Wednesday July 18, 2018

Finding Rizal (and solitude) in Dapitan

IN THE month of June, we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day. June also happens to be the birth month of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. I cap this month by paying tribute to Rizal as I reminisce the time when we visited the Rizal Shrine in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte.

Rizal’s Life in Dapitan

Dapitan is a sleepy city where you can find some peace and quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Definitely, it is a great place for a vacation. However, Rizal came here as an exile when he was deported by then Governor General Eulogio Despujol. But what was supposed to be a life of terror, Rizal turned the four years he spent in Dapitan into good use as he practiced his medicine, taught the local children, and built various structures. It was also here where he met and fell in love with Josephine Bracken.

His works can be found in the Rizal Shrine and in other parts of Dapitan. The Rizal Shrine has a small building where photos and other memorabilia of the national hero are displayed. The first structure that can be seen upon entering the shrine is a hut, where Rizal held his classes. There were also huts that served as Rizal’s clinic and hospital. It was here where he checked patients and did medical procedures. We entered the house where Rizal lived inside the compound. A small stream is found near the house, where Rizal built a small-like dam as his swimming pool. He also constructed an aqueduct and developed a water system that was useful in Dapitan. Towards the sea is a heart-shaped rock, called the Lover’s Rock with a dedication to Josephine. Not far from it is an amphitheater where a poem is also inscribed by the stage.

Going Around Town

Rizal’s creations are also seen in the city center. The city plaza marks the central part of Dapitan where his statue stood tall. The relief map of Mindanao in front of St. James Church was made by Rizal, with a help from Francisco Paula de Sanchez. It is one of the favorite spots of tourists. Apart from the map, the church in itself is an attraction, with its interesting tiled and domed ceiling. We went around the small town, which was indeed very quiet, and passed by some old homes. In one of them, we knocked and asked if we could take a look around and we were also admitted inside by the owner. It reminded me of the houses in Silay.

Beyond Rizal Shrine

Apart from the Rizal Shrine, Dapitan is also frequented by some travelers because of its white sand beaches. Right at the city proper’s coastline, there are public beaches where families and friends spend a picnic together. Dapitan is also home to the Dakak Beach Resort, which is outside the city center and very private, hidden in a cove. There are also diving spots in this city, much to the delight of underwater enthusiasts, because it is less crowded compared to other popular diving areas in the country. The commercial center and amusement park Gloria de Dapitan is also an added attraction, which is a venue for many activities and entertainment endeavors.

The sun was setting and the beach was so serene, a perfect picture of a relaxing vacation. If you want to be away from everything and have some “me” time in a tranquil setting, Dapitan is a place you can consider. And while you’re there, try to find Rizal’s fingerprints evident in his works around the city.

All photos are by this author. Claire Marie Algarme blogs at Follow her as @firsttimetravel on Twitter and Instagram and like her Facebook page First-time Travels.