Ta ama yo contigo Zamboanga

WHAT is love? Love is giving in to your wanderlust and flying to a place you haven’t been before.

You get to your destination and ask, “Why only now?” Maybe it’s fate saying that the time to see the place has come.

Zamboanga del Norte is one of those places for me. A plane ticket on hand was left unused for a year but thanks to DOT Asec. Arturo Boncato and DOT-IX RD June Bugante, I finally got to zoom to the “Gateway to Western Mindanao” on board Cebu Pacific. I know nothing about the place other than the neighboring city of Dapitan as Rizal’s place of exile. But I was with in very good hands traveling with the tourism mavens who know the place best.

Finally Dipolog! With me are (L-R) Ian Garcia, Zamboanga Peninsula DOT Regional Director June Bugante, Joji Alcantara, Kenneth Ong, DOT Asec. Art Boncato.
Ready to fall in love with Zamboanga del Norte with hosts DOT Asec. Arturo Boncato & DOT-IX Regional Director June Bugante.

Love is Dipolog, the capital city of Zamboanga del Norte. Like the orchids the place is famous for, the city is blooming. Dipolog has retained the charm of the past even with the infusion of modernity that blends in with the well-preserved historical landscape. Expect more than the famous bottled sardines when you visit and fall in love with these sites:

1. The Dipolog Boulevard, the 1.6-kilometer esplanade, with a flourishing dining and entertainment along the parallel property is the city’s most happening spot attracting locals and tourists.

2. The quiet streets and the well-preserved heritage houses, public buildings and the church like the Casa Bernedo, a century-old house owned by the Bernedo family, now a small museum and the city’s Center for Culture and the Arts, and the 1896-built Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary has an altar designed by Jose Rizal.

A Dipolog heritage house- Casa Bernedo.
The Bernedo family altar.
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, built in 1896
Dapitan’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary has an altar designed by Jose Rizal.

3. Immortalized are the people that shaped the city—the Monument of Three Prominent Dipolognons in front of the old town hall- Pascual T. Martinez, the first appointed Mayor, Fr. Nicasio Y. Patangan, the first Filipino Diocesan Priest of Mindanao and Eugenio R. Margate, a farmer who introduced the Margate System of planting rice; Pagsalubok Circle and the “Fountain of Blessings”, with the three statues representing the three cultures prevailing in Dipolog raising an offering to the heavens.

Monument of Three Prominent Dipolognons- the mayor, the priest & the farmer- in front of the old town hall.

The “Fountain of Blessings” of the Pagsalubok Circle in Dapitan.

Love is Dapitan, the “Shrine capital of the Philippines.” This was where our National Hero spent fours years of his life in exile and he made sure his time and many skills—as physician, educator, engineer, artist, etc.— were put to good use. Today, the city’s vibe is still pulsing with everything Rizal, and where the hero left his mark, a landmark stands.

1. The 16-hectare Rizal Shrine, the major historical landmark in the area, stands on a property Rizal bought with money he won in a lottery. A tour of the area will take you to a museum (detailing his life and works), the replicas of his home, medical clinic, pupil’s dormitory and workshop, the Rizal and Josephine Bracken’s heart-shaped Mi Retirolove rock, the impressive aqueduct he and his pupils constructed, an ampitheater, the now century old tree he planted, and many more.

Mi Retiro, the lover’s rock
Rizal planted this tree.

2. At the Sta. Cruz Beach by the Dapitan Bay (aka Sunset Boulevard) is the Punto de Disembarco de Rizal en Dapitan shrine stands on the spot where the exiled man first set foot in Dapitan on July 17, 1892.

Marking the arrival of an exile. The Punto de Disembarco de Rizal en Dapitan.

3. The 900-sqm Relief Map of Mindanao designed by Rizal was created to beautify the town plaza and serve as a teaching tool in history and geography. It’s at the Dapitan Plaza front of the St. James Church where Rizal regularly heard mass during his exile.

Rizal’s Relief Map of Mindanao, created to beautify & teach history & geography.

Saint James Church, where Rizal used to hear mass.

Beyond history, Dapitan is a leisure and entertainment destination as well. Check these out:

1. Dakak is a land, water and air adventure zone 30-minutes from the city center. Whether you fancy beachcombing or diving, exploring the hilly terrain on an ATV or a galloping horse, or fly over a natural and stunning landscape via the 1.3 kilometer long Zipline (the longest dual zipline in Aia) with a 300-meter drop, there is something for you to get your adrenaline rushing. But why settle for one if you can have it all?

Fly over Dakak via the longest dual zipline in Asia.
Asec. Boncato ready to explore Dakak on horseback.

2. Take a River Cruise, a serene 1-½ hour boat cruise through Dapitan River. Food and live entertainment (the theme from Hawaii 5-O is the welcome and farewell tune) come with the package.

Serene & verdant scene on a Dapitan River cruise.

3. Enjoy Fantasyland in Gloria de Dapitan. Think Universal Studios on a smaller scale where rides can be fun and extremely challenging. If your gut can stand it, try the Zimerman rollercoaster, Sky Drop Tower and 5D Theater.

Fantasyland is at Gloria de Dapitan. Think Universal Studio on a smaller scale.

One of the gut-churning rides- the Zimerman.

The tour group ready for the 5D ride.

Love is exploring beyond city limits. A 2-hour, 80-kilometer drive to Sindangan is worth the trip if a feast of freshly caught seafood awaits you. I assure you, nothing can be sweeter and delightful than this experience.

Fresh catch for dinner at Sindangan.

No, not candies. Unbelievably sweet treats from the sea– Tanguigue Kinilaw, grilled Panga ng Talakitok & Squid Kinilaw.

You won’t notice the long drive when you’re coasting along a picturesque coastline and the Sulu Sea at the background.

One of the amazing views the coastal ride to Sindangan will afford you– a Sulu Sea sunset.

A stop at the Manukan Municipality will be a treat, it’s home to the biggest and the smallest— the “world’s biggest cock” happens to be a functional building where Manukan Tourism Office is, and Junrey Balawin was declared the world’s shortest man by the Guiness World Record on June 2011.

Dwarfed by a giant at Manukan Municipality.

Drive through Katipunan Municipality as well. This is where the second oldest Catholic Church in Mindanao is, the San Sebastian Javier.

San Sebastian Javier, the 2nd oldest Catholic Church in Mindanao

Short, sweet and fun. I got more than what I expected from this trip to Zamboanga del Norte. I have yet to discover more of the place, soon! Ta ama yo contigo Zamboanga! I bid you not with an “ultimo adios” but with a “hasta la vista.”

I wouldn’t mind traveling with these bunch again. it was F-U-N!

Thank you DOT Asec. Arturo Boncato, DOT-IX Regional Director June Bugante, the tourism staff Alki, Stephanie and Charles, Cebu Pacific Air (flying to Dipolog 4 times weekly).

For more lifestyle & travel stories, visit http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/andhttp://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 23, 2014.





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