Jose Rizal in Dapitan

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A Brief History of Dapitan

In 1892, Rizal arrived here, alighting from a bangka or ship, to serve his sentence of exile for four years. Dapitan served as Rizal’s home until his departure in 1896. Dapitan became the first city of Zamboanga del Norte by virtue of Republic Act 3811 signed on June 22, 1963 by the late president Diosdado Macapagal.

As such, it was the first town in the Philippines to be declared a city despite not being able to meet population and income requirements. Ten years after the declaration or on January 24, 1973, it officially became the Shrine City of the Philippines by virtue of Presidential Decree 105 issued by President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

The First settlers

The history of the city spans over 700 years, from the arrival of the first settlers-Subanen, a nomadic tribe from Indonesia. The term Subanen was derived from the Bisayan word suba or river, where most Subanen folk lived. Subanens were later joined by the Boholanos led by Datu Pagbuaya in 1563, and subsequently the Spaniards and the Americans.

Pagbuaya was considered as the founder and the first datu of Dapitan. Boholanos left their homes in Panglao, Baclayon, Looc and Dawis following Pagbuaya after suffering from successive defeats from the Ternatan invaders. They crossed the sea looking for a better and safer place to live or “Dakung Yuta.”

The permanent settlement of Boholanos in northern Mindanao led to the naming of the place as Dapitan, which means a place of rendezvous or meeting place of 800 families. “Dapit” in Bisayan means “to invite.” Fr. Urdaneta named it “Daquepitan” but later changed it to Dapitan because of difficulty pronouncing the word.

With Statue of Jose Rizal in Dapitan Rizal Shrine gardens
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Todays Modern city of Dapitan

Dapitan has been progressively slipping away from its rural cocoon to become a modern city. But while it has embraced modernity, Dapitan remains to be a city rich in historical value and this can still be felt just by getting a quick tour around the plaza area and the Rizal Shrine.

Its cultural properties led the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the National Museum to declare Dapitan as a Heritage Zone on May 27, 2011. The declaration covers Rizal Shrine, Old Town Hall Building, Rizal’s Disembarkation Site, Heritage Houses, Parochial School, St. James the Greater Church, Dapitan Plaza, and Rizal Monument, Rizal’s Relief Map of Mindanao, Casa Real, Ilihan Hill, Gabaldon Building, Sta. Cruz Marker and Old Rizal Memorial District Hospital. Dapitan is not only a home to historical and cultural landmarks, but also a place wrapped with fun and adventures.

Emerging from its rustic facet, it now houses what is considered to be Asia’s longest dual zipline and showcases the only theme park in Visayas and Mindanao called Fantasyland.

Quick facts

  • Dapitan City sits on 39,053 hectares of land in the northwestern coast of Mindanao, which is approximately 650 kilometers of Manila.
  • It is subdivided into 50 barangays.
  • It is bordered in the south by the towns of Mutia and La Libertad, Sibutad and Rizal in the east, and Dipolog City and Polanco in the west.
  • It has a population of 78,000, speaking various dialects, such as Cebuano, Ilonggo, Subanen and Tausog.
  • Majority of the Dapitanons depend on land resources for their living since the area is predominantly agricultural. Due to its terrain, which is more hilly and mountainous than plain, coconut production, which comprises 84 percent of the land area, is the main source of income.
  • Fishing, on the other hand, is the second source of livelihood considering that 13 barangays are located in coastal areas.
Dapitan Plaza with church and Rizal Monument, Dapitan
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Punto de Disembarco

A historical tour in Dapitan could be described as following in the footsteps of Jose Rizal, from his arrival in the city and through to his life in Barangay Talisay, which is now called “Rizal Shrine”.

