By Teofilo P. Garcia, PNA and U.S. News Agency / Asian
The entire city officialdom headed by Mayor Celso Lobregat on Thursday rolled out the red carpet for the historic visit of Her Majesty, Queen Sofia of Spain, the first highest foreign dignitary to visit Zamboanga City.
Queen Sofia and her entourage that includes Spanish Ambassador Jorge Domecq arrived around 9:15 a.m. Thursday aboard the presidential plane at the Edwin Andrews Air Base in Barangay Sta. Maria, this city.
“It is indeed an honor for the city of Zamboanga to be visited by the Queen of Spain. I don’t think there was any other foreign dignitaries of such stature who ever visited Zamboanga in the past,” Lobregat, who led the welcome party, said.
The welcome party include House Deputy Speaker and First District Congresswoman Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, 2nd District Congressman Erico Basilio Fabian, Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief Lt. Gen Noel Coballes, 3rd Air Division commander Maj. Gen. Jose Antonio Villarete, and Police Regional Director-9 Chief Supt. Napoleon Estilles.
From the airport, Queen Sofia and her entourage proceeded to the Spanish-funded housing project, the Katilingban Para sa Kalambuan, Inc. in Barangay Sinunuc, 9.4 kilometers west of this city.
Queen Sofia inspected the housing project funded by the Agencia Española de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo (AECID).
The housing project is managed by a Spanish non-government organization (NGO) known as the “Manos Unidas” and the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZaBIDA) headed by Claretian missionary priest Fr. Angel Clavo.
From Sinunuc, the Queen visited the Claret School in Barangay San Jose-Cawa-Cawa, a kilometer west of this city.
The Claret School, which is managed by the Claretian Missionary Fathers, is a beneficiary of a school building from the Spanish government.
Queen Sofia also met with street children in one of the classrooms at Claret School.
From there, the Queen proceeded to the Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC), which has availed of a soft loan amounting to USD 9 million (P450 million) from the Spanish government for upgrading and modernization of medical facilities.
From ZCMC, the Queen and her entourage proceeded to the Royal Fort of Our Virgin Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza (Fort Pilar) where her majesty offered prayers, flowers and lighted candles before proceeding to the National Museum for lunch hosted by the city government.
Fort Pilar is a 17th century military defense fortress built by the Spanish colonial government in Zamboanga City.
The fort, now a regional museum of the National Museum, is a major landmark and a symbol of the city’s cultural heritage.
After lunch, Queen Sofia visited the Don Pablo Lorenzo Memorial High School (DPLMHS) along Gov. Ramos Avenue in Barangay Sta. Maria, three kilometers north of this city.
The DPLMHS has been identified as the pilot school for the reintegration of Spanish subject in its curriculum.
The school is also a recipient of a speech laboratory and more than 3,000 armchairs donated by AECID in coordination with the Fundacion Humanismo Y Democracia (H+D) and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).
The Queen flew back to Manila Thursday afternoon.
Lobregat said Queen Sofia felt at home and impressed about Zamboanga City.
Lobregat noted there were a number of times the Queen broke security protocol by stopping the car she was riding to meet school children.
Lobregat said the living link of Zamboanga City to Spain is this city’s Spanish derivative language called Chabacano, which is 65 percent Spanish.
“No other city in the Philippines and Asia where the majority of the population speaks, understands and converses Chabacano on a daily basis except in Zamboanga,” he said.