Mention Pagadian and one thing comes to mind: the iconic inclined tricycle. Tricycles, three-wheeled public form of transportation, can be found all around the Philippines, but the ones here are pretty unique. Designed to adapt to the city’s hilly terrain, Pagadian’s tricycle is inclined at about 25-40° angle. Sure, it’s a unique photo op, but apart from riding the tricycle, little else comes to mind when you mention Pagadian. What else can you do there?
Originally a stop-over for traders who plied the road between the old Spanish fort-town of Zamboanga on the southwestern tip of the Zamboanga peninsula and other bigger towns to the north of the old Zambonga Province, Pagadian remains an unassuming fishing town. It’s been nicknamed the “Little Hongkong of the South” because of its rolling terrain, said to be reminiscent of the former Crown colony. Yet Pagadian has a quiet charm of its own and as well as a few hidden gems.
Fishing vessels (locally called tapay-tapay)
WHERE EXACTLY IS PAGADIAN:
Pagadian City is the capital of Zamboanga del Sur in Western Mindanano. The city lies on the northeastern side of the Western Mindanao region, bordering Illana Bay. It is bounded by the municipalities of Tigbao and Dumalinao on the southwest, Lakewood on the west, Labangan on the east and northwest, and Midsalip on the north.
Pagadian’s name comes from words taken from the Iranum dialenct, “pagad” (wait) and “padian” (market), reflecting its trading port origins. The waters surrounding Pagadian contain a sheltered bay and have good fishing grounds, so as time passed waves of different people came to stay and eventually called themselves “Pagadianons.”
HOW TO GET THERE:
If you’re coming from Manila or Cebu, Cebu Pacific and PAL has direct flights to the Pagadian airport. It can also be reached from neighboring cities such as Zamboanga, Ozamiz, Iligan and Cagayan de Oro by bus. Other relatively near airports include Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte, and Ozamis City in Misamis Occidental. Zamboanga City is about 5 hours away by land from Pagadian City.
The easiest way to get around is by Pagadian’s tricycle designed for the mountainous and hilly roads. If you’re just going around the city, the normal fare is just P10/head. You can also charter a tricycle for P700-1,000 per day depending on the sites to be visited.
During my visit, I couldn’t find any official bicycle or motorcycle rental shops, though it’s possible to borrow from trusted locals. For land travel to neighboring cities or provinces, you can travel by van or bus. The bus terminal is accessed easily and finding the right bus is easy as there are only a few destinations. Hotels can arrange van rental for areas like Lakewood & transfers to neighboring airports.
For island hopping, you’ll have to charter a boat. The boatman at the port offered to tour us around for a fee P600 for the boat including gas, which is good for up to ten people.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO DO IN PAGADIAN:
The most accessible major landmark in Pagadian is the Rotonda, a circular park on top of a hill overlooking the Illana Bay. From here you get a great view of the town from the viewing deck, walk around the gardens or go horseback-riding for just 20 pesos.
City Hall & Plaza
You can also visit the City Hall and plaza in the city. There are lots of cheap ukay-ukay stalls selling secondhand clothes and shoes, food stalls in the market and a fountain in the middle of the plaza.
Baywalk & Pier
There’s a small Baywalk where you can catch the breeze and see the bustling fishing industry.
Dao Dao Islands
The Dao Dao Islands are two small islets within the Illana Bay. Dao Dao Dako (big) is the bigger island which covers 1.10 hectares and is a 7 to 10‑minute ride by motorboat from the seaport. It’s popular with locals for swimming and picnics because of its proximity to the mainland.
Dao Dao Gamay or Dumagok Islet is technically not an island, but another small islet that partially submerges during high tide. A set of green cottages and walkways have been constructed on the small island for visitors, making it another popular spot for locals.
Puting Balas or White Sand Island is a sandbar that even locals are still not that familiar with. It’s just a bare strip of sand in the middle of the sea that appears only during low tide. Except for a few fishermen gathering sea cucumbers and shells near the shore, we had this tiny piece of paradise all to ourselves.
Of all the places we visited, this is the place that stood out the most. The sandbar was just so peaceful, raw and uncommercialized.
NOTE: I wrote about our visit to Puting Balas in Going Places Magazine April 2017 issue. Check it out here.
Located 49 km off Pagadian City, Alindahaw Lakeview Resort in Lakewood is a tranquil lakeside resort where you can enjoy water activities like cruising, kayaking, waterbikes and swimming. It’s best to visit here before sunset.
WHAT/WHERE TO EAT IN PAGADIAN:
Yammy’s Seafood Grill is a highly recommended local restaurant. Their bestseller is Crabs (unavailable when we visited), but other dishes like Pansat (shrimps) Guisado swimming in a buttery sweet lemon garlic sauce and fresh tuna kinilaw (ceviche) were pretty good.
Pagadian is also the home of one peso barbecue! In the markets and street stalls, you can buy the tiny pieces of meat on skewers for just one peso each to pair along with puso, rice wrapped in banana leaves.
Greenhouse Fishing Station is a restaurant in the middle of a fish pond surrounded by coconut trees that specializes in seafood and FIlipino fare. The location is a bit far from the city proper (15-20 mins by tricycle) and the service can be slow if it’s crowded, but the view is refreshing and food is good. It’s better suited for groups.
WHERE TO STAY IN PAGADIAN:
We were booked in Mardale Hotel and Convention Center, a centrally located mid-rise business hotel just off the main highway. Rooms are clean and decent. They also have an in-house restaurant for breakfast and other meals. Mardale Hotel and Convention Center, Cabrera Street, San Francisco District, Pagadian City, Mindanao, Philippines
Facebook: Mardale Hotel and Convention Center