The overall topography of the city could be described as rolling to very steep. There are some flat lands, mostly narrow strips along the east coast. The urban center is mostly flat with a gentle slope to the interior, ranging from 0% to 3%. A portion, about 38,000 hectares, has slopes ranging from 18% to 30%. Another 26,000 hectares has slopes of less than 3%, while about 37% of the area (52,000 hectares) has slopes ranging from 30% to more than 50%. The highest registered elevation is 1,200 metres.[78]

The territorial jurisdiction of the city includes the islands of big and small Santa Cruz, Tictabon, Sacol, Manalipa, Tumalutap, Vitali, as well as other numerous islands. The total land area of the city is recorded to be 142,067.95 hectares or 1,420.6795 square kilometers and with contested land area of 3,259.07 hectares between the boundary of Limpapa and Zamboanga del Norte, consolidated of the total land area 145,327.02 hectares or 1,453.2702 km2 according to the latest cadastral survey of DENR IX year 2015.[79] This does not include the area of about 25 other islands within the territorial jurisdiction of the city – which have an aggregate area of 6,248.5 hectares as verified by the Office of the City Engineer. Putting these all together, the city's new total land area would come to 151,575.52 hectares or 1,515.75 km2.


Climate data for Zamboanga City (1991–2020, extremes 1903–2020)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 35.5
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 32.3
Daily mean °C (°F) 28.0
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 23.6
Record low °C (°F) 15.8
Average rainfall mm (inches) 69.1
Average rainy days (≥ 0.1 mm) 7 6 7 7 9 12 12 11 11 13 10 8 113
Average relative humidity (%) 80 79 78 80 81 83 83 82 82 83 82 82 81
Average dew point °C (°F) 23.6
Mean monthly sunshine hours 220.5 213.0 225.2 222.4 219.4 164.2 187.2 213.1 187.4 172.9 217.6 226.6 2,469.5
Source 1: PAGASA[80][81]
Source 2: Deutscher Wetterdienst (sun, 1961–1990)[82][83]

Zamboanga City features a tropical wet and dry climate under the Köppen climate classification (Aw).



Zamboanga City is politically subdivided into 98 barangays. Each barangay consists of puroks while some have sitios.

These are grouped into two congressional districts, with 38 barangays in the West Coast and 60 barangays in the East Coast.


Population census of Zamboanga City
YearPop.±% p.a.
1903 20,692—    
1918 42,007+4.83%
1939 43,894+0.21%
1948 103,317+9.98%
1960 131,489+2.03%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1970 199,901+4.27%
1975 265,023+5.82%
1980 343,722+5.34%
1990 442,345+2.56%
1995 511,139+2.75%
YearPop.±% p.a.
2000 601,794+3.56%
2007 774,407+3.54%
2010 807,129+1.52%
2015 861,799+1.26%
2020 977,234+2.50%
Source: Philippine Statistics Authority[4][9][84][85][86]

Zamboanga City is the 5th most populous in the Philippines and the 2nd most populous in Mindanao after Davao City. The city's population had an increase of 54,670 over the five years since 2010. It had an annual population growth rate at 1.26%, lower than from in the year 2000 to 2010 which was 2.98%.[9] The city's population is expected to reach 1 million between 2020 and 2025.[87] Among the city's 98 barangays, Talon-Talon is the most populous with 4.1% share of this city's population, followed by Mampang (4.0%), Tumaga (3.6%), Tetuan (3.5%), Calarian (3.4%), San Roque and Pasonanca (both with 3.2%).[88]



According to statistics compiled by the Philippine government,[89] the most dominant religion in Zamboanga City is Roman Catholicism, followed by Islam and Evangelical Protestantism.

Other religious practices and denominations in the city were Buddhism, paganism, animism and Sikhism.[18][90][better source needed]

Roman Catholicism

Zamboanga Cathedral

With 57.55% of the city's population, Roman Catholicism remains the predominant religion in the city.[89][91][92] Zamboanga City was the first to establish its own Catholic diocese in Mindanao (now the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Zamboanga).

