Thursday, March 20, 2014

ZAMBOANGA IDYLL (The Weekly Nation, 1966)

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By Marietta L. Velasco

...lush tropical land of the fairest maidens and the sweet orchid-scented atmosphere, where the coast is fringed by palms and ferns, and where the sun meets the horizon in transporting glory.

ZAMBOANGA is a quaint and exotic name that conjures many images -- alluring maidens, enchanting paradise of variegated flora, colorful Moro vintas, kris-bearing juramentados, fabulous pearls.

Romantics have called this world of tropical enchantment by many names.  It is the City of the Flowers, the Pearl Center of the South Seas, the Friendliest City of the World.  It is no wonder that when the late Fernando Poe Sr. was in quest of a setting for a motion picture, he chose Zamboanga.  Zamboanga, the film which starred him and the luscious Rosa del Rosario, became one of lthe most memorable motion pictures of a generation ago.

Zamboanga is approximately 50+ miles from Manila, or 2/12 hours by plane.  It sits on the westernmost part of Mindanao, an overnight's sailing by kumpit from Jolo.  Which is why Moro traders who are in direct contact with Borneo-smugglers find flourishing commerce in this land.  

Nature has lavished on Zamboanga a gracious blend of myth and legend where east and west, ancient and modern merge.

While the port is a modern hub of activity where pleasure-seaking seamen find haven, not far away is a Moro village with its ancient mosques and peaked-roofed dwellings which bear the lasting stamp of the Muslim way of life.

The lush foliage that covers the area is a motley of colors redolent with the heady perfume of exotic blossoms.  Most homes are surrounded by gardens.  How can anyone forget the delightful lure of fragrant orchids and wild ferns, blazing flame trees and age-old acacias?  Or how do you wash out the delectable taste of its strange fruits ...the mangosteen, the durian, and the mangoes?

"Don't you go, don't you go to far Zamboanga, where you may forget your darling far away ..."  This familiar school ditty sings the praise of Zamboanguenas, the fairest of the fair maidens of the south.  The Zamboanguena herself shows unmistakable traces of the country's historical past.  Through her veins runs the blood of generations of Malays, Spaniards, Americans.

A few minutes walk from Zamboanga City itself is a breathtaking seascape of palm fringed beach.  Here the waves deposit seashells that are lovelier than any that could be found anywhere.

A Moro village lines another stretch of the coast.  Here Moro seamen sell pearls, and shells, and corals, French perfume and Scotch whiskey, not to mention the ubiquitous "blue seal."

Among the memorable scenes of Zamboanga seas are that of the Moro vintas with young Muslim boys waiting to dive for coins tossed into the blue waters by tourists.

Such is the allure and beauty of Zamboanga that it has imbued young Fernando Poe Jr. with the obsession to do a movie about the place as his father had done 30 years ago.  The dream is about to be fulfilled.  Work on the motion picture is under way.  With Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces in the starring roles, Zamboanga will be shot in its entirety in Eastman color.

The story is that of a highly adventurous young man who becomes enamoured of the beauteous daughter of a venerable Moro panglima.  The girl happens to be betrothed to the son of a very influential datu, played by Vic Silayan.  Lito Anzures plays the part of the sultan's son.

The film is being directed by Efren Reyes.  Emil Mijares provides the music.

The others in the cast are Pilita Corrales, Johnny Monteiro, Victor Bravo, Pablo Virtuoso, Dencio Padilla, Vic Varrion and Johnny Long.  Also featured are Pedro Faustino and Totoy Torrente who incidentally, were in the old Zamboanga film.  Ana Trinidad, best child actress for 1965, plays Susan's young sister.

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