Punto de Disembarco is the point in Dapitan generally considered as the site of Rizal’s arrival in the City. According to historical accounts, Rizal arrived here at seven o’clock on the evening of 17th July, 1892 on board a vessel called the SS Cebu. The ship was manned by Captain Delgras and three artillery men who with combat lights (farol de combate), they made their way to the nearby Casa Real along Sta.Cruz Street.
The monuments at Punto are the ultimate expression of glorifying the historic arrival of Rizal to begin his life in exile in Dapitan. Punto is an elevated semi-circular structure with an area of 1,500 square meters.
The sculptures (sculpted by Ronel Roces, former assistant of famed Filipino sculptor Napoleon Abueva,) here are about ten feet tall and valued at P35 million. At the elevated centre of Punto are the life-size figures of Rizal, Delgras, the SS Cebu skipper and three artillery men wading ashore on their way to Casa Real.
The monument is popular as a sunset viewing deck with added attractions of a mini waterfall and a tiny lagoon.
The monument was unveiled during the Handuraw Celebration on December 28, 2009.
Statue Rizal arriving Punto de Disembarco, Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte
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​​Mi Retiro Rock

For many centuries, this heart-shaped rock was known as “Batong Lumayag,” meaning “Sailing Stone” because it appeared to be floating or sailing during high tide. Then in the early 20C it came to be called Mi Retiro Rock because it was believed to be the place where Rizal wrote his longest poem “Mi Retiro,” composed of 24 stanzas or 10 stanzas longer than the famous “Mi Ultimo Adios.”
It was also here where he spent many hours watching the sunset. This was also the site where he and Josephine Bracken exchanged vows and lived as husband and wife after the consent of his mother. Below is the entire poem and its English translation.
Mi Retiro Rock, Talisay, Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte
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Mi Retiro

Cabe anchurosa playa de fina y suave arena y al pie de una montaña cubierta de verdor planté mi choza humilde bajo arboleda amena, buscando de los bosques en la quietud serena reposo a mi cerebro, silencio a mi dolor.

Read the whole poem here

Mi Retiro

Cabe anchurosa playa de fina y suave arena y al pie de una montaña cubierta de verdor planté mi choza humilde bajo arboleda amena, buscando de los bosques en la quietud serena reposo a mi cerebro, silencio a mi dolor.

Su techo es frágil su suelo débil cana, sus vigas y columnas maderas sin labrar; nada vale, por cierto, mi rústica cabaña; mas duerme en el regazo de la eterna montaña, y la canta y la arrulla noche y días el mar.

Un afluente arroyuelo, que de la selva umbria desciende entre peñascos, la baña con amor, y un chorro le regala por tosca cañería que en la cálida noche es canto y melodía y néctar cristalino del día en el calor.

Si el cielo esta sereno, mansa corre la fuente, Su cítara invisible tañedo sin cesar; pero vienen las lluvias, e impetuoso torrente peñas y abismos salta, ronco, espumante, hirviente, y se arroja rugiendo frenético hacia el mar.

Del perro los ladridos, de las aves trino del kalao la voz ronca solas se oyen alli, no hay hombre vanidoso ni importuno vecino que se imponga a mi mente, ni estorbo mi camino; solo tengo las selvas y el mar cerca de mí.

El mar, el mar es todo! su masa soberana los átomos me trae de mundos que lejos son; me alienta su sonrisa de límpida mañana, y cuando por la tarde mi fe resulta vana encuentra en sus tristezas un eco el corazón.

De noche es un arcano! … su diáfano elemento se cubre de millares, y millares de luz; la brisa vaga fresca, reluce el firmamento, las olas en suspiros cuentan al manso viento historias que se pierden del tiempo en el capiz.

Dizque cuentan del mundo la primera alborada, del sol el primer beso que su seno encendió, cuando miles de seres surgieron de la nada, y el abismo poblaron y la cima encumbrada y doquiera su beso facundante estampó.

Mas cuando en noche oscura los vientos enfurecen y las inquietas alas comienzan a agitar, crusan en aire gritos que el ánimo estremecen, coros, voces que rezan, lamentos que parecen exhalar los que un tiempo se hundieron en el mar.

