Jose Rizal’s home for four years, Dapitan city is the ultimate shrine city of the Philippines. But Dapitan city is not anymore all about Jose Rizal. This once quaint and charming small town is turning to be the most modern and vibrant city in the northern end of the Zamboanga peninsula.
Six hundred fifty kilometers away from Metro Manila lays a once sleepy town called Dapitan. Dapitan used to be so rural that the only reason why you’d go there is to visit relatives. After all why would you travel hundreds of kilometers for a white sand beach resort or Jose Rizal memorabilia?
But Dapitan is more than Jose Rizal and Dakak. The newly opened Gloria de Dapitan is changing the face of Dapitan into a vibrant entertainment city. What once was a sleepy historic town with Dakak beach resort as its flagship tourist attraction is now fast becoming the premiere entertainment center of Mindanao.
Most people would probably be amused at the fact that practically all locals in Dapitan know Jose Rizal more than the average Filipino does. If you try asking a local (even small kids) about Jose Rizal, you’ll find that you would be bombarded with interesting facts about the Philippines’ national hero aside from your question being answered. Regardless, if it’s just a side trip, one should definitely not miss going to the Rizal shrine in Dapitan. Inside the Rizal shrine complex is a replica of the three houses which Jose Rizal built (one of which is square wherein Jose Rizal, his mother, his sister and his nephew lived, another which is octagonal wherein Jose Rizal’s students lived, and a third one which is hexagonal that served as a chicken barn. One can also find Rizal’s relief map of Mindanao and Visayas, Rizal’s self designed water system, and numerous other memorabilia inside the shrine. Jose Rizal’s house, kitchen, and clinics are all replicas but memorabilia found inside the Rizaliana museum are all originals. Despite the revelation that Jose Rizal’s house in the shrine is just a replica, it does not take away from the fact that it once housed the greatest Malayan in history.
Photo by dominicmeily
The Rizal shrine can be found in the village of Talisay. All tricycle drivers know where to bring you if you say that you want to go to the Rizal shrine. Getting around Dapitan city is fairly easy. You’ll find that transportation is relatively cheap. A tricycle ride to generally anywhere would cost only five to ten pesos. Tricycles are the only public transportation available here.
The Dakak Park Beach Resort in Taguilon is located about fifteen minutes away from the Jose Rizal shrine. Dakak has seven hundred and fifty meters of private beach access covered in fine white sand. In this part of the country, the Dakak Park Beach Resort is probably the most modern and the best equipped. Water activities available at the Dakak park beach resort are jet skiing, kayaking, sailing, boating, scuba diving, fishing, swimming and snorkeling while non-water activities include hiking, billiards, archery, bowling, golfing, tennis, horseback riding, and karaoke. What I love about Dakak is that it is bounded by green mountains on the east giving it a secluded feel. Accommodations are in the form of villas made from bamboo and nipa (traditional building materials) which give the resort a very tropical look. Dakak is very well maintained and reasonably affordable.
Photo by dominicmeily
You’re probably thinking that having seen one white sand beach resort, you’ve seen them all. Treat Dakak differently though. It’s not your typical crowded and noisy commercialized white sand beach resort; you’ll find that it is a tranquil white sand beach resort with modern amenities, but with a very homey atmosphere. The resort features amenities such as restaurants on site, two natural spring water swimming pools, a sports center, a golf resort, a Jacuzzi, a playground, a chapel, spa services on site, a sauna, medical facilities, and a disco. Interested parties can contact the Dakak Park Beach Resort through the following numbers: 02-7212726 / 7245648 / 0917-8315566.
Photo by dominicmeily
Situated twenty minutes away from the Dakak Park Beach Resort, and ten minutes from the Rizal shrine is the Gloria de Dapitan, which is fast bringing forward a new Dapitan, one wherein the city is not all about Jose Rizal anymore.
The Gloria de Dapitan (literally the glory of Dapitan in Spanish) is a three hectare commercial complex. It features a modern, computer operated bowling alley, a gym with state-of-art fitness equipment, a computer game arcade, resto bars, disco pubs, coffee shops, and boutiques. Inside the Gloria de Dapitan commercial complex is the Gallera de Dapitan which holds cockfights (a favorite pastime of the locals), boxing matches, and concerts and the Gloria Fantasyland. The Gloria Fantasyland is a theme park comparable to the Enchanted Kingdom in Luzon. It features thirty one rides including a carousel, a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, bumper cars, the Galleon ship, Majestic Swan, and others. There is also a horror house designed by an Eat Bulaga artist.
What makes the Gloria Fantasyland special is the fact that this amusement park is the first of its kind in Mindanao. Ride-all-you-can tickets are priced at three hundred pesos. The park is open from five in the afternoon until twelve midnight.
Why Not Go
A few years ago, mainstream tourists would find Dapitan City too provincial. Today, though I can only think of one reason why one would not enjoy Dapitan City and that would be if that person is looking for extreme outdoor activities such as mountain and rock climbing. But for those light outdoor adventure seekers, Dapitan does offer hiking, spelunking, and cove hopping. If you are a family traveling, I am pretty sure Gloria de Dapitan and the Jose Rizal shrine would keep you entertained and fascinated. Meanwhile, a group traveling would definitely find Gloria de Dapitan and/or the Dakak beach resort most exciting.
