From its peaceful greenery of nature, serene crystal waters along the coasts, and beyond the streets and antique houses rich of historical setting; Dapitan City is truly a spectacle, a place that lies in a throne in northwestern Mindanao where true geographical beauty is worth to discover.
It’s no wonder why National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal loved his 4-year stay in Dapitan from the late 19th century despite being an exile. “At Dapitan, the sandy shore, and rocks aloft on mountain crest, form thy throne, O refuge blest…” Rizal treasured Dapitan—rendered in his words from “Hymn to Talisay”, a poem he wrote for his pupils in the place.
CULTURE: THE HISPANIC INFLUENCE
Dapitan City is known for its history and culture influenced by the Spanish colonization. When the Spaniards came to the Philippines, they did not bring a mass of personnel to occupy the entire archipelago, natives are also employed to augment their forces. Most of them are Boholanos which resulted in the occupation of Mindanao, specifically in Dapitan. These Dapitanons and Boholanos of Dapitan were used by the Spanish conquest’s campaign against the Moros.
Despite the modern infrastructures rising in town, footprints left by history can still be seen in the city by its few remaining antique houses along the streets including Dapitan’s heritage tourism office, where most of them are believed to be more than a hundred years old!
ACCESS AND ARRIVAL
BY LAND. From Dipolog, Dapitan City can be accessed through Rural Transit Bus or Evergood Transit with trips cost affordably as below P50 with travel time which takes 30 minutes along the 20-kilometer trip. Arriving at Dapitan City Bus Terminal at the heart of the town, most interest points from foods to hotels, everything is just within the reach of our hands.
BY SEA. With ferryboats and transports docking almost every week at Pulauan Port, travelers from Dumaguete, Cebu and other nearby regions can visit Dapitan—awating for an escapade. The downtown can be reached with just a short 10-minute drive from the harbor.
BY AIR. The nearest airport to Dapitan is the Dipolog Airport with domestic flights almost every day from Cebu and Manila. The Shrine City can now be visited through transit bus, taxi van, or a personal service.
The Dapitan urban is equipped with “bao-bao” and motorized tricycles; spread throughout the city for laid-back trips and sightseeing for the travelers.
(Note: Fares and departure times are subject to change due to strict health protocols and the implementation of “Bubble Plus” from the nearby city.)
BED AND BREAKFAST
Before the escapade, a soothing room with warm bed is always the primacy in every trip. In Dapitan City, lodging houses for budget travelers are always opening their doors to welcome the tourists! Even if you forgot to book a reservation for a cheap yet casual accommodation, the Sunset Boulevard road will be a haven for backpackers with inns and pension houses from end to end.
DAPITAN RESORT. With a total of 20 rooms inside, this budget-hotel is truly a place for traveling groups and families. With a swimming pool and beachfront nearby, a glimpse of relaxation can still be experienced here at Dapitan Resort. It’s interior and façade have a touch of 70s architecture, made perfect for retro-enthusiasts. Room rates commonly cost around P700.
BUDGET-FRIENDLY SPOTS. A myriad of economic guesthouses near the boulevard are Monina’s Pension House, Bajamunde Farms Pensione, Bayview Inn, offer a perfect location for sightseers. With the Dapitan sunset together by the calm waters upon your window, these rooms are totally worth beyond the price with rates around P300 a night. With famous restos and snackbars nearby, Erlinda’s, Kan-anan, Buena’s Brewery, Kamayan ni Nanay, and streetfood vendors bid guests’ cravings without a dab on our wallets.
Dr. Jose Rizal Arrived in Dapitan aboard a steamer boat named Cebu. After stepping in Dapitan in the calm evening at 7 o’clock, this is where his legacy has started. The town became a witness of Rizal’s fruitful life despite being an exile.
Dapitan City is highly inspired on Rizal’s love and kindness to the Dapitanons since 1892 by providing free education to the native people from his own knowledge ranging from farming, carpentry, linguistry, engineering, etc. Rizal back then is already a community hero!