The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception serves as the seat of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga. It was designed by Domingo Abarro III. The first church was located at the front of Plaza Pershing, where the present Universidad de Zamboanga stands. The church was designated a cathedral in 1910 when the diocese of Zamboanga City was created.[93] In 1943, the cathedral was one of the edifices bombarded by Japanese soldiers during World War II.[93] In 1956, the cathedral was relocated beside Ateneo de Zamboanga University, formerly known as the Jardin de Chino, where Chinese farmers grew the city's vegetables.[94]

The titular patroness is Nuestra Señora La Virgen del Pilar de Zaragoza, and its secondary patron is Pope Pius X.[95]


Sadik Grand Mosque underconstruction

Muslims have also been an integral part of Zamboanga, comprising 37.62%[92][96] of the city's population.[97][98] Some barangays such as Campo Islam are now entirely populated by Muslims, due to migration from people of Sulu who are mostly Tausug.[citation needed] The Yakan, a minority group of Muslim people from Basilan also migrated to the city.[99][100] These barangays with Muslim majority population, do not celebrate fiestas but do celebrate Hari Raya (the eid celebration).

Other Christian denominations


With the inception of the American era, Protestant sects were introduced. Christian and Missionary Alliance, Philippine Independent Church, Seventh-day Adventist, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and United Church of Christ in the Philippines are included. Most Protestants are migrants who are mostly of Cebuano or Ilocano ethnicity. Members of Iglesia ni Cristo live in Zamboanga City, comprising 0.65%[92] of the city's total household population in 2020.



The Zamboangueño (people) (Chavacano/Spanish: Pueblo Zamboangueño) are a creole ethnolinguistic group of people from the Philippines originating from the Zamboanga peninsula, where Zamboanga City is also situated. The ancestors of the present inhabitants of the city are said to also have migrated to other areas in the Southwestern Mindanao. Due to migration, a number of other ethnicities have a visible presence in the city such as the Samal, Yakan, Tausug and Badjao peoples.[101][102][103][100]

As a result of Spanish colonization, according to a genetic study written by Maxmilian Larena et al., published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, the Philippine ethnic groups with the highest amount of Spanish/European descent are the Zamboangueños, with 4 out of 10 Zamboangueños being of Spanish descent, this is followed by Bicolanos, with 2 out of 10 Bicolanos being of Spanish descent. Meanwhile, there is only "some" Spanish descent among the people of the lowland Christianized Filipino ethnic groups.[104]

The Spanish descent is due to Zamboanga city being a historical Spanish fortress reinforced by soldiers from Mexico and Peru.[38]



Chavacano Zamboangueño, Zamboangueño Chavacano, or Chavacano de Zamboanga is one of the six Spanish-based creole language varieties of the Philippines identified by linguists. This variety, known locally as Chavacano, with Spanish as its lexifier and with its grammar influenced by the other Austronesian languages of the Philippines, is the mother tongue, native language, or first language of the majority of the population living in the city, including some inhabitants of the nearby island province of Basilan, mostly of the Zamboangueño ethnolinguistic group. Aside from Chavacano, Filipino, and English are also widely used and understood, with the latter two as official languages of the Philippines, and with Filipino also as the national language and the national lingua franca of the Philippines. The Bahasa Sug or Tausug language is the second-most spoken language in the city after Chavacano due to significant Tausug migration from the neighboring provinces of the Sulu Archipelago. The Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilocano, Maguindanaon, Maranao, Sama, Subanon or Subanen, and Yakan languages can also be heard within the city, most especially among their native speakers, ethnolinguistic groups, or cultural communities, and with Cebuano as the third-most spoken language in the city after Bahasa Sug.



Poverty incidence of Zamboanga City


Source: Philippine Statistics Authority[105][106][107][108][109][110][111][112]

La Purisima Street at Night

Zamboanga City’s economy consistently grew by leaps and bounds from the pre-pandemic level of P125.05 billion to a record high of P139.47 billion in 2022.

The figures were also reflective of the city's Gross Domestic Product’s (GDP) growth rates from P125.05 billion in 2018 to P130.82 billion (4.6 percent up) in 2019 but plummeted to P122.69 billion (-6.2 percent) in 2020 due to the pandemic.

However, as the City gradually reopened its economy after the pandemic, the GDP grew by 5.1 percent in the amount of P128.97 billion in 2021, and leapfrogged to 8.1 percent in 2022, bringing the city's economic value to P139.47 billion. [113]

Zamboanga City accounts for one-third of Zamboanga Peninsula’s Gross Domestic Product. (GDP) Accounting over 32.6% of the region’s P427.78 Billion GDP, the largest share of any province or city in the region.[114] in 2022, Zamboanga City’s economy grew by 8.1%

Zamboanga City’s economy is the third largest in Mindanao, after Davao and Cagayan de Oro.

