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Zamboanga History, Philippines

In the early accounts of History, Zamboanga was known as Jambangan.  The place was called by its ancestors as the “Land of Flowers” as given by a Spanish settler named Don Juan Ponce de Leon.  The explorer named the place La Florida which literally means “land of flowers.”

The Subanons, or the founding fathers of the land were from Indonesia and are of Malayan decent.  They found their homes at the tip of the Mindanao peninsula and chose farming as their means of living. 

The arrival of the Malays

In the 1300’s, the Badjaos and Samals - both of Malayan decent - came to conquer the land of Jambangan.  The Subanons clearly told them the name of the place but the Malays called the place Samboangan. 

After the Badjaos and the Samals, the Tausugs and the Yakans arrived in the province.  Their era came to be the most predominant race in the province.  As evidence to this, they formed their own Sultanate based in the Island of Jolo.  This was the time when the Malays were having their height at trading new products not just in the Jambangan locality but in the world as well. 

These Malayan decent form most of Zamboanga’s population today.  The Subanons from Indonesia have chosen to live their ancestry in other provinces in Mindanao as they found the Malays very tough competitors.  They were overruled by the more predominant Malays in their conquest to rule the Jambangan area.

The Spanish occupation

In November 1596, a small Spanish settlement was formed in the province around fifteen minutes away from downtown Zamboanga. The Spanish conquerors introduced Christianity in the area.

There are some contradictions concerning the year that the Spaniards discovered Jambangan.  Historians noted that as early as 1575, there were already Spanish settlers in the area.  This is noted by the fact that it is more likely that the Spaniards passed by the Basilan Strait before reaching the Caldera Bay.

Arrival of the Chavacanos

The 1600’s was the era of transformation by the people of Jambangan from traditional Muslims to Catholics.  Another notable fact in this time of history was the arrival of the Chavacanos. This contributed to the Zamboangueños Chavacano dialect.

Zamboanga’s transition

In the 1800’s after a long struggling conquest with the various ethnic origins which arrived in Jambangan, the province reached its climax.  They became more open to trade and industry.  The customs clearing house were built and their international trade boomed. This became the most advantageous period for the people of Zamboanga to recover from the Malay, Indonesian and Spanish occupations.  They started gaining their identities for themselves.  They were no longer called Malays, Indonesians and Chavacanos. 

In 1899, there was the so-called Republic of Zamboanga after the Spaniards opted to surrender the then Revolutionary Government of Zamboanga.  In May 23, 1899, the Spaniards left the province for good and the Zamboangueños started a life on their own.

For the past 400 years, Zamboanga had many people to conquer.  Regaining its individuality was so difficult. The hardships bore fruit.  Today, Zamboanga is known to be one of the most fantastic spots in the Philippine archipelago having with it a different taste of the various cultures that lived in it.

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