In front of the St. James Church of Dapitan City, is a massive depiction of the Mindanao Island called the “Relief Map of Mindanao.” Rizal together with Father Sanchez, they made this huge map out of soil, stones, and grass. Its purpose is to use it as a tool to teach his pupils geography and history. Being resourcefulness of Rizal is parallel to the knowledge he gave to the people of Dapitan.
Most of his teachings took place in his land in Talisay which is believed he bought after winning a lottery. The 25-acres estate is now known as Rizal Park and Shrine with some of the National Hero’s properties still intact despite more than a century have passed. The park became a national shrine through the Presidential Decree 105. Since then, Rizal’s legacy in Dapitan has been the principal landmark in town.
CASA RESIDENCIA. The main residence of Rizal in the area. This was also where his mother and sisters stayed while visiting him during his exile. The Casa has two rooms and a veranda on all four sides, viewing the park’s lush greenery. Today, some of Rizal’s memorabilia are still present inside with a duplicate of his bed and a life-sized replica of Josephine Bracken.
CASA REDONDA. The quarters of Rizal’s stay-in students. As time has passed by, it was then converted as clinic for his physiological practices. What makes these huts distinctive is that they are shaped as octagons with large foliage surrounding, providing calm ventilation for its occupants.
MI RETIRO ROCK. A large rock facing the Dapitan Bay, it is one of Rizal’s favorite resting spot with the gaze of the crimson sunset with fishermen and bancas beyond the horizon. In an aerial perspective, the boulder is formed uniquely like a heart-shape. This is also where Rizal composed his longest poem ever written “Mi Retiro.” Just behind the rock, is an amphitheater, wide enough to seat 500.
THE AQUEDUCT. This artificial dam solved most of the area’s agricultural problems. With the help of his pupils and some local laborers, Rizal saved the dry soils. The Talisay Water System spills out into canals that irrigate the lawns. Its own watershed up the hill supplies the reservoir, which is just beside the Casa Residencia.
Some of the key spots inside the park are namely: Casa Cuadrada (secondary dormitory), Casitas de Salud (health houses), Cocina (outdoor kitchen) and the century-old Baluno tree!
Just near the shrine’s entrance, is the Museo ni Rizal. Built in 1972, it was named Rizaliana Museum back then. Some of Jose Rizal’s working and sleeping clothes can be found at the main doorway of the museum. Some replicas of his letters received and sent can also be found inside. Other original items owned by Rizal were his wooden table for his literary works and an easel used for his paintings. At present, the museum is rigged with modern technology such as touch-screen monitors for an immersive experience for tourists and visitors.
*Due to the pandemic, the shrine is strictly closed every Mondays with limited guests only allowed inside.
DAKAK. Derived from the Visayan phrase “dako’ng kakahuyan”, Dakak Park and Beach Resort is a paragon in Dapitan City where class and elegance are defined. Famous for its powder-like white sands touched by the blue waters, Dakak will always be the place for luxurious beachgoers and quest-seekers.
Dakak’s Aqua Sports Center offers an assortment of water-adventures such as jet skis, parasailing, paddle boarding, banana boats, and others—perfect for the extremes. Another venture worth to conquer beyond limits is the Adventure Zone facility. An experience over the bounds that takes place in terraneous platforms with ATVs and horseback riding, then reach the altitude with the 1,360-meter zipline offering a wide panoramic visual of the whole Dakak Properties.
With a heap of its top of the class amenities ranging from pools to gyms, every lifestyle needs are always at your reach. Deluxe accommodation is also in Dakak with price ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 per room.
From the aromas to the flavors within, Dakak Park and Beach Resort tenders its visitors with the rich taste and savors of Bamboo Restaurant. Its traditional Filipino cuisines and continental dishes provide guests a wide variety of flavors together served with fresh fruits from the locals!
Sea Catch is also the best place for seafood-lovers! With the colors and theme of the Mediterranean region, this resto delivers good ambience with the soft rhythm of the sea to overlook. Cooked with passion by World Cuisine Chef Effren Flores, the international flavors will always be in your plate.
