The early history of Zamboanga del Norte is shared with that of Zamboanga City, which had been the center of the entire Mindanao area, most notably, during the American Era. When Zamboanga City became a chartered city on October 12, 1936, it encompassed the Zamboanga Peninsula and the island of Basilan, making it the largest city in the world in terms of land area.

This all changed in 1948 when Basilan was made into a separate province, and further, when Republic Act No.711, issued on June 6, 1952, created two more provinces out of Zamboanga City. One of these provinces was Zamboanga del Norte. It is famous for its twin cities: Dipolog and Dapitan

Getting There:

By Air:
Philippine Airlines services Dipolog direct from Manila.

Where to Stay:

Top Plaza Hotel – a small hotel in the city. Basic amenities.

Dakak Park & Beach Resort – a luxurious place for a tourist. It has its own private beachfront which is known for its powdery white sand. It is an excellent dive spot with coral reefs teeming the pristine blue waters. It is has 15 hectares of of wooded land and a natural reservoir for native plants and animals and a 750-meter private white-sand beach.

Places to Visit:

RIZAL SHRINE – major historical landmark of theCity. It is the original estate of the country’s national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who lived for four years in Dapitan as an exile from July 17, 1892 to July 31, 1896.Other structures that could be found at the Rizal Shrine are the following:

Casa Cuadrada – Rizal’s Home together with members of his family who came to visit him. It has been faithfully reconstructed in its original light, native materials.

Casa Redonda – an octagonal dwelling which served as the pupils quarters. It was later converted to a clinic and it was here where George Taufer, the foster father of Josephine Bracken was operated on his eyes.

Casa Redonda Pequena – a hexagonal structure which served as the chicken house.

Casitas de Salud – there are two of these structures intended as tea houses but which our national hero converted into clinics to accommodate patients from far flung municipalities.

Aqueduct – a reservoir which served as a good water system. Bamboo tubes used to connect the diversion canal to the kitchen and lavatory.

Mi Retiro Rock – it is a natural heart shaped rock so called because it was here where our national hero is known to have scribbled beautiful verses of his famous poem “Mi Retiro” and “Himno a Talisay”. He also spent many hours watching the sunset here.

Amphitheater – an open air auditorium with a seating capacity of 500 which was constructed beyond the Mi Retiro Rock by the city government from funds from the office of the Reginal Commissioner headed by Rear Admiral Romulo M. Espaldon, now Minister for Muslim Affairs.

Rizaliana – a modern, concrete building constructed in 1972 which houses all Rizalian books, periodicals and all sorts of historical exhibits. Part of it also serves as the Office of the Rizal Shrine Curator.

Describing his life in Dapitan, Rizal wrote to Blumentritt on December 19, 1893
“I shall tell you how we live here. I have three houses: one square, another hexagonal, and a third octagonal, all of bamboo, wood, and nipa. In the square house we live, my mother, sister Trinidad, a nephew and I; in the octagonal live my boys or some good youngsters whom I teach arithmetic, Spanish and English; and in the hexagonal live my chickens. From my house I hear the murmur of a crystal, clear brook which comes from the high rocks; I see the seashore, the sea where I have many fruit trees, mangoes, lanzones, guayabanos, baluno, ninja, etc. I have rabbits, dogs, cats, etc. I raise early – at five – visit my plants, feed the chickens, awaken my people with tea, pastries, cheese, sweetmeats, etc. Later I treat my poor patients who come to my land; I dress, go to the town in my baroto, treat the people there, and return at 12, when my luncheon awaits me. Then I teach the boys until 4 P.M. and devote the afternoon to agriculture. I spend the night reading and studying.”

RELIEF MAP OF MINDANAO – One of Rizal’s masterpieces is the map of Mindanao which he perfectly and accurately made without copying from an original map as there aren’t any maps at the time. It is another community project of Rizal that was a part of the beautification of Dapitan. With the help of his former Jesuit teacher and friend, Father Sanchez, he remodeled the town plaza in order to enhance its beauty. He jokingly remarked that he would make it nicely so that it could “rival the best in Europe.” In front of the church, Rizal and Father Sanchez made a huge relief map of Mindanao out of earth, stones and grass. This map still adorns the town plaza of Dapitan.

3003 STEPS TO LINABO PEAK – Concrete steps wind along a tunnel of green tress leading to the panoramic vista of the twin cities of Dipolog and Dapitan. This is literally the “stairway to heaven”. This is Dipolog’s highest elevation point – 460 meters above sea level.

Trip Tips:

* Never leave Dipolog without buying bottled sardines. The best known bottled sardines brand is Montanos.
* Experience Sinulog every 3rd Saturday of January.
* Watch the sunset on top of the “Mi Retiro” rock and be inspired like Rizal to write a poem.
* Take time to gaze the colors and beauty of the rare orchids.
* 3003 Steps to Linabo is only for the strong and the athletic.

Zamboanga del Norte holds a romantic charm contrary to what it is famous for. I often associate the twin cities to two hearts entwined. It holds many sentimental stories of love and endearment. It is a place where a lonely soul was exiled and left forlorn. It is also a place that inspired many poems and lyrics that exalt many desolate hearts. It evokes a feeling of deep longing and lament but at the same time it is a solace for the lost spirit. A good friend of mine said it is a place he love the most, being a romantic at heart, I couldn’t agree more.
Written:May 2007


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