Real Fuerza de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragosa
After eating a Satti breakfast at one of the Satti shops in Pilar Street, morning finds us strolling the streets of Zambaonga City ending up at the imposing structure by the Zamboanga Peninsula Seas, which is the historical Fort Pilar. This venerable fort founded in 1635 yet still proudly stands strong until now, represents the rich colonial history of this region of our country.
An outdoor Marian shrine
We entered an open gate at the back of the Fort where an amount of human traffic can be seen going in and out of the premise. It was the entrance to a one of a kind outdoor shrine holding open air mass. The mid morning sun was already beaming its warm light on this holy ground and walls and also to the flock of devotees, equipped with their own umbrellas and sun shields, who were already on their feet and queuing towards the altar for their individual religious ritual with holy water.
Our Lady of the Pilar Shrine details
At the focal point of the area, and where the pathways created from the concrete pews seem to point, is the miraculous statue of Our Lady of the Pillar can be found facing the rising sun. This statue of the Virgin Mary was said to have miraculously appeared on a pillar in Zaragoza, Spain, on October 12, 1492. This paved way to the Christianization of some of the Hispanics from the Moros in which the fort was defending against. On the same day, the feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar was declared and became the city’s Patron Saint.
To whom the bell tolls
There is so much history about Zamboanga City’s Fort Pilar that I didn’t know. I guess our historians are mostly focused in Manila and very few Spanish history in the South. For a region deeply rooted in Islamic traditions, Zamboanga City is the seat of Christianization in Mindanao. Under the Spanish rule, sea expeditions were launched to fight the Moro Pirates, and at the near end of the Spanish revolution, it was a Zamboanga born hero Vicente S. Alvarez who unseated the mighty rulership of the Spaniards. And around the 1900-1920s the US government established a short lived form of government where Zamboanga was the Seat of the Government. So for a while a “Republic of Zamboanga” was established.
Candles and prayers
Beside the open area church at the east side of the Fort, the inner structure was converted into a museum, unfortunately for us, it was a Sunday and the museum was closed. So we just decided to go around the area and take pictures and observe the local folks.
Wish upon a burning candle
On the left of the altar is an area where you can offer prayers along with the burning candles. Unfortunately I’m no catholic so I don’t fully understand what the different colors of the candles represent. It was interesting as well that during prayer, people would open and close their palms above the flames for a while.
Religious items sold outside the church
Outside the walls of the fort, like most other churches in the country, have a few stalls selling some religious items as well as food. It was really interesting visiting this place. If Manila has Intramuros, Zamboanga City has Fort Pilar which isn’t short of historical and religious significance as well.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.