Entonces repercuten los montes de la altura, los árboles se agitan de confín a confín; aullan los ganados, retumba la espesura, sus espíritus dicen que van a la llanura llamadas por los muertos a fúnebre festín.

Silva, silva la noche, confusa, aterradora; verdes, azules llamas en el mar vense arder; mas la calma renace con la próxima aurora y pronto una atrevida barquilla pescadora las fatigadas alas comienza a recorrer.

Asi pasan los días en mi oscuro retiro, desterrado del mundo donde tiempo viví, de mi rara fortuna la providencia admiro: quijarro abandonado que al musgo solo aspiro para ocultar a todos el mundo que tengo en mí!

Vivo con los recuerdos de los que yo he amado y oigo de vez en cuando sus nombres pronunciar: unos estan ya muertos, otros me han abandonado; ¿mas que importa? … Yo vivo pensando en lo pasado y lo pasado nadie me puede arrebatar.

El es mi fiel amigo que nunca me desdora que siempre alienta el alma cuando triste la ve, que en mis noches de insomnio conmigo vela y ora conmigo, y en mi destierro y en mi cabaña mora, y cuando todos dudan solo él me infunde fe.

Yo la tengo, y yo espero que ha de brillar un día en que venza la idea a la fuerza brutal, que después de la lucha y la lente agonía, otra voz mas sonora y mas feliz que la mía sabrá cantar entonces el cántico truinfal.

Veo brillar el cielo tan puro y refulgente como cuando forjaba mi primera ilusión, el mismo soplo siento besar mi mustia frente, el mismo que encendía mi entusiasmo ferviente y hacía hervir la sangre del joven corazón.

Yo respiro la brisa que acaso haya pasado por los campos y ríos de mi pueblo natal; acaso me devuelva lo que antes le he confiado los besos y suspiros de un ser idolatrado, las dulces confidencias de un amor virginal!

Al ver la misma luna, cual antes argentada, la antigua melancolía siento en mi renancer; despiertan mil recuerdos de amor y fe jurada … un patio, una azotea, la playa, un enramada, silencios y suspiros, rubores de placer …

Mariposa sedienta de la luz y de colores, sonando en otros cielos y en más vasto pensil, dejé, jóven apenas, mi patria y mis amores, y errante por doquiera sin dudas, sin temores, gasté en tierras extrañas de mi vida de abril.

Y despues, cuando quise, golondrina causada, al nido de mis padres y de mi amor volver, rugió fiera de pronto violenta turbonada: vense rotas mis alas, desecha la morada, la fe vendida a otros y ruinas por doquier.

Lanzado a una pana de la patria que adora, el porvenir destruído, sin hogar, sin salud, de toda mi existencia el único tesoro, creencias de una sana, sincera juventud.

Ya no sóis como antes, llenas de fuego y vida brindando mil coronas a la inmortalidad; algo serias os hallo; mas nuestra faz querida si ya es tan sincera, si esta descolorida en cambio lleva el sello de la fidelidad.

Me ofrecéis, oh ilusiones! la copa del consuelo, y mis jovenes años a despertar venís: gracias a ti, tormenta; gracias, vientos del cielo, que a buena hora supísteis cortar mi incierto vuelo, para abatirme al suelo de mi natal país.

Cabe anchurosa playa de fina y suave arena y al pie de una montaña cubierta de verdor, hallé en mi patria asilo bajo arboleda amena, y en sus umbrosos bosques, tranquilidad serena, reposo a mi cerebro, silencio a mi dolor.

