To see your history book come alive is a magical feeling especially if you’ve fallen in love with the place at first sight. Such is the case with my trip to Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte, one of the special places in the country that will pass as a candidate for the best destinations to retire to. While most cities are shrouded by soaring commercial buildings, gigantic factories and shopping malls, Dapitan remains raw, calm and very inviting despite the attention it is getting. This unruffled city is draped by mountains cloaked in thick green wilderness, rugged coastlines and historical attractions.
Aliguay Island as seen on air.
If you’re wondering what to do in Dapitan City, here’s a list of things to do to help you plan your holiday:
RELAX AT THE CITY PLAZA
Savor serenity and fresh air at Dapitan City Plaza. This public park has been beautified by Dr. Jose Rizal, taking inspiration from his visit to Europe in earlier days. Dapitan City Plaza is dotted with gigantic acacia trees and well-manicured garden with flowering plants. At the middle of the park you can find a statue of the brave hero himself. Do check out the Mindanao Relief Map nearby ( fronting the church) which he created.
VISIT ST. JAMES CHURCH
This age-old church plays an important part in history, not only because it is constructed by the Jesuits sometime in 1871 but also because Jose Rizal used to stand and hear mass here during his exile in Dapitan. It also houses an 18th century pipe organ from Germany.
How to get to St.James Church in Dapitan:
If you’re staying in the city proper, it is just a few minutes walk across the city plaza. If your hotel is near Sunset Boulevard area, just take a tricycle.
HIKE UP FORT DE DAPITAN ON ILIHAN HILL
Before the Spaniards invaded Dapitan, Ilihan Hill served as a burial ground of the original settlers here. Then the colonizers decided to build stone walls and cannons and rename it “Fort de Dapitan”. How to get to Fort de Dapitan : You can walk from St. James Church or hop on a tricycle to take you to the entrance at Brgy. Potol where you need to climb the stairs.
GET INTIMATE WITH JOSE RIZAL’S PAST
The mere mention of Dapitan conjures images of Jose Rizal, a Filipino hero who was exiled here during the Spanish colonial era (1892-1896). Spare some time to visit the Rizal National Park cuddled by the mountains of Brgy. Talisay and get a dose of history. This 70 hectare property of Dr. Rizal houses Mi Retiro rock, Casitas Hospitales, Casa Cuadrada and his residence.
How to get to Rizal National Park:
Charter a tricycle or habal-habal (motorbike) to take you to this estate.
The turqoise beach of Dakak Beach Resort is not alone in Dapitan, you can also find equally lovely beaches perfect for family and barkada outings.
Rock formations at Guimputlan coast.
Enjoy a tour of Aliguay Island (with lunch and roundtrip transfer) for Php 500 per person; bask in the talcum-white beach of Senilog Island, or picnic like the locals at the beaches of Sitio Guimputlan.
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE AT DAKAK BEACH RESORT
Dapitan is not only synonymous to Rizal but also to Dakak Beach Resort, a posh resort heavily advertised back in the days on the noon time show – Eat Bulaga! The opulent life in the resort is heavily contrasted by the modest way of life of the villagers thriving near the bountiful shoreline. Book a room to experience its old school charm. Dala Beach Resort also offers a mind-boggling array of water activities. Here, you get to enjoy kayaking (Php 275/30 minutes), wakeboarding with speedboat (Php 1,000/ 15 minutes), banana boat ride(Php 1,950/15 minutes), pedal boat (Php 500/30 minutes), parasailing (Php 1,000/10 minutes) and jet-surfing (Php 1,000/15 minutes).
Taguilon also boasts of rich underwater life, flourishing in its island-studded sea. Reasonably priced dive courses (Php 3,000- Php16, 000) and scuba diving (Php1, 000-Php 3,000) – from wreck to island dives – are offered here. Likewise, the Dakak Adventure Zone beckons thrill-seekers. Fly with the longest and fastest dual zipline in Asia at 1,364 meters (Php 500), and while you are at it, try the horseback-riding and ATV ride as well.
How to get to Dakak Beach Resort:
If you have booked a room at Dakak, pick up can be arranged. But if you’re only doing a day tour, you can either commission a habal-habal (motorbike) or tricycle as transport to and from Dakak Beach Resort from the city proper. Dakak Beach Resort Day Tour is priced at Php 1,000. That is already consumable, so you can order food and drinks amounting to Php 1,000.
SHOP AT GLORIA DE DAPITAN AND PLAY AT FANTASY LAND
Dapitan boasts of the first world-class amusement park in Mindanao – the lovely Fantasy Land at Gloria de Dapitan. If you just want to go shopping, you can enter Gloria de Dapitan for free and shop at one of the stores inside or dine in at one of the cafes inside.
At night, kids can take pleasure in the thrilling rides of Gloria de Dapitan (Php 1,000 unlimited rides), the first theme park in Mindanao which also offers a nightly entertainment show, and the impressive Fantasy of Colors featuring performers mounted on dazzling rainbow-hued floats parading a wealth of cultures from around the world. The park also houses a 5D Cinema featuring pneumatic controlled seats, where one can experience realistic effects such as spraying water, smell, strobe lightings and rushing wind. Equipped with a 3D glass, I scream like a toddler as I hurl on a roller-coaster ride through abandoned sub-way tunnels, enormous safari and soaring canyons.
CATCH THE SUNSET AT RIZAL’S LANDING SITE IN STA. CRUZ BEACH
Dapitan has a jaw dropping sunset and the best spot to watch it is at Sta.Cruz Beach where Rizal Landing Site stands. There is an eatery nearby that serves Dapitan’s version of Zamboanga’s knickerbocker.
At dusk, locals and visitors flock the nearby Sunset Boulevard to feast on seafood sold at the seaside by some hotels and restaurants. It is a perfect place to dine while the incessant waves lap the shore.
WALK BACK IN TIME
Saunter and savor the nostalgic atmosphere of Dapitan city’s street lined up with well-preserved ancestral houses.
Some of the best heritage houses here include Paje Ancestral Home, A Dasa Ancestral Home, Chong Ancestral Home and Bajamundi Ancestral Home.
ENJOY A RIVER CRUISE
To savor the slow rhythm of life here, we book the Dapitan River Cruise (Php 350 with lunch, trip schedule 11:00 A.M and 4:00 P.M daily), a 30 minute journey through the vast emerald lake at a languid pace, passing by coconut-shrouded communities. Occasionally, we would encounter villagers paddling their rafts, women washing clothes and children cavorting in the placid water.
*Originally published on August 4, 2013.
*Edited on November 22, 2015
All aerial photos are property of Dapitan City Tourism and edited by me. All rights reserved. Do not use without permission.
About the Blogger : Gael Hilotin is an award-winning travel blogger who had been to all 81 provinces in the Philippines. Her work has appeared in local and international publications. Follow her on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram. For advertisements, sponsorship and partnerships, you may reach her at gaelhilotinblog (at) gmail (dot) com.
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