If Manila has Intramuros, Zamboanga City has Fort Pilar. The fort is officially called the Real Fuerza de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza, which roughly means the “Royal Force of Our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza.” The Virgin Mary reportedly miraculously appeared on a pillar in Zaragoza, Spain, on October 12, 1492, the first time she manifested herself on the Iberian peninsula. This led to the Christianization of the Hispanics from the Moors and October 12 then became the feast day of Our Lady of the Pillar. The “Charter of Zamboanga City” was signed into law as Commonwealth Act No. 39 on October 12, 1936 and subsequently, the Our Lady of the Pillar became the city’s patron saint. A statue of the Lady is found on the east wall of Fort Pilar.
The fort itself was built on June 23, 1635 by the Jesuit Melchor de Vera as a military defense structure against the Moros and pirates. It was originally named as Real Fuerza de San José, before taking the name of Our Lady of Pillar in 1719. Today, the fort stands as a religious shrine and open air masses are held here every Sunday.
And for some educational geography, Zamboanga City, affectionately called Zamboanga Hermosa and nicknamed “The City of Flowers,” is an independent chartered city that is often incorrectly placed under the jurisdiction of Zamboanga del Sur. (This is something that irks many Zamboangueños to no end.) Zamboanga City is the last remaining place in the Philippines that primarily speaks Chavacano, a Spanish creole language. In addition, the city covers an area of almost 1,500 km², making it the country’s second largest city in terms of area next to Davao City. In fact, the city is bigger than either Cavite or Rizal!
For some pictures of Fort Pilar, visit this gallery page from the Zamboanga.com website.