Friday, March 7, 2014

Garden Orchid Hotel of Zamboanga City: My Home at Asia's Latin City

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Your friendly neighborhood pambansang blogger of the Philippines visited Zamboanga under the invitation of the Department of Tourism of Region 9 to cover the many festivities of the city during its 77th Dia De La Ciudad De Zamboanga. This includes the 9th Philippine Bird Festival and the 2nd Zamboanga International Film Festival when Cinematheque Zamboanga was also inaugurated as the venue of the said film fest.

From the very moment we stepped out of the Cebu-Pacific airplane at the Zamboanga International Airport, we were greeted warmly by the Chavacano-speaking people of Zamboanga starting with a display of some traditional dance as a welcome treat for all the passengers from Manila, and a placard bearing my name carried by a true Zamboanguena to fetch and take me to Garden Orchid Hotel - my temporary home during my stay in Zamboanga Hermosa.

Garden Orchid Hotel is located at Gov. Camins Avenue and is just a stone's throw away from the airport. It is  approximately 10 minutes away form the commercial places like Paseo Del Mar where you can go dining by the sea.

I was booked at the new wing with its own driveway and grand lobby with amazing chandeliers, cylindrical staircases and a wide lounge area. There's a mini-bar at the far end and you can directly see the pool area from the lounge area because they are divided by a see-through glass wall.

But it was just my first day and there were plans to wake up as early as 5 in the morning the next day so I could join the bird watching activities organized for the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines and foreign delegates coming from different countries to attend the 9th Philippine Bird Festival that is now hosted in Zamboanga.

You'll never have to worry about space here at the Garden Orchid Hotel's new wing. As seen from the photos, there's so much space to move around and so many seats to relax and enjoy a day of just lounging around. It's also quite safe as their security always check on the bags and belongings of their visitors and guests.

You'll have several places to sit down and read an e-book or browse on your smartphone or tablet. I could almost feel asleep if I had no other place to go. The hotel is not crowded with guests as most are probably wandering around in the many tourist spots that can be found in Zamboanga.

From this area you can see a great view of the pool side. It is very tempting to try the waters soon.

Hey, there's my bag as we get ready to go upstairs and check on my room so I could unpack and freshen up a bit. Next stop is to have breakfast at another hotel called LM Metro Hotel.

The friendly smiles of Zamboanga makes you want to stay forever. The lady in yellow is Elle, DOT Information Officer.

When they say It's More Fun in the Philippines, it's because of the people that make up the country. That goes stromg even in Mindanao areas like Zamboanga.

I have to commend our Department of Tourism agency for making great efforts to promote our country as the most ideal travel destination for people who really want to experience a vacation that is made more fun because of the people that they will meet and connect with.

The spiral staircases are an awesome sight. You could try using it instead of the elevator to appreciate the view and get some exercise as well. Have you noticed the majestic chandeliers? It was an awesome sight especially if you look at them from the bottom.

Stunning painstaking craftsmanship! Guess what they are made of...

I will be tagging along with the local and international bird watchers along with other participants from the local conservation organizations, government organization including DOT and DENR, and a few media members representing certain magazines and newspapers. I was the only blogger or online media there - but one of them actually asked me to help him setup his own blog too so right now he's having a wonderful time being part of the blogging community.

With the key card in my hand, I went to my room to put my two bags inside my room. Brought only enough clothes for 4 days and 3 nights of stay. I should have brought more because I didn't know it will involve a lot of activities around the city.


The beds are comfortable enough and you are given a choice to have them replaced everyday if you will follow their instructions written in a piece of laminated card where its written that you are required to put it on top of the bed if you want the linens replaced. That is the sign for the room attendants to know if you want a fresh set of clean linens. Otherwise, they'll just fix the linens neatly and reuse again. The beds are normally only used during the night so it was quite OK since they did say that it's to help conserve water and detergent.

They have a huge flat screen TV for entertainment, and an option to use free Internet access though you have to request for the LAN or UTP cable since it's not available via wi-fi. I should have brought a router so my room mate and I could have shared the Internet connection. But no worries since I brought along my own pocket wi-fi.

Our room was undoubtedly of international standards and complete with the basic amenities (including a bath tub in the rest room). Lol!  I usually look for it in a hotel because I love to fill it up and sink under the warm water for at least 30 minutes before I end my day and go to sleep. It's quite soothing to relax while your body is submerged in warm water with temperatures like that of hot springs similar to the ones we experienced in Laguna or Dumaguete. Dipping in pools is also fun but quite dangerous if you fall asleep uncontrollably especially after a night of drinking spree.

I would have like our room to have a bathrobe too (just like in the other hotels I've stayed in), but I understand its quite hard to provide one for every customer. They had a few choices of drinks in the personal fridge but no chips, chocolates and other snack options which is quite alright since I never really consume them because they are more expensive in hotels. What was surprising is instead of complimentary bottled waters, they have sachets of 3-in-1 coffee instead.

What else do they have in the room? The usual hangers, complimentary slippers, a safe for your valuables, and other  stuff. But why am I boring you? Let's go down and check out the pool area.

The pictures say it well. A fine way to beat the heat is to make some splashes in the pool. Unlike in Manila, I've never seen it crowded with people. Maybe because it was still February when I was in Zamboanga, so I'm guessing there will be more people starting March when summer is official.

I never really had the chance to get around the hotel since we had too many activities scheduled within the four days and three night I was in Zamboanga. In fact, it was not enough to see all the beauty of the city.

We had a city tour of the different sights including a visit at ground zero of the Zamboanga siege (specifically at Barangay Sta. Catalina) where a standoff degenerated into urban warfare between the forces of the Republic of the Philippines and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and had brought parts of the city under a standstill for days.

The clashes caused the displacement of several people, the occupation of several barangays by the MNLF, the deaths of several civilians, the closure of the Zamboanga International Airport (which has since been reopened), and the slowdown of economic activity in the city.

This is why the city government and the people of Zamboanga has made several creative efforts to "Build Back a Better Zamboanga". I am hoping to go back there to continue exploring the sites that I missed. Let us help them in this noble endeavor as Zamboanga is just too beautiful to be ignored.

Be sure to catch more of my stories of Asia's Latin City as I still have plenty more to share

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