ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR | The Colors of Zamboanga Hermosa Festival

Monday, October 29, 2018

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival

Colors everywhere! That’s the first thing that struck me as we arrived at Zamboanga City for the annual Zamboanga Hermosa Festival. The almost hundred-year old festival is celebrated during the whole month of October and is one of the oldest festivals in the Philippines. And at the center of the fiesta, the miraculous image of the Nuestra Señora del Pilar, which was originally brought to the city’s fort by the Spaniards in 1734.

This year’s Zamboanga Hermosa kicked off early, starting during the last days of September with Smoke Out Zamboanga, a grilled food fest along R.T. Lim Boulevard, and rolled with no less than sixty activities running all through October in and around the center of the city. We stayed for a week in Zamboanga City and it still wasn’t enough to see everything!

Zamboanga Travel Guide




Hitting the ground running, we landed at Zamboanga City from Manila and headed straight to the R.T. Lim Boulevard to witness Zamboanga Hermosa Festival’s major opening salvo, the Regatta de Zamboanga. This year’s race features 273 colorful vinta vessels, with Lumads, Christians, and Muslims residing in the city manually paddling and sailing their boats across the waters of the Sulu Sea. It was fun seeing everyone cheer for their hometown heroes, with the whole cast of Jollibee joining in the melee! Besides the award for the fastest boat, a prize is also given to the most creative vinta sail design.

While it is quite rare to see the iconic vinta, which originated from the Sama-Bajau and Moros in the Sulu Archipelago, sail across the waters of modern Zamboanga, the regatta celebrates its history and help reminds the people of their rich history.

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Regatta de Zamboanga

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Regatta de Zamboanga

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Regatta de Zamboanga




Right after the regatta, a free-for-all sardine boodle fight awaited the crowd watching the race. The line of banana trunk husk filled with sardines along the boulevard was descended upon both by locals and tourists—some even bringing bread to scoop up the sardines! A total of 24,000 cans were opened just for this event, with a few brands creatively using it to whip up popular dishes like dynamite spring rolls, meatballs, and fresh lumpia. Supplying ninety percent of the sardines in the country, indeed, Zamboanga isn’t dubbed as the Sardine Capital of the Philippines for nothing.

Zamboanga Food Trip

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Wow Sardinas

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Wow Sardinas

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Wow Sardinas




Now on its fifth year, the Zamboanga Peninsula Expo or ZamPEX showcases local products from Region 9, ARMM, Davao City, and Indonesia. Local handicrafts like weavings, textiles, accessories, food products, and furniture make up the hundred plus exhibitors. While my friends loaded up on weaving products, I hoarded on bottled garlic chilies and Spanish sardines! It was held for three days at the Palacio del Sur event hall, which was a bonus for us since it was just a hop away from Marcian Garden Hotel, where we were staying.

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Zampex

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Zampex




It’s surprising to find a lechon festival in Mindanao, but as a testament to Zamboanga City’s diversity and peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims, you can find just that here. Named after the local chavacano term for grilled or roasted food, the Asao Lechon Festival is Zamboanga Hermosa’s festival within a festival. The city actually has a bustling lechon scene, with most of the stalls located at the Barangays of Sta. Maria and Tetuan. The festival, which is now on its third year, saw twelve lechoneros vie it out for the tastiest roasted pig in town, parading it around town before locals devour them down to the bones—all for free, of course.

It was just too bad that we didn’t get to witness the parade and the lechon-tasting event, but we did see how they roasted the lechons at the San Roque Abattoir, a public lechonan area in Zamboanga City.

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Asao Lechon Festival




Inspired by the intricate traditional terno gowns worn by affluent ladies during the Spanish era in Zamboanga, mascotas make their way to the present every Hermosa Festival. These dresses, which has six essential parts—the corpiño or chemise, the candongga or pañuelo, the renggue or upper body, the sobre falda or tapis, the cola or lower body, and the enaguas or inner lining—sometimes takes a year to prepare. The fashion gala competition, also held at the Palacio del Sur, saw nineteen lovely Zamboangeñas gracefully strut across the stage wearing intricate Baroque art-inspired gowns.

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Mascota de ZamboangaZamboanga Hermosa Festival Mascota de Zamboanga

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Mascota de Zamboanga




Street dancing caps off the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival. Thirteen contingents, wrapped in flamboyant costumes and traditional garbs, danced their way across the streets of the city to the beats of drums as festival queens hold the image of the Virgin Mary. The parade of colors started from the Zamboanga City Fire Station, stopped at the Zamboanga Municipal Hall for a full dance, and then proceeded to Paseo Del Mar for their final performance. It was a scorcher of a day, but the energy and colors brought on by the performers made everything worth it.

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Street Dancing

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Street Dancing

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Street Dancing

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Street Dancing

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Street Dancing




The Zamboanga Hermosa Festival continues on throughout the month after the main street dancing event, from the Parade of Light float competition, to dancing events like the Zamboanga Dancesport, and various minor events held over the barangays of the city.

Zamboanga Tourist Spots

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival Dancesport CompetitionZamboanga Hermosa Festival Dancesport Competition

Zamboanga City Location Map

You Might Also Like


  1. Thank you for sharing this article about Zamboanga Hermosa Festival and I love to go to this place.

    1. You're welcome, Karen! You indeed should visit Zamboanga and join in their festival! :)