Sardine industry

Zamboanga-made Sardines in supermarket shelves

Zamboanga City is also dubbed as the Sardines Capital of the Philippines, for 11 out of 12 sardines companies in the country are produced here.[115] The canning factories are converged in the west coast of Zamboanga. Sardine fishing and processing account for about 70 percent of the city's economy.[116][117] Situated at the western tip of the Mindanao mainland, Zamboanga City is a natural docking point for vessels traversing the rich fishing grounds of the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Sulu Archipelago.

The production of canned sardines in this city have upgraded their production to conform to international food safety and quality standards. Companies that produce these goods are looking to enter new markets in Russia and other European countries.[118]

Most sardine fishing fleets and canning factories have located in Zamboanga City due to its proximity to the rich fishing grounds of the Sulu Sea. To date, 26 registered commercial fishing companies operating 87 sardine purse seine fleets and 569 boats of different classifications that are fishing in the Zamboanga and Sulu waters are based in Zamboanga City (BFAR IX 2015).[citation needed]

The 11 canned sardine corporations operating 12 manufacturing plants; four tin can manufacturers; and, 4 ship construction and ship repair companies. The city supplies approximately 85–90% of the country's canned sardine requirements and the canned sardines sector contributes at least US$16 million in annual export earnings to the city[119]

Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone

The administrative building of the Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Authority

The Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Authority and Freeport (ZamboEcoZone), also known as the Zamboanga Freeport Authority (ZFA), was created by virtue of Republic Act 7903 in 1995.[120]

The Special Economic Zone was enacted into law on February 23, 1995, and made operational a year later with the appointment of a chairman and administrator and the members of the Board by former President Fidel V. Ramos. It is located about 23 km from the city proper. It is one of the three current Economic Freeport Zones outside Luzon.

Shopping malls

KCC Mall de Zamboanga
SM City Mindpro

Zamboanga City has been the new investor's destination in the country when it comes to shopping malls. Multiple national malls has set their foot in the city such as KCC Malls, CityMalls by Double Dragon and SM Supermalls. Some companies like Vista Mall, Robinsons Mall and Ayala Malls has also shown interest in opening their branch in the city.

On December 10, 2015, KCC Malls opened their fourth branch in Zamboanga as KCC Mall de Zamboanga and it is one of the largest malls in Mindanao in terms of Gross Floor Area.[121][122]

The country's largest shopping retailer, SM Supermalls bought Mindpro Citimall in 2016 and the mall shall be converted with an SM brand.[123] The mall now known as "SM City Mindpro" was opened to the public on December 8, 2020.[124]

On February 23, 2023. SM Prime Holdings made a groundbreaking ceremony for the establishment of SM City Zamboanga which is the 2nd SM Mall in the City and Zamboanga Peninsula which is targeted to open by 2025. Once opened, it will become the 2nd largest mall in the region.[125]

Lists of national malls in Zamboanga City (Operating/Under-construction)

Name Location Gross floor area Opened Status
KCC Mall de Zamboanga Camins Avenue 162,000 m2 2015 Operating
SM City Mindpro La Purisima Street 59,383 m2 2020 Operating
CityMall Tetuan Don Alfaro Street, Tetuan 15,344 m2 2015 Operating
SM City Zamboanga Vitaliano Agan Avenue 102,000 m2 2024 Under-construction
Grand CityMall Guiwan MCLL Highway, Guiwan 30,815 m2 2024 Under-construction

Seaweed industry


Seaweed production plants in Zamboanga City, along with Cebu and Southern Luzon, produce most of the world's supply of carrageenan. Seventy-five percent of the country's eucheuma and kappaphycus seaweed is produced mostly in the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Sulu Archipelago.[126]

International trade


Zamboanga City is a member of East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), a regional economic cooperation initiative between the several countries in Southeast Asia. As a result of its membership, air and sea routes have been opened between Zamboanga City and Sandakan in Malaysia. The two cities have existing trade relations and have had historical cultural interactions.[127]




Old flag of Zamboanga
Plaza Rizal and the Zamboanga City Hall since 1907

Zamboanga City is the third oldest city in the Philippines, with a mayor–council form of government.[13]

The city government of Zamboanga was in a commission form shortly between 1912 and 1914 with Christopher Frederick Bader as the appointed mayor.[128] It then was replaced by a municipal form of government headed by a municipal mayor assisted by a municipal vice-president.

