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The Dapitan of Dr. Jose P. Rizal
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: None
Date: 2003-01-18
Dapitan feels like a town where time stopped a long time ago. Here, there is no din of cars, no pollution, nothing but a strange and beautiful light.

Dapitanís claim to fame Ė the dubious honor of hosting the national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal in exile Ė is known throughout the world.

But Dapitan is more than Rizalís legacy; the city already had a reputation as strategic trading location.

The City, located in Zamboanga del Norte, has a total land area of 29,521 hectares. About 99 percent of the population speak the Cebuano (Visayan) di


When Dapitan was still a tribal settlement of migrant Boholanos led by Datu Pagbuaya, pirates salted in to plunder the village at the foot of Ilihan Hill.

Sentries kept guard on top of the hill, which had a good vantage point of the sea, to watch the village.

During the Spanish period, Ilihan Hill served as a vantage lookout point of Christian defenders, and a small military fort

ification was built on top of the hill in 1762.

These days its impenetrable only to those who canít climb up to 208 steps. Itís a stellar view from the fort Ė you can see the whole town of Dapitan framed by trees.

Relics of these ancient military fortress are still visible at Ilihan Hill. Two cannons were taken from the fortress, however, and have been installed at the City Plaza just acro

ss the City Hall.

At the turn of the 1900s, Dapitan was still harassed by pirates, so the Jesuit missionaries chose St. James, the Greater as their patron saint.

Why St. James? In the 5th century, the Moors invaded a large port of Spain and ruled it for 800 years. A religious crusade was sparked by Spanish Christians in the 6th century, and during one legendary battle, St. James, a figure

riding a white horse with a sword, helped Christians beat the Moors at the battle of Covadonga.

In true Jesuit fashion, the priests hoped that appointing St. James as a patron saint would help Dapitanons protect themselves from the Moro raiders.

The feast of St. James, the Greater is celebrated every year in Dapitan City in July 25 with a re-enactment of the Battle of Covadonga at the plaz


Colorful costumes, mock fighting, brandishing swords, shields and scimitars, and men riding on real or improvised horses, had people waiting in anticipation for St. James, the Greater making a dramatic entrance in a white horse, slashing at his imaginary enemies.

There was a time when the Catholic Church advised the city to scrap the re-enactment since Muslim-Christian tensions were rid

ing high.

But by popular clamor to be true to tradition, re-enactment was held again this time as a battle of the universal good versus evil.

There are also forms of ritual dancing ala Cebuís Sinulog or Aklanís Ati-Atihan, but instead of venerating the Sto. NiŮo, the object of veneration is St. James. The music is slower and more deliberate than the Ati-Atihan.

A procession following

the ďrebultoĒ of St. James, the Greater is also being held, in the usual Filipino fashion, a months long celebration of beauty pageants, a dance contest, trade fairs, and basketball tournaments.

Many things can be done while in Dapitan. One can visit the Rizal Park which has been remodeled to house, a modern cement building of Rizaliana (housing Rizaliana books, periodicals and the Office of the Rizal Shrine Curator).

But it is still a hair-raising experience to see the replicas of Rizalís houses. Here, Rizal built an amphitheater, aqueduct and planted most of the fruit trees.

The St. James Church is a beautiful one which symbolizes the early Christianization of Dapitan. Constructed by the Jesuits in 1883, the building is exactly the same one Jose Rizal heard mass every Sunday during his exile a hundred years ago.

The present City Square is the very Plaza which Rizal developed and beautified with the assistance of Gov. Ricardo Carnicero. His plan was to beautify it to make it comparable with the ones he saw in Europe.

Across St. James is a giant relief map of Mindanao about 900 sq.m. in area. Rizal intend to be a motivating device for teaching history and geography to the town folks and was part of his beautification efforts for the town plaza.

The Silinog and Aliguay Islands are located roughly 10 to 14 kilometers, respectively from Tag-ulo Point. Both islands have white sand beaches and rich marine life.

The Dapitan Bay is a stretch of clean beaches on the northern section of the Poblacion. It is ideal for beach parties and is highly accessible.

Stretching as far as the municipality of Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte and Balingao in Misamis Occidental is the panoramic view of the Ridge at Barangay Daro where one can view the breath-taking Sulu Sea.

When in Dapitan, one can stay at Dapitan City Resort Hotel, Sunset Boulevard, Dakak Park and Beach Resort, Tangui-an Beach Resort and Bitoon Beach Resort.

One can go to Dapitan via Dipolog, which is 12 kilometers away. There are daily flights via Philippine Airlines except on Tuesdays, Fare is roughly P6,000. Cebu Pacific also flies to Dipolog.

Dapitan is also accessible from Palawan Wharf, nine kilometers from the poblacion. From Dumaguete, Supercat fast ferry takes five hours. (PNA)


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