The City of Zamboanga (Zamboangueño Chavacano Ciudad de Zamboanga) is a highly urbanized city located in Mindanao, Philippines. It has a population of more than 807,129 according to the 2010 census. Zamboanga is the 6th most populous and 3rd largest city by land area in the Philippines. It is the commercial and industrial center of the Zamboanga Peninsula.
Zamboanga was formerly known as Jambangan in Subanon and the center of Subanon tribe and culture during the pre-Hispanic times. After independence from Spain on May 1899, Zamboanga became the Republica de Zamboanga with Zamboangueño Chavacano as its official language and Spanish as its co-official language. After American intervention, the republic incorporated into the Philippines and became the capital of the former Moro Province, now Mindanao, from 1903 to 1913. On October 12, 1936, Zamboanga became a chartered city under Commonwealth Act No. 39. It was formally inaugurated on February 26, 1937, which was declared a local holiday. Known for Hispanic influences in its culture, it bears the nickname "Asia's Latin City."
Zamboanga was founded in the late 12th or early 13th century, with the earliest people living there being the Subanen, an indigenous tribe of the island Mindanao. The Subanon people's name for Zamboanga, "Sung Lupa", means "pointed land". Speculation that the name of Zamboanga comes from the word "Jambangan Bunga", meaning "bouquet/vase of flowers", or the "garden/land of flowers", is met by others insisting the name derives from the word "saguan" or "sambuan", a Malay word for the paddle used by natives to paddle the vintas in the sea. Another possible origin is "sambon" which refers to herbal plants that grew abundantly in the city. Badjao, Samal, Tausug and the Yakan tribes from Malayan descent settled in the same part of Mindanao in the early 14th century. Islam gained predominance in the early 14th century in the Philippines, the first non-indigenous religion to reach Austronesian peoples.
Spanish explorers first arrived in the Philippine archipelago in 1521. In 1569 Zamboanga was chosen as the site of the Spanish settlement and garrison on La Caldera (now called Barrio Recodo). Zamboanga 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. After three decades (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 joined forces with Visayan troops and reached the shore of Zamboanga to bring peace to the island against Moro pirates.
Zamboanga became the main headquarters of the Spaniards in June 23, 1635 upon approval of King Philip IV of Spain, and the Spanish officially founded the city. 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. The Zamboanga fortress became the main focus of a number of battles between Moros, Chinese and Spaniards while the Spanish ruled the region from 16th to 18th centuries. While the region was already dominated by Catholicism, Muslims kept up a protracted struggle against the ruling Spaniards in the country into the 18th century.
In the Year 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. The Americans arrived in the Philippines, headed by General Weyler with thousands of troops to defeat the Spaniards who ruled it more than three centuries. The Spanish government sent more than 80,000 Spanish troops in the Philippines. The Spanish government completely and peacefully surrendered the islands to the United States in the 1890s.
Republic of Zamboanga
Before the end of the 19th century, The Republic of Zamboanga was established during the American period in the Philippines and it briefly existed from May 18, 1899 until March 1903. The first president of the Republic of Zamboanga was General Vicente Álvarez, who was succeeded by Isidoro Midel and Mariano Arquiza.
Upon the firm establishment of American colonization and dissolution of the Republic in 1903, Zamboanga, as a municipality, was placed under the Moro Province, a semi-military government consisting of five districts: Zamboanga, Cotabato, Davao, Lanao and Sulu. 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. The entire Moro Province of Mindanao was administered directly from the city, effectively making Zamboanga Mindanao's only capital city.
Conversion into a city
On September 15, 1911, the Legislative Council of the Moro Province passed Act No. 272 converting the municipality into a city with a commission form of government but was amended to be effective on January 1, 1912. Frederick Christopher Bader was appointed mayor of the city.
Reversion to municipality
Upon the establishment of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu in 1914, Zamboanga City was reverted into a municipality run by a municipal president. A native Zamboangueño, Victoriano Tarrosa was appointed to be municipal president.
In 1920, Zamboanga ceased to be Mindanao's capital city when the department was divided into provinces in which the city became under the large province of Zamboanga. It encompasses the present-day Zamboanga Peninsula with the inclusion of the whole province of Basilan.
Soon after the establishment of the Commonwealth, it established itself the center of commerce, trade, and government of Mindanao Island as the capital of the Moro Province.
The 1936 City Charter and the Commonwealth
When the Commonwealth government was established in 1935, calls to convert 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." It was later signed by President Manuel Quezon in 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.
In a jubilant celebration held outside the city hall, the new city government was formally inaugurated in February 26, 1937. Nicasio Valderrosa was appointed as mayor while Doroteo Karagdag, Agustin Natividad, Santiago Varela, Faustino Macaso and Pedro Cuevas, Jr. was appointed as councilors.
World War II
When the Japanese invaded the Philippines, they were headed by Vice Admiral Skugiyama Rokuzo, accompanied by Rear Admiral Naosaburo Irifune. The Japanese landed at Zamboanga on March 2, 1942. The city government was reverted to a municipality with Carlos Camins as its mayor. They established a defense headquarters in the city and controlled the government for over two years.