When the City Charter of Zamboanga was signed on October 12, 1936,[12][13] the municipal government was converted into a city one headed by a mayor appointed by the President of the Philippine Commonwealth.

With the passage of Republic Act No. 1210 on April 29, 1955, the position of mayor became elective and the post of vice mayor was created.

Representation in Congress


Zamboanga City received its own representation for the Philippine Congress in 1984 when the Regular Batasang Pambansa was convened. Previously, the city was part of the representation of the Zamboanga Province from 1935 to 1953, of Zamboanga del Sur from 1953 to 1972 and in Zamboanga Peninsula from 1978 to 1984.

The former lone congressional district was further divided into two separate districts: the West Coast, comprises from the City Proper to Barangay Limpapa is represented by Congressman Khymer Adan Olaso, while in the East Coast, comprises from Barangay Tetuán to Barangay Licomo is represented by Congressman Manuel Jose "Mannix" Dalipe.

The city's population had reached to 774,407 people since 2007.[129] Under Republic Act 9269, Zamboanga City is qualified to have its third district in the House of Representatives.[130] However, in 2008, the formation of Zamboanga City's Third District was then opposed by the local majority block of the city council.[131]


The building where the Zamboanga City Council (Sangguniang Panglungsod ng Zamboanga) holds its sessions.

The first legislative body of Zamboanga City was established in 1914 composed of councilors who represented the different districts of barrios of then-municipality of Zamboanga.

When the City Charter of Zamboanga was signed on October 12, 1936, the municipal council was replaced by the City Council presided by the mayor and consisted of five councilors, the city treasurer and the city engineer. All members are appointed by the President of the Philippine Commonwealth.

With the passage of Republic Act No. 1210 on April 29, 1955, the position of mayor became elective and the post of vice mayor was created. The council also became elective and its membership was increased to eight presided by the vice mayor.

During the Marcos regime, the city council was renamed to Sangguniang Panglungsod and its membership shuffled.[citation needed] The mayor became the presiding-officer while the vice mayor became a regular member. Other representatives such as the agriculture, business and labor sectoral representatives; chairman of the Kabataan Barangay Federation and the president of the Association of Barangay Captains was added to the council. All members of the council except for the mayor and the vice mayor are all appointed by the President.

After Marcos was deposed, a new Local Government Code was enacted in 1991 and the mayor was restored to the executive branch.[citation needed] The city council organization existed since.

The current local Sangguniang Panglungsod is composed of 19 members:


Zamboanga City Hall of Justice Building

House Bill 1455 entitled "An Act Amending Sections 14 (J) and 29 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, Otherwise Known as The Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980", calls for the creation of four additional Regional Trial Court branches in the Province of Zamboanga del Sur, and the Cities of Pagadian and Zamboanga City with an overall total of nineteen branches.[132]

Out of the 19 branches, ten seats shall be for Zamboanga City, and the remaining seats for Pagadian City, Molave, San Miguel, Ipil, and Aurora.

Armed forces and law enforcement


Zamboanga City hosts one a large number of military, police and coast guard bases in the country. The Edwin Andrews Air Base hosts the Air Force unit in the city is located at the Zamboanga International Airport complex.[133][134] The Camp General Basilio Navarro in Upper Calarian, is the main operating base of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom).[135][136] WesMinCom is one of the unified commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that serves the Western Mindanao. The Coast Guard District Southwestern Mindanao is located near the Camp General Basilio Navarro, while a coast guard station is located inside the Port of Zamboanga.[137][138] Zamboanga City also hosts Bureau of Corrections' San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm, which is one of the oldest penitentiaries in the country.[139]





The Zamboanga International Airport is located in Barangay Canelar, and has a 2,610-metre primary runway and can serve international flights and bigger planes such as the C-17 Globemaster III, Antonov An-124, Airbus A330 and Boeing 747.[140][141] The government has already earmarked more than 240 million pesos to complete the rehabilitation of the existing facilities of the airport,[142] which was ranked the tenth-busiest in the Philippines in 2008.[143]

