WHAT is known in history is that Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines in 1521 as part of his quest for spices in the East Indies, or even in the lands of Southeast Asia. He may have reached the Indies, but failed to return to Spain when he was felled by indigenous weapons of Filipino fighters in Cebu, a proud historical feat of Filipinos in defeating a Westerner in battle using bolos and spears pitted against the rifles and body armor suits of Western warriors.
His death in the Philippines notwithstanding, his fleet, the Armada de Molucca, was not prevented from achieving a great historical achievement—completing the circumnavigation of the voyage and proving that the world is round.
The return to Spain from the voyage around the world was concluded in 1522 by Spanish navigator Juan Sebastian Elcano, along with 18 survivors of the expedition.
A historic dot in historic voyage
What is less known to many was that a once-secluded port in the Zamboanga Peninsula, known today as Pagadian City, became a stopover of this expedition; thus, the city could lay claim to being one of the dots in the entire path of this first circumnavigation of the globe.
And Pagadian City would not let this go unnoticed. A historical landmark will soon be erected at the boundary of Barangay San Pedro and Barangay Kawit adjacent to Pagadian City Fish Port, to commemorate that historical inclusion a quincentennial ago.
Gerry San Pablo, city tourism officer, hopes that aside from being educational, the event would also boost Pagadian’s attraction as a major tourist destination in the peninsula, which the city would spend much effort to rev up the local economy.
The circumnavigation landmark would be one of two historical memorials.
The other memorial is the Tsunami Landmark, to be put up along Pajares Avenue corner Jamisola Street to commemorate the tidal wave of 1976, which took many people’s lives.
While the city has its share of other, though, less known historical events, its officialdom plans to compensate for the lag in getting the city earn well-deserved attention by promoting natural endowments to attract more number of visitors.
The most glistening one, locally named Puting Balas for what it is in the local dialect—white sand—is a white sand bar only five minutes to the sea in the northeast of the city seaport.
“It is ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving sports activity. It is also called the diminishing island because it is partially submerged during high tide. It is also nice for destination, wedding photo shoot, engagement, pre-nups, or any other water sports activities,” said Mayor Sammy Co.
There are also two islands with great potential, both named Dao Dao, one called Dao Dao Daku (larger) and Dao Dao Gamay (smaller), an online national travel site said. While these island getaways need to be fully developed, “the scenery around and the island itself is actually beautiful.”
One female traveler who placed a comment on these islands said, “[A] pleasure to be here once. I really love the place as a nature lover and adventurer. The water is so clear and seems like so clean.”
It has numerous waterfalls, too, indicating the pristine condition of its watershed, although many of these have to be developed yet. Some of these are already listed in online travel sites and being promoted.
They include Pagadian Alegria Falls, which is located below a high peak area at Barangay Alegria. Mayor Co said that according to local residents, the falls is estimated to be 200 feet high and has a striking resemblance to the famous Maria Cristina Falls.
There is also the Pulacan Falls, only 12 kilometers from downtown Pagadian City proper and nine kilometers from the Pagadian City Airport.
This waterfall may be clearly viewed from the bus that plies the Pagadian City-Ozamis City-Iligan City route, an online travel site said. “It is a perfect treat of nature—lush greenery, cool waters, and amazing panorama. Through the years the scenic waterfalls has retained its natural beauty since it has been maintained the way it is.”
And despite the long dry spells that visit Mindanao, “the falls has kept its allure and splendor and continues to offer a cool and refreshing splash,” the travel site added.
Also with great potential as destinations are the Manga Falls and the Ditoray Falls, the travel site added.
The Lourdes Hot Spring in Barangay Lourdes is already set as a destination, for its spring releases sulphur if the season is hot. Its water comes from Mount Susong Dalaga.
In Barangay Poloyagan is the Pagadian Beach Resort, with ongoing construction works. This resort offers a portion of white sand, “relaxing pristine waters and quiet atmosphere,” the mayor said.
The city offers also an adventure for spelunking, at the Pagadian Kendis Cave located in the northern part of the city in Sitio Kendis, Barangay Datagan.
Surrounded by diverse flora and fauna, the city describes Kendis Cave as “like a toy gun having a long barrel tube from the main cave system and with an extension chamber round in shape. It has a small cave mouth with main cave entrance and has only one exit.”
Visitors would relish the leisure and shopping pleasure at the heart of the city.
Its Plaza Luz, with a clamshell stage and a landscaped garden, is ideal for family and picnic gatherings on holidays, Sundays and after church obligations where children can do biking, playing and running around, Mayor Co said.
“And its main attraction is the digital dancing fountain with its lights and water formations synchronized to the beat of the music being played in its repertoire,” he added.
Nearby is the Rotonda, a circular park on top of Bulatoc hill at the apex and stretching across the F.S. Pajares Avenue and overlooking Illana Bay. It is at the intersection of the North Diversion Road and F.S. Pajares Avenue, two of the three major road networks in the city (the third one being Rizal Avenue). The park features a viewing deck, gardens, horseback-riding, and a refreshment store, which, considered as food hub center, offers food and grilled selections.
The most visited destinations inside the city are its malls, such as Gaisano Mall, C3 Mall, Best Emporium Department Store and Peoples Plaza Department Store.
“MORE than 10 years ago, due to the lack of tourism promotion, the City of Pagadian was not heard of, nor did it exude attraction to visitors from different places in the country and even a few foreign nationals who married our native Pagadianons.”
The only reason that Pagadian City had been known for are its mountainous terrain, earning it the moniker, the “Little Hong Kong of the South,” and the 45-degree-inclined tricycles.
“While we already have vast potential beautiful places for tourism, these simply need a visionary leader who could develop and promote Pagadian City. It was then that when I became the city mayor of Pagadian, I started plotting with the help of the city officials how to develop and promote Pagadian City,” he added.
Mayor Co said the city first became known when it subscribed and paid for a one-page business ad with Cebu Pacific’s Air Magazine. “The City of Pagadian has become widely known because different attractions [were featured] in every issue of the magazine. And thus, it made the tag name ‘Little Hong Kong of the South’ much more a reality. Even then, our continued quest for development has always been a priority. More so now that we are the Regional Government Center of Western Mindanao.”
Although its tourism sites are still not yet fully developed, “some of the tourism attractions here are our city events. We have the Pasalamat Festival in January which is the feast of Señor Santo Niño, Chinese New Year usually in February, the Araw ng Pagadian in June and the Paskuhan during December with the traditional lighting of the 88-foot-tall giant Christmas tree, dancing fountain show, and fireworks display,” the mayor said.
Amid the pandemic situation that we are facing, “we, in the City Government of Pagadian, are still trying our best to work anent to the mandate of the national government to further develop the tourism potential of the city for economic, social and cultural acceleration and balanced growth,” Mayor Co added.
He said the city government has identified potential tourist destinations and concluded its cultural mapping program in partnership with the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in order to consolidate the local culture profile of the city’s tangible and intangible cultural assets.
Tourism means job opportunities and it also contributes to the economy, Mayor Co said. “When the economy is strong, the buying power of people is also strong. When business is doing good, revenue for the government is also good, in terms of tax collection.”