THERE ARE three things I would always remember about my Dapitan City experience: Hudyaka Festival, Driving Around the City, and my Rediscovery of Rizal.
When I arrived in Dapitan City as part of My Summer Road Trip Around Mindanao, I settled at Harohoy sa Baybayon along Sunset Boulevard and had dinner at the beach with a friend who lives in Dapitan. The owners of the place where I had dinner set up tables on the shore of Dapitan Bay, so you could actually feel the gentle breeze as you feast on barbecue and grilled seafood.
Across the road on Sunset Boulevard stands the famous Gloria de Dapitan. Inside the Gloria are several restaurants, coffee shops, bowlingplex, spa and wellness center, and souvenir stalls. For party goers, Rep. Bullet Jaloslos owns a bar there called BJ’s Loft. Kids and the kids-at-heart can also enjoy the rides at the first theme park in the Visayas and Mindanao, Gloria’s Fantasyland. An unlikely sight, the Galleria, where cockfights are held, can also be found there.
The Gloria de Dapitan is probably the only area in the city that has night activities when there are no celebrations like the Hudyaka and Kinabayo Festivals.
This year, Zamboanga del Norte celebrates it’s Hudyaka Festival for one whole month from May 6 to June 6, 2011 and it is hosted by the city of Dapitan. I also took time to visit the Hudyaka site with my friend and looked at what each town in ZaNorte boasts.
There are similarities about the products of Zamboanga del Norte and of SoCSKSarGen and the topographies of both regions are pretty similar.
Driving Around Dapitan City
The most enjoyable thing I did that night was driving around the quaint city of Dapitan. I used my friend’s motorcycle to drive around the city.
It was about 9:30 when we started driving and there was virtually no vehicles running on the streets at that time that I didn’t even have to use the signal lights. Most of the people seem to be sleeping very early.
My friend gladly pointed me to interesting sites and buildings in the downtown area and explained a little background information regarding those places. There was the old Tourism building, the Rizal Park, St. James the Great Cathedral, the heritage houses, the Jose Rizal Memorial State Univeristy where she works, among others. We also passed by the commercial area of the city and there is only one big grocery shop there and there is no 24-hour establishment there.
We stopped by the Punto de Desembarco de Rizal, which can also be found along Sunset Boulevard at had a brief conversation by the bay.
The town plaza, which Rizal also spent time to develop based on the parks he had seen in Europe, should never be missed. Around the plaza you can find several interesting points like the St. James Cathedral, the Parochial School, the Casa Real where Rizal first stayed before he acquired a piece of land in Dapitan, the Relief Map of Mindanao, which Rizal himself made.
Life in Dapitan is pretty much laid back — perfect for a relaxing vacation, and a break from the humdrum of big city life.
No visit to Dapitan is complete without taking a look at the Rizal Shrine, where our National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal spent four very productive years. That is what I did first thing in the morning.
From Sunset Boulevard, I rode a motorcab (fare is only Php 7.00) to Rizal Shrine. I was one of the early visitors. It wasn’t my first step in the shrine area because we drove there the night before. I came back to see the place in broad daylight and take a closer look at the house and life of the Filipino I look up to.
I learned that the place is being maintained by Rizalist Cult followers. Dressed in white, they keep the place clean and protected. I even saw some them kneel down under the Casa Residencia in an act of prayer.
As you might have already known, Dr. Rizal built several edifices in the area, which he bought out of his winnings from a lottery. He sent half of the Php 6,600.00 and used the remaining half to establish his seaside property in Dapitan which is the now the Rizal Shrine.
Inside the shrine is the Casa Residencia, where he lives. It is made of wood, bamboo, and nipa for a roof. According to the women who watched over the house, the structure that you can find in the shrine is a bigger replica of the original house that Rizal built. They also pointed me to the pieces of wood that used to be part of the original structure.
He also grew chicken which were kept in an octagon-shaped poultry house called the Casa Redonda de Pequeña.
Rizal’s students lived in a separate dorm called the Casa Cuadrada. Rizal wrote letters to Blumentritt telling him about a school he put up where students do not pay him with their labor. His students helped him build the Talisay water system. The Rizalist watchers told me that Rizal burned shells of mollusks to obtain lime, which he used as a binder.
An octagon-shaped house was also built by Rizal, which served as a clinic. It is called the Casa Redonda.
A few steps from the Casa Redonda are the Casitas de Salud, which were used as hospital rooms for his clients. They are two little rooms with wide wooden benches inside. If you visit the shrine today, the Rizalists would offer you an hour of full-body massage for only Php 150.00, which is going to be done inside one of the casitas.
One of the lovely sights inside the shrine is the Mi Retiro Rock. It reminds of my own Ariel’s Lagoon inside the school when I was still in high school, where I used to meditate and spend some quiet time with myself. Rizal did the same in that huge rock inside the compound. Alternately, it is also called Lovers’ Rock as Rizal and Josephine Bracken shared their sweet moments.
Snippets of Rizal’s letters to his family and friends and reproductions of his artworks, and things he used while in exile can be found in the Rizaliana Museum inside the shrine.
The Rizal Shrine is open to the public with no entrance fee. It is open daily from 8:00AM to 5:00PM.
For solo-tourists like me, there are photographers at the Shrine who will take pics of you and print them in 15 minutes at Php 100.00 per three shots. You might have noticed that my photos at the Rizal Shrine show two dates. The photographer might have failed to set the correct date and time in his digital camera.
Last Glance at Dapitan
Before leaving Dapitan, I took a last glance at the city by visiting the town plaza to see it in broad daylight. I realized that the place has the same feel as the town of Glan in Sarangani Province. the town plaza in Glan is also surrounded by old houses.
I walked around the city and felt like I was releasing all the burden in my spirit. Ilihan Hill is just at walking distance from the plaza. We passed by the entrance to Ilihan Hill during our joy ride the night before so I knew how to go to the place.
Ilihan used to be the Fort of Dapitan or the Cotta de Dapitan that was build to protect the place. From the top of the Hill, about 60 meters in height, you could see the whole city.
The entrance fee to Ilihan Hill in only Php 5.00. I guess from how it looked when I visited it, the local government undermines the potential of Ilihan as a tourist spot. To me, it looked neglected. The local tourism council could have placed railings around it, cleared some area to allow a better view of the city and of the bay, and added some points of interest, like a photo-gallery, mini-museum, and a refreshment to make the clamber to the top a bit more worthwhile.
After bidding goodbye to my friend, I had lunch at the Dapitan Aqua Marine Park (DAMPA). She couldn’t join for lunch because that same day, CHED officials were evaluating the school she works for.
I had lunch that was more than enough for two. I went to the next destination of my Mindanao Road Trip with filled guts, heart, and spirit.