Last updated on October 1, 2019
Zamboanga City was founded in the late 12th or early 13th century as a settlement by the Subanen people. Zamboanga peninsula was also the homelands of the ancestors of the Yakan, the Balanguingui, and other closely related Sama-Bajau peoples.
The area was inhabited by the Subanen people and was the site of trade among the Chinese, Malays and different native ethnic groups around the area.
During the 13th century, the Tausūg people started migrating to Zamboanga and the Sulu archipelago from their homelands in northeastern Mindanao. They became the dominant ethnic group after they were Islamized in the 14th century and established the Sultanate of Sulu in the 15th century. A majority of the Yakan, the Balanguingui, and the Sama-Bajau were also Islamized, though most of the Subanen remained animist (with the exception of the Kolibugan subgroup in southwestern Zamboanga).
The city used to be known as Samboangan in historical records. Samboangan is a Sinamaterm for “mooring place” (also spelled sambuangan; and in Subanen, sembwangan), from the root word samboang(“mooring pole”). The name was later Hispanicized and named as Zamboanga.
This is commonly contested by folk etymologies which instead attribute the name to the Indonesian word jambangan(claimed to mean “place of flowers”, but actually means “pot” or “bowl”), usually with claims that all ethnic groups in Zamboanga were “Malays”. However, this name has never been attested in any historical records prior to the 1960s.