ZaNorte is of course Zamboanga del Norte and the first D is none other than Dakak, that pristine beach hideaway nestled in a sweeping cove in Dapitan, the second D.

The third D is Dipolog where our Air Philippines/PAL Express flight landed after a very brief 35-minute flight from Mactan.

The three D’s each have its own distinctive appeal, this we saw upclose during the famtrip of the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (Naitas) organized by Jack and Corazon O of Golden JC Holiday Travel, Dakak’s booking office in Cebu. Fantasyland Travel and Tours of Dapitan (under GM Cho-cho Locop) arranged all our tours.

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Among those in the group were DOT-7 director Dawnie Roa, Naitas chairman emeritus Bobby Joseph who flew in from Manila, Cebu chapter president Ricky Tio, Air Philippines sales exec Maricor Villarin, and representatives of the member agencies.

Dakak

Dakak Park Beach Resort is the biggest come-on of ZaNorte ever since its inception 22 years ago. The word Dakak was coined from DAkong KAKahoyan (huge woodland) which was the impression of resort owner, Nonong Jalosjos, when he first set eyes on the property.

From the original area of a little over 20 hectares, the estate has expanded far and wide and will soon be home to a world-class golf course (in addition to the tennis and basketball courts, the mini golf course and the putting green now in place). From its beginnings of two cottages, the resort has grown to 76 well-appointed cottages, 152 airconditioned rooms in duplex-type bungalows made of native materials, two family pavilions and a beachfront presidential suite.

Dakak Park gives out that invigorating outdoor feel with its winding paths, hilly terrain, towering trees, and its wide shoreline (all of 750 meters) of white sand protectively enclosed by woody cliffs. A spot to linger on is the scenic wharf sheltered on one side by a lush mountain range. And yes, there’s a quaint little chapel lording it over on a knoll for those who want to spend time in prayer and meditation.

Dakak was one lovely experience for our group - from the royal welcome (frosty drinks, rondalla music and costumed singers) to the charming bungalows which we considered home for two nights, the sumptuous breakfast buffet, and the farewell dinner by the beach highlighted by a cultural show. Resident manager Rossini Montecalvo was a smiling presence all throughout our stay.

Dapitan

Dapitan is best known as Jose Rizal’s place of exile. He fell in love with the place and waxed poetic in his description, “located on a beautiful bay which looks towards the west on a kind of island especially made as if to isolate it from the vulgar world...”

We found the historical tour most stimulating, taking us back to the life and times of Dr. Jose Rizal. Spruced up with bronze statues is the Landing Site where our national hero arrived on the evening of July 17, 1892, to begin life as an exile.

Then we visited the 10-hectare landmark known as Rizal’s Shrine.

This was his sanctuary where he practiced his profession. In the complex are an exhibition building with a display of old photos, his original desk, clothes, writings, etc.; replicas of the structures he used like the Casa Residencia (his main house), Casa Redonda (clinic), Casitas de Salud (patient wards), etc.; and the Mi Retiro Rock by the sea where he wrote the first stanza of his poem Mi Retiro.

The tour also brought us to the plaza which was designed and developed by Dr. Jose Rizal with the assistance of Gov. Ricardo Carnicero, and to the nearby relief map of Mindanao he made.

We passed the St. James Church built in 1871, the old Spanish Parochial School, and more heritage landmarks.

Other than its historical attraction, the city has the expansive Dapitan River to be proud of. Clean and surrounded by rich vegetation, the river is a delight to traverse especially for a sunset cruise. Simply stunning!

A new life is breathing in Dapitan City - a fun place called Gloria’s Fantasyland. It is a high-tech theme park that is the only one of its kind in the whole Visayas and Mindanao. Think of thrilling rides, spectacular entertainment and a horror house that puts to shame other scary locales! What an unforgettable night we spent there!

Dipolog

Dipolog is the gateway to Dapitan because it houses the airport and sits right next door. We breezed through the fast-growing city, taking in the not-to-be-missed sights like the Holy Rosary Cathedral erected in 1895, the Pagsalabuk Circle (Fountain of Blessings), the Dipolog Hall, and the Monument of three prominent Dipologanons, namely Hon. Pascual Martinez, the first appointed mayor of Dipolog; Rev. Fr. Nicasio Patangan, the first Filipino diocesan priest of Mindanano; and Eugenio Margate, the farmer who introduced the Margate system of planting rice.

The modern Dipolog Boulevard which stretches 1.4 kms. along a scenic shoreline was also a must see. And yes, we just had to shop for those acclaimed Dipolog sardines, otherwise our Dipolog sortie would not have been complete.

Zamboanga del Norte is a beautiful place to visit and it is just a matter of time before it will become one of the major tourist destinations in our country.