Dapitan, 1895

My Retreat

Beside a spacious beach of fine and delicate sand and at the foot of a mountain greener than a leaf, I planted my humble hut beneath a pleasant orchard, seeking in the still serenity of the woods repose to my intellect and silence to my grief.
Read the whole translation here

My Retreat

Beside a spacious beach of fine and delicate sand and at the foot of a mountain greener than a leaf, I planted my humble hut beneath a pleasant orchard, seeking in the still serenity of the woods repose to my intellect and silence to my grief. Its roof is fragile nipa; its floor is brittle bamboo; its beams and posts are rough as rough-hewn wood can be; of no worth, it is certain, is my rustic cabin; but on the lap of the eternal mount it slumbers and night and day is lulled by the crooning of the sea. The overflowing brook, that from the shadowy jungle descends between huge bolders, washes it with its spray, donating a current of water through makeshift bamboo pipes that in the silent night is melody and music and crystalline nectar in the noon heat of the day. If the sky is serene, meekly flows the spring, strumming on its invisible zither unceasingly; but come the time of the rains, and an impetuous torrent spills over rocks and chasms—hoarse, foaming and aboil— to hurl itself with a frenzied roaring toward the sea. The barking of the dog, the twittering of the birds, the hoarse voice of the kalaw are all that I hear; there is no boastful man, no nuisance of a neighbor to impose himself on my mind or to disturb my passage; only the forests and the sea do I have near. The sea, the sea is everything! Its sovereign mass brings to me atoms of a myriad faraway lands; its bright smile animates me in the limpid mornings; and when at the end of day my faith has proven futile, my heart echoes the sound of its sorrow on the sands. At night it is a mystery! … Its diaphanous element is carpeted with thousands and thousands of lights that climb; the wandering breeze is cool, the firmament is brilliant, the waves narrate with many a sigh to the mild wind histories that were lost in the dark night of time. ‘Tis said they tell of the first morning on the earth, of the first kiss with which the sun inflamed her breast, when multitudes of beings materialized from nothing to populate the abyss and the overhanging summits and all the places where that quickening kiss was pressed. But when the winds rage in the darkness of the night and the unquiet waves commence their agony, across the air move cries that terrify the spirit, a chorus of voices praying, a lamentation that seems to come from those who, long ago, drowned in the sea. Then do the mountain ranges on high reverberate; the trees stir far and wide, by a fit of trembling seized; the cattle moan; the dark depths of the forest resound; their spirits say that they are on their way to the plain, summoned by the dead to a mortuary feast. The wild night hisses, hisses, confused and terrifying; one sees the sea afire with flames of green and blue; but calm is re-established with the approach of dawning and forthwith an intrepid little fishing vessel begins to navigate the weary waves anew. So pass the days of my life in my obscure retreat; cast out of the world where once I dwelt: such is my rare good fortune; and Providence be praised for my condition: a disregarded pebble that craves nothing but moss to hide from all the treasure that in myself I bear. I live with the remembrance of those that I have loved and hear their names still spoken, who haunt my memory; some already are dead, others have long forgotten— but what does it matter? I live remembering the past and no one can ever take the past away from me. It is my faithful friend that never turns against me, that cheers my spirit when my spirit’s a lonesome wraith, that in my sleepless nights keeps watch with me and prays with me, and shares with me my exile and my cabin, and, when all doubt, alone infuses me with faith. Faith do I have, and I believe the day will shine when the Idea shall defeat brute force as well; and after the struggle and the lingering agony a voice more eloquent and happier than my own will then know how to utter victory’s canticle. I see the heavens shining, as flawless and refulgent as in the days that saw my first illusions start; I feel the same breeze kissing my autumnal brow, the same that once enkindled my fervent enthusiasm and turned the blood ebullient within my youthful heart. Across the fields and rivers of my native town perhaps has traveled the breeze that now I breathe by chance; perhaps it will give back to me what once I gave it: the sighs and kisses of a person idolized and the sweet secrets of a virginal romance. On seeing the same moon, as silvery as before, I feel within me the ancient melancholy revive; a thousand memories of love and vows awaken: a patio, an azotea, a beach, a leafy bower; silences and sighs, and blushes of delight … A butterfly athirst for radiances and colors, dreaming of