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Full Circle

Day 100: Zamboanga

Michael Palin - Full CircleA hundred days on the road. Should be celebrating. But what? An awful long way still to go? Ironically this milestone (if such it is) coincides with one of those occasional vortexes in our journey, when all we seem to be doing is flying round in ever-decreasing circles. Spent most of the day at the Rio Hondo, a Muslim village built on spindly stilts above the water beyond the low, fat walls of Fort Pilar, the symbol of European military conquest in the seventeenth century. Rio Hondo is tough, wiry and welcoming. A network of unfenced bridges and walkways leads like a spider's web through the labyrinth of improvised wooden houses in which ten thousand people live. They have no sanitation other than the flow of the Pacific tide but they have billiard halls, tailors, halal butchers, schools and a makeshift mosque with green tin walls and a silver tin dome, which is one of the most curious buildings I've seen on the journey so far. The rickety houses may have ten or fifteen people living in them, the walkways may be perilous and the wood planks holed and split, yet there is a sense of civic pride here. Pride in making the most of very little.

The reason for our continued dalliance in Zamboanga is that, until quite recently, the Sulu Sea was out of bounds to regular foreign travellers. Gavin Young, in Slow Boats To China talks of the 'treacherous water' between Zambo and Sandakan on the 'pirate-haunted Sulu Sea'.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 100
  • Country/sea: Philippines
  • Place: Rio Hondo
  • Book page no: 143

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