The Japanese government in the city was eventually overthrown by American and Filipino forces following a fierce battle that occurred on March 10–12, 1945.
Post-World War II
Separation of Basilan
After the war, new problems aroused especially for the citizens of the island of Basilan. The people there found it difficult to appear in courts, pay their taxes, seek help from the mayor and other officials. Going from Basilan to the mainland required three or more hours of travel. To fix the problem, Representative Juan Alano filed a bill in Congress to separate Basilan from Zamboanga. So the island of Basilan was proclaimed a separate city through Republic Act No. 288 on July 16, 1948.
In April 7, 1953 by virtue of Republic Act No. 840, Zamboanga City was classified as First Class in which its city annual income exceeded one million pesos and the salaries of the city officials were increased.
Elective city government
In April 29, 1955, a special law changed the landscape of the city government when Republic Act No. 1210 amended the City Charter that made elective the position of city mayor and the creation of an elective vice-mayor and eight (8) 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.
Climaco's first elected term (1956–1961)
During Climaco's term, the Abong-abong Park in Pasonanca was constructed, which was planned to provide space for a camp site, housing projects, and a shantytown to house the city's homeless population. During this period, Zamboanga City would earn the appellation as the cleanest city in the Philippines and its tourist industry boomed. Zamboanga City also became a host to several international, regional and nation-wide conferences, jamborees and conventions. However, even after his reelection in 1959, Climaco resigned before the November 1961 elections in his bid for the Senate. Vice-Mayor Ferrer succeeded him in office. He eventually ran for his own right in the 1963 local election but lost to former mayor Hector Suarez of the Nacionalista Party.
Suarez administration (1964–1968)
Hector Suarez, previously appointed to the mayoralty in 1954, became the first Nacionalista elected mayor of Zamboanga. During his term, he advocated revisions in the internal revenue code in which the businesses in the city should be required to pay their taxes. Unlike Climaco's exploits in urban development, he focused on the development of the barrios. He brought electricity to the barrios. Another major project of his was the construction of schools in the rural areas. It was also through his efforts that the income earned by the local water utility in the city was transferred from the national to the city treasury. He was later defeated by his vice-mayor for reelection in 1967.
Enriquez administration (1968–1972)
Vice-Mayor Joaquin Enriquez, Jr. of the Liberal Party won the mayoralty election in the 1967 local elections. During his tenure, various infrastructure projects were started including widened roads and better water and light facilities. He continued the electrification of the rural barangays started by his predecessor. Because of his achievements, he was reelected and for the first time the Liberals were able to control the majority of the council in the 1971 local elections.
Martial law years
On September 21, 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081 placing the Philippines under martial law. The local government became under presidential control for the first time since 1955. Marcos extended Enriquez's term when the latter's tenure was about to end in 1975. During this time, Enriquez was able to garner funds to construct the Sta. Cruz Public Market and emergency hospitals in rural barangays such as Quiniput and Labuan.
In November 14, 1975, President Marcos reorganized the local government in which the city council was replaced by a Sangguniang Panglungsod with the mayor as its new presiding officer and members including 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.
When Mayor Enriquez resigned and threw his 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 (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 Citizen's Aggrupation. He previously went into exile to the United States in protest against Marcos' declaration of Martial Law. He vowed never to cut his hair until democratic rule was restored in the country.
By this time, crime and violence, often at the hands of police and the military, had become rampant in the city, and a frustrated Climaco posted a scoreboard in front of the city hall listing a running tally of unsolved violent crimes in the city. Climaco did not hesitate in denouncing the military and the police in the city, and had the police chief transferred out of the city. Upon the outbreak of violent incidents in the city, Climaco would rush to the scene on board his motorcycle and suppress the disruption.
In 1984, Climaco successfully sought election as a member of the Regular Batasang Pambansa. Climaco however declined to assume his seat until he had completed his six-year term as mayor in his consistent protest against Marcos.
Tensions rose when Climaco was shot on the morning of November 14, 1984 when he was supervising a fire breakout. A motorcycle gunman shot him in the nape at point-blank. The crowd that attended Climaco's funeral in Zamboanga City was estimated as ranging from fifteen thousand to two hundred thousand people. To date, nobody has been convicted for Climaco's assassination. Vice-Mayor Manuel Dalipe replaced him in the vacated post.
The People Power Revolution
Dalipe, previously was the party-mate of Mayor Climaco until he switched sides with the ruling Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, tried to cut the red tape at city hall to ensure services would reach the citizenry in a more systematic manner. He initiated water projects, which brought water to the farthest barangays in the city. He also fast-tracked infrastructure projects by giving them over to private contractors.
When Marcos was overthrown by a four-day massive protest and a failed coup d'état in which was called the People Power Revolution on February 25, 1986, opposition leader Corazon Aquino replaced him. In her purge of all government officials linked with Marcos, she replaced Dalipe with city administrator Rustico Valera as acting mayor.