Let me set your expectations though. While most facilities at the Gloria de Dapitan commercial complex and Dakak Park Beach Resort are modern, you’ll find that they are not up to par with those in more progressive areas such as Metro Manila. For those who are from Mindanao and Visayas though, these two will do.
Dapitan City caters to almost all kinds of tourists. Whether you’re looking for some outdoor fun, history, adventure, or relaxation, Dapitan has it all.
Best Time to Visit
If you’re visiting Dapitan City primarily to wade in the waters along Dakak’s white sand beach, then summer time is the best time to go. You may find more people in the area (than usual) during the summer season, but compared to other beach resorts like those in Visayas, the crowd is tolerable.
Another good time to go to Dapitan City is during the Kinabayo festival. The Kinabayo festival is a yearly event in Dapitan city which honors their patron saint, Saint James. Kinabayo is held annually every June 12 to July 25. The festival features street dances and parades. The activities during the festival are usually centered on the theme of the festival which is the battle of Covadonga. The battle of Covadonga is one of the Spanish-Moorish wars wherein it was believed that the Spanish won against even though all odds were against them with the help of Saint James.
Like in all Philippine festivals, the Kinabayo culminates with the locals going to churches for a special mass. Aside from Kinabayo, there are other festivals and events in Dapitan which are held every June and July. So if you prefer a Dapitan bustling with activities and shows, June and July are the best times of the year to go.
The best place to stay while in Dapitan City is Monina’s Pension House. This lodging offers basic clean rooms with air conditioning, cable TV, and hot and cold running water. There’s nothing fancy about the Monina’s Pension House as it doesn’t offer amenities that big hotels would. But then again, you’re not going on vacation in the hotel. You’ll be outside most of the time anyway.
The best thing about this place is its location. It is within walking distance from the Gloria fantasyland and from numerous restaurants along Sunset Boulevard and is right on the beach. One can even take a stroll on Sunset Boulevard (just outside the hotel).
Since it’s not a big chain hotel, you’ll find that personalized attention is given to guests. In fact, the quiet and homey feeling that this place gives its guests is one of its best selling points to visitors in Dapitan City.
Where & What to Eat
The shores of Dakak are turned into a grand outdoor dining area in the evening. Tables are set up so guests can enjoy the sumptuous seafood buffet while being treated to a cultural dinner show. I would personally recommend dining at this alfresco restaurant in Dakak since it’s definitely going to be a unique experience. Other dining options outside of Dakak in Dapitan include Señor Santiago Steak House (featuring Australian cuisine and specializing in Aussie barbecue dishes) which is located inside the Gloria de Dapitan commercial complex and the newly opened Dapitan City Aquamarine Park (located on the boundaries of Banonong and Polo villages) which offers seafood bred from their pond and dining in tiny cottages.
Photo by dominicmeily
By six in the evening, most commercial establishments are already closed for the day in the shrine city of the Philippines. Dapitan virtually had zero nightlife before Gloria de Dapitan. But today you can still find patrons and tourists at the numerous disco pubs and bars in the commercial complex even at two in the morning. One of the more popular ones is BJ’s loft which features in house music and modern lighting technology.
My to do List
1. Bask on Dakak’s white sand beaches.
2. Go horseback riding and hiking in the mountains of the Dakak Park Beach Resort.
3. Ride all thirty one rides at the Gloria Fantasyland.
4. Engage in a conversation with a local about what Jose Rizal did while in exile in Dapitan.
5. Relive Jose Rizal’s exile days in Dapitan.
There are four ways to get to Dapitan city. First is taking a flight to Zamboanga City then a bus to Dapitan City. Another option is to take a flight to Dipolog city then a bus to Dapitan City. Third option is to take a ferry from Manila going to either Zamboanga City or Dipolog City. A flight from Manila going to Zamboanga City and Dipolog City would take approximately an hour and a half. A ferry ride from Manila going to Zamboanga City and Dapitan City would take around two days at most. From Zamboanga City, it would take a bus around eight hours to reach Dapitan City. Meanwhile, it would only take an hour for a bus to reach Dapitan City from Dipolog City.
It is evident at this point that the most convenient route to take is the flight going to Dipolog City then the bus to Dapitan city. Your travel time would then be approximately three hours.
Flights from Manila to Dipolog city would cost around 3000- 3500 php (PAL and Cebu Pacific). PAL offers two flights daily (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) and Cebu Pacific offers two flights as well on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays (one in the morning and one in the afternoon as well). Bus fare from Dipolog City to Dapitan City would cost around 200 php. Buses are available at the terminal every hour or so.
Jerome Herrera was born and has lived in Zamboanga city, Asia’s latin city for twenty years. Having lived in that part of the country for most of his life, he has extensive knowledge on that region. Over time, he hopes to see Zamboanga city regain its former glory as the tourist destination of the Philippines through its new branding as Asia’s Latin City. Read more [+]