All full-course meal won’t be complete without drinks and cocktails! Tiki Bar is a Hawaiian-inspired drinking spot, perfect for little gatherings with friends for a few shots, just nearby the shore.
With its trees within the green paradise, dancing through the breeze of calm sea, Dakak will always be a one of a kind extravagant destination.
VILLA ANGELINA. Still part of the Dakak Properties, Villa Angelina Luxury Suites open its doors for those who seek for an exquisite royal-like vacation. Famous for its rooms beside the rocky cliffs and beachfront guestrooms, Villa Angelina bids its guests with the stunning view of the pristine waters of Dakak Beach Resort. Each set with jacuzzi upon the balcony, your premium staycation will never leave a venture behind. Its rooms showcased a fusion of traditional Filipino design with a touch of modern architecture.
Villa Angelina checked-in and day-tour guests all have access to a variety of exclusive amenities. Its free shuttle van can transport you to the beach and back to your room with ease. An entry to Sabores del Mar, a mini white sand beach with man-made waterfalls just nearby the coast with its mini gym and spa near the bay’s entrance also adds in to your luxurious escape!
An access to Yugo Fushion Restaurant means a prospect to diverse Asian cuisines. With breakfast meals prices starting at P600, it’s no doubt that Villa Angelina has the standards of a luxury.
One of the Villa’s prime trademark is its cliffside infinity pool. The scenic view of the wide Sulu Sea with the great horizon set on the right, while the golf course full of green plains stand out on the left.
A typical cliffside room in Villa Angelina costs about P17,000 (pandemic price) per night excluding the foods and drinks.
WAVES AND WATERS
Dapitan’s unique geographical position preserves it beautiful long white beaches away from a typical typhoon. From Ambakon Spring of Barangay Banbanan to Napo Beach; Dapitan City’s coastal areas are number one to-go places for budget travelers due to its accessibility and inexpensive entrance fees, yet worthy panorama of the sea.
Aliguay and Selinog are two of the most known islands in Dapitan. Famous for its white sand beach, these islands are also branded as very affordable and easy-to-access for local backpackers and tourists. Entry to both islands is through a short pump boat trip departing from a wharf in Dapitan City intended for its tourism.
ALIGUAY ISLAND. Aliguay is an island known for being an established marine sanctuary in Dapitan. Freediving and snorkeling are the most-tried activity here in the island due to its diverse aquatic species. The whole island is surrounded by white sand beaches with low-intensity waves, best for overnight tenting and campfires.
SELINOG ISLAND. Despite being 15-kilometers away from Aliguay, locals and tourists still hop-on to Selinog Island because of its isolation to the urban with only about 700 citizens within the island. Selinog is surrounded by a total of 70 hectares of coral reefs and sandy areas. The island is best known for its seasonal sand bar which peaks at its striking form during summer months.
FUN AND AMUSEMENT
Built for children and family, Gloria’s Fantasyland stands as a pride of Mindanao as one of the biggest theme-park that sits in the heart of Dapitan City. Fun and exciting rides include Carousel, Apollo, Horror House, Rollercoasters, Galleon Ship, Bungee Jump and a lot more! Visitors of Fantasyland all saturate every Fridays and Saturdays for its Parade of Lights and live bands hosted within Beehive Resto Bar.
The complex is also fixed with restaurants, salon, gym, commercial buildings, clothing shop, grocery store, and a cinema. Just outside the Fantasyland compound is Beer and BBQ Grill and Restaurant—perfect for beer nights with friends on weekends.
Dapitan City is well known for many interests, such as Rizal’s Shrine, Dakak Beach Resort, Aliguay Island, ancestral houses, and the list goes on. But we all know since then; even without all these titles, Dapitan is already a gem. A treasure that lies in Zamboanga del Norte, where the mountain meets the sea.
Everything in town is worth to discover outside the limits. Beyond the coasts, beyond the dense nature, beyond time and history, beyond Dapitan City.Rey Anthony Villaverde, Photographer