The city's new airport is being proposed in Barangays Mercedes and Talabaan, which will replace the existing one in Barangay Canelar. The current airport site is also visioned to be converted to a business district.[144]



The primary modes of transportation within the city are serviced by taxis, jeepneys, tricycles and bajaj/piaggios[145] Regular and air-conditioned buses of the Yanson Group of Bus Companies serve the long-haul routes from Zamboanga City to other areas in Mindanao and in the Visayas. Other smaller bus companies ply the routes to neighboring municipalities in the Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay areas. Since June 25, 2018, taxis were launched with initial 13 units, growing to 50 units. By 2019, there are 100 taxi units plying around Zamboanga City to any point in Region 9, and the operators say they will surely be adding more until reaching the maximum of 200 taxi units.



Zamboanga City has nineteen seaports and wharves, twelve of them are privately owned and the rest are owned by the government. This includes some ports of Basilan which are registered as a part of Zamboanga City port management. The biggest and most modern seaport is the government-operated main port in Zamboanga City, which can accommodate 20 ships at any given time. There are 25 shipping companies whose vessels regularly dock at the port of Zamboanga. The city also has fastcraft services to Sandakan, Malaysia, and one shipping cargo company from Vietnam is also serving the routes from and to Zamboanga City to deliver goods from Vietnam.[146]

In 2002, the Port of Zamboanga City, including the area ports of Basilan, registered 5.57 million passenger movement, surpassing Batangas by 1.3 million passengers, and Manila by over 1.59 million passengers.[147]

On May 28, 2009, the PHP700 million port expansion project, funded by the national government was inaugurated by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.[148]





SR Township is based on a 90-hectare area in Boalan, currently in their first phase of the project dedicating 50 hectares of land which includes the construction of the Biggest Mosque in the Philippines known as the "Grand Sadik Mosque". Also part of phase 1 is the establishment of a mall, convention center and a hotel.[149]

The township of Andaluz by Vista Estates, located in Boalan's diversion road, is a 32-hectare township that promises to replicate the lifestyle of Seville, Spain. The Township hosts a subdivision, a leisure and commercial district which prides itself as the future "Central Business District" of Zamboanga Peninsula.

Andaluz is also the first Township donned by Vista Estates in Mindanao.[150]


The telecommunication towers as can be seen over the downtown.

Major telecommunications firm, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, maintains operations in the city. Mabuhay Satellite Corporation and DITO has set up a facility in Zamboanga City in order to improve existing communications infrastructure.[151][152] InfiniVAN Inc, with its partnership with Eastern Telecommunications and Globe Telecom, owns the Philippine Domestic Submarine Cable Network (PDSCN) in which they have Zamboanga City as one of their landing stations.[153]


Murga Station of the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative (ZAMCELCO).

The Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative is the franchise holder of electric power distribution covering the entire city.

Conrado Alcantara and Sons Holdings (Conal) constructed a coal-fired power plant with an initial capacity of 105 megawatt on a 60-hectare land inside the Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Authority. The plant was originally to open in 2014, with the constructors expecting to meet the demand of the city's electricity by that year.[154][failed verification][155] However, the project was delayed and had begun construction by the end of 2017. The plant is expected to be fully operational by 2020.[155][156]



Zamboanga City relies heavily on surface water from the Tumaga River for its water supply. The Zamboanga City Water District (ZCWD) is serving only 48% of the total population of the total water production, 38% is accounted water. Given the projected population and the fact that the city is a highly urbanising one, it is likely that future water requirements will not be satisfied unless other sources such as rivers and springs be tapped to augment water supply sources.[157]

ZCWD has 24 production wells. These are located in the following strategic areas within the city that are producing 1,304 m3 daily.[158]


Zamboanga Peninsula Medical Center located at Putik, Zamboanga City

There are several medical centres and hospitals in Zamboanga. The Zamboanga Peninsula Medical Center is the city's newest hospital which was opened in 2015. It is regarded as one of the largest and most modern in the region likened to the St. Luke's Medical Center. The government-operated Zamboanga City Medical Center was founded in 1918 as the Zamboanga City General Hospital. The Brent Hospital and Colleges, Inc. was founded on February 2, 1914, by Charles Henry Brent, the first Protestant Episcopal missionary bishop in the Philippines. Today it operates a school within its compound, offering nursing and allied health courses.

