Remembering Rizal: Dapitan and Dipolog City
Rizal’s home in exile for four years, and the site of famous resort Dakak, Dapitan and nearby Dipolog in Zamboanga del Norte are worth a visit.
In search of a bit of history, architect and photographer Abet Lagula follows Rizal to his place of exile, Dapitan. Along the way, he discovers the old and new attractions in Dakak Resort and Dipolog City.
Rizal and Then Some
I've always had a fascination with Dapitan ever since I read about the life of our national hero, Jose Rizal, during history class (geek mode on). I've been to his ancestral house in Calamba, Laguna a couple of times already, but I've never been to his place of exile. What would it have been like to live in exile in Dapitan anyway? I was about to find out for myself: I had expiring Mabuhay Miles to use up, and after shortlisting the new places I wanted to visit, I chose Dapitan as my next destination.
Dapitan is a city in the province of Zamboanga del Norte in Mindanao. Its historical significance as Rizal's place of exile, as well as the contributions Rizal himself made to Dapitan's development paved the way for the city‘s recognition as the "Shrine City in the Philippines." History aside, the city is also home to the famous Dakak Park and Beach Resort and Gloria de Dapitan, the first amusement park in the Visayas and Mindanao region.
Day 1: Rizal Shrine
I arrived in Dipolog around 11AM, and after a quick consultation on what to do and where to go with the tourism officer stationed at the airport, I boarded a habal-habal (a single motorbike used as public transport; P40 fare) to the Dipolog Bus Terminal. Here you can catch an Evergood Bus (trips daily until 8PM) for P20; travel time from Dipolog to Dapitan ranges from 15 to 30 minutes.
I asked the conductor to drop me off at the main plaza. This being my first visit, I wasn't familiar with Dapitan, and unfortunately, I had no map for reference, so I really had to rely on the conductor. The funny thing about the Evergood Bus was, even for that short trip, the conductors changed from point to point, so I had to keep repeating my request with every new conductor who came on board.
I began my photo walk of Dapitan at the plaza: I took photos of the plaza itself, the St. James Church, the relief map of Mindanao which Rizal built, and some ancestral houses. I asked for directions to Sunset Boulevard, where I found the marker where Rizal first set foot in Dapitan, the Punto del Desembarco de Rizal.
I hadn't had enough time to book a place beforehand, but most of the hotels are lined up along Sunset Boulevard anyway, so I took my chances and tried a walk-in booking at the first resort I saw, which was Casa Jose. They charged me P500 a night for an air-conditioned room with TV and a solo toilet and bath. The room probably wouldn't have appealed to most tourists, though it was fine for a budget traveler like me. Those after better-looking (and pricier) resorts can try some of the other resorts along Sunset Boulevard, like the Dapitan City Resort Hotel, a government-owned hotel overlooking Dapitan Bay, with 20 fully air-conditioned rooms with TV, conference facilities, a swimming pool and WIFI connectivity.
From Sunset Boulevard I took a tricycle to the Rizal Shrine (P7). The shrine in Dapitan is bigger than that in Rizal's birthplace of Calamba, Laguna. I spent a couple of hours touring the place, taking pictures of the memorabilia, main house, clinic, aqueduct, and other places of interest. It was almost dark when I noticed a trail leading up to a hill, near the entrance to the Rizal Shrine. Always game for a hike and a new discovery, I took the trail, and after 30 minutes, arrived at a deck overlooking the town of Dapitan. Unfortunately, both the trail and the deck were in sore need of maintenance, so I turned back and trekked all the way back to the town center, where I had dinner and returned to my room.
Day 2: Dakak
I set aside my second day for a visit to Dakak Park and Beach Resort, the one other thing (aside from the Rizal Shrine) that is synonymous with Dapitan. From my hotel, it was a 20 minute habal-habal ride to the entrance of Dakak, over some steep and mostly concrete roads (the fare ranges from P50 - P100, depending on how well you haggle).
Dakak accepts walk-in day tour guests for a P200 entrance fee. After you pay the fee to the guard stationed at the gate, they will send a shuttle to pick you up and take you to the reception area. Inside, I took pictures of the beach, the pool, and the main reception area, before choosing my own secluded spot from which to enjoy the view and my solitude. I also enjoyed their buffet lunch-for me, a bit pricey at P346 pesos, but really quite worth it in terms of the food and the experience.
After lunch, I asked the shuttle to take me to the trail leading to The Repeater, a view deck on top of a hill overlooking the whole of Dakak (shuttle service from point to point within Dakak is free). It's at least 300 steps to the top, where a breathtaking glimpse of Dakak awaits. I took several photos before going down and boarding another habal-habal back to Dapitan City. Feeling spent, I relaxed in my room for the rest of the day, getting ready for Day 3.
Day 3: Dipolog City Tour
On my third day, I woke up earlier than the usual in preparation for my tour of Dipolog City. I had hired a tricycle driver in Dapitan, Mang Lando, to take me around the city (I paid him P500 for the whole day). First on my list was a trek to Linabo Peak, a climb of 3003 steps to the highest among several viewing decks in Dapitan and Dipolog City. It usually takes about an hour to an hour and a half to reach the top, but I managed the climb in only 45 minutes.
From Linabo Peak, we went to the newly built Dipolog Boulevard and Sta. Cruz marker. Though the trees planted along the boulevard were freshly planted and still small, I could imagine this area transforming into a beautiful promenade ideal for picnics and sunset viewing when the trees mature. We made a short stop at the Dipolog Cathedral, where the altar is said to have been designed by Rizal himself.
On our way back to Dapitan, we stopped by the Dapitan Aqua-Marine Park (DAMPA) along Polo Bridge. Like most Dampa-type compounds, this place has a number of native restaurants serving seafood and other delicacies. They also offer a river cruise during lunch time, which lasts around an hour and a half to two hours. I also dropped by Gloria de Dapitan, but it seemed incongruous to take photos of the bright new amusement part since I was more after Dapitan's historical landmarks.
All in all, I spent three whole days getting to know the history and beauty of Dapitan and Dipolog. I'm already planning to come back this summer for a longer stay and a more complete Dapitan experience. If Rizal enjoyed living in exile here for four years, I'm sure to enjoy the few days I allocate for my return visit.