Post-Marcos era (1986–present)
Later in that year, to unite the Zamboangueños, President Aquino appointed former mayor Climaco's son, Julio Cesar Climaco to be officer-in-charge of the city. Valera returned to his post as city administrator.
During his short term, Climaco was able to make a very bold move when he invited the rebel secessionist organization Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) headed by its chairman Nurulaji Misuari to Zamboanga, a move which came after the controversial meeting between President Aquino and Misuari in Sulu. There was not much to accomplish during this time, in which the city government did not have the sufficient funds to undertake any major projects, and there were no funds coming from the national government, which at that time was more concerned with doing an accounting of money allegedly taken by the Marcos administration. He was, nevertheless, responsible for the concreting of the roads from Gov. Ramos to the Zamboanga International Airport, and the concreting of the road from Suterville to Baliwasan.
When the new constitution was approved by a plebiscite in February 2, 1987, local elections were held. Climaco resigned to run for the congressional seat and President Aquino appointed Councilor Vitaliano Agan to be acting officer-in-charge in which was the candidate for the mayorship. Agan won, but Climaco lost to Maria Clara Lobregat.
Agan administration (1988–1998)
Vitaliano Agan, born in Lanao del Norte, was the first non-Chavacano elected mayor of the city. During his stint in office, he prioritized the construction of high schools in the major barangays of the city. Construction of concrete major roads, street lighting and traffic lights were done during this time. Through these accomplishments, he was reelected in 1992 and in 1995. It was also in his time when the massive Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex started its construction.
In 1990, Zamboanga City was declared the commercial and industrial center of the Western Mindanao region (now Zamboanga Peninsula).
Problems arose in 1996 when President Fidel Ramos initiated several peace accords with the MNLF in Zamboanga City. The MNLF was insisting that Zamboanga be made part of the proposed autonomous region, but the national government could not agree to this, considering that an earlier referendum signified that 99% of the Zamboangueños chose to be out of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao. As a compromise, President Ramos, through a presidential decree, created the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), with Chairman Misuari of the MNLF as its head following the signing of a peace agreement. This act would get the ire of the Zamboangueños when the Ramos government decided to include Zamboanga under the SPCPD.
When the people of Zamboanga City were expecting the mayor to speak for their cause, Mayor Agan instead supported the Ramos decision, an act which would turn public opinion against him. It would also turn Congresswoman Lobregat against Mayor Agan despite the fact that they were signatories to a compact of peace and development. Lobregat was strongly against the city’s inclusion in the autonomy scheme and SPCPD coverage. The anti-SPCPD movement staged several massive protests in the city and initiated the recall of Mayor Agan that failed when the majority of the barangay captains remained loyal to the mayor.
Mayor Agan tried to regain his popularity through revitalized infrastructure program for the city, including the street lighting projects and several concreting projects, including the controversial Quiniput-Licomo road. However, the projects backfired on him of overspending and overpricing. Celso, the son of Congresswoman Lobregat, brought the matter to Congress for investigation. This would be the first time in Zamboanga’s history that a city executive and several members of the city council would be summoned by Congress for questioning in connection with graft and corruption. It devastated Agan’s political career. Before the end of his term, Mayor Agan stepped down from office in favor of Vice-Mayor Efren Arañez to file his candidacy for a congressional seat against Celso Lobregat during the 1998 local elections. Agan lost, the first time he was to taste defeat in his political career.
M. C. Lobregat administration (1998–2004)
Previously served as Zamboanga City's representative, Maria Clara Lobregat was the first woman mayor elected in its history. Vesting against incumbent Mayor Arañez, she was known for legislating the creation of the Zamboanga Special Economic Zone and Freeport during her stint in Congress. During her term, Mayor Lobregat made it her priority to restore the city of flowers’ lost glory. This was the time when they city was popularly known as the City of Flowers. She also sought to make Zamboangueños historically conscious and proud of their legacy as Zamboangueños. She embarked on a program of rehabilitating and refurbishing the city’s landmarks and required City Hall employees to make use of the traditional Filipino attire in the office every Monday.
Unfortunately, Mayor Lobregat died on January 2, 2004 due to diabetes complications. Vice-Mayor Erico Basilio Fabian was later inducted into office.
Cabatangan siege (2001)
In November 19, 2001, The Cabatangan Government Complex located 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 have taken the residents there hostages. 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.
C. Lobregat administration (2004–2013)
Lobregat pursued grand infrastructure projects including the rehabilitation of Plaza Pershing and Pasonanca Park in which he added Jardin Maria Clara in the memory of his mother, construction of Paseo Del Mar and the erection of uniformed Barangay halls around the city.
He was reelected twice in 2007 and 2010. In 2007, the city was divided into two legislative districts pursuant to Republic Act No. 9269. The city therefore is entitled to two representatives to the national congress.
Climaco-Salazar administration (2013- )
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 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 has been met by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which seeks to free the hostages and expel the MNLF from the city. The standoff degenerated into urban warfare, and brought parts of the city under standstill for days.