The Zamboanga City Red Cross chapter was established on June 17, 1946, known originally as the Zamboanga City Chapter. The original Zamboanga City Chapter comprised the city of Zamboanga and the three provinces of Basilan, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur.[159]

West Metro Medical Center is a secondary-level private hospital in Zamboanga City, Philippines. As of 2015, the hospital has a capacity of 110 beds. Ongoing construction of an annex is to increase bed capacity to 190, making it the largest private hospital in the Zamboanga Peninsula and Archipelago.

In 2006, the Military Sealift Command (MSC) hospital ship, USNS Mercy (T-AH-19), anchored off the coast of Zamboanga City, to provide medical, dental and veterinary care for the people of the city.[160]

Sports and recreation facilities


Convention centers that host several events and congregations include the Garden Orchid Hotel's Convention Center, Palacio del Sur, Centro Latino, Astoria Regency, and Patio Palmeras.[161] KCC Mall de Zamboanga also has its convention halls that is located at its East Wing.

Sport venues in Zamboanga City include the Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex, the Universidad de Zamboanga Summit Centre, Southern City Colleges Citadel Sports Arena, and the Mayor Vitaliano D. Agan Coliseum.


One of the oldest institutions in Zamboanga City
Ateneo de Zamboanga University façade

There exists numerous public and private schools throughout the city. The Western Mindanao State University is state-run. Sectarian schools include the Ateneo de Zamboanga University. There are also a number of foreign schools with study programs. Other universities in the city include the Universidad de Zamboanga, Southern City Colleges, Pilar College, AMA Computer College, Zamboanga Peninsula Polytechnic State University, and Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology.





Reflecting its creole heritage, Zamboangeno cuisine draws influences from many regions of the Philippines and beyond.

Dishes unique to Zamboanga City include:

  • Curacha Alavar: steamed or boiled spanner crabs (curacha) cooked with garlic, ginger, and salt, and doused in a sauce blend of coconut milk (gata), crab fat (taba ng talangka), and various spices called Alavar. A specialty of Alavar Seafood Restaurant.
  • Chupa kulo: cooked mangrove snails (bagungon) simmered in a sauce blend of coconut milk, squash, ferns (pako), and various spices. A specialty of Santa Cruz Island.
  • Paella zamboangueño:
  • Knickerbocker:

Additionally, Tausug and Sama cuisine is ubiquitous throughout the city.



Zamboanga City has 26 radio stations (9 AM & 17 FM). There are also 17 regular television stations and three cable television stations. Several local publications operate in the various parts of the city and nearby provinces and regions, such as The Daily Zamboanga Times, The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper, Voz de Mindanao, Zamboanga Peninsula Journal, Zamboanga Star, Zamboanga Today, 'Diario Verdad,The Zamboanga Post, and Zamboanga Forum.


Pulverized Red Organ Pipe Corals gives that pinkish tint on Santa Cruz's Beach.

The Department of Tourism has selected Zamboanga City as a flagship tourism destination in Zamboanga Peninsula.[162] Domestic and foreign tourist arrivals increased 8 percent to 439,160 in 2005, according to data from the regional tourism office. The same report notes that Filipinos accounted for 80 percent of the tourist arrivals. Moreover, 50 percent of those tourists visited the city before.[163]

Zamboanga City's famous Pink Sand Beach of Santa Cruz was recognized by the National Geographic as one of the "World's 21 Best Beaches" in 2018.[164] A surge in tourist arrivals was recorded in 2018 that hit almost 100,000. A day-trip to the island includes a hop to Little Santa Cruz's long white sand bar and a tour of the island's lagoon known for its rich ecosystem.

Another rising tourist hub is the newly opened 11 Islands (commonly called Onçe Islas), a group of islands with white-sand beaches and sand bars located in the city's east coast.

Despite the warnings and seasonal advisories, growth in terms of arrivals tells otherwise. The negative impressions shows no effect on the Tourist's perception of the place in general.

The whole Zamboanga Peninsula Region recorded 723,455 tourist arrivals in 2018 of which 11,190 are foreigners, 10,523 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), and 701,742 were domestic tourists according to the Department of Tourism.[165]

Notable personalities

Hidilyn Diaz at her homecoming to Zamboanga City, days after her victory in the 2016 Summer Olympics

Sister cities


Zamboanga City is twinned with the following cities:


See also



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Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from Zamboanga City. United States Government. Archived from the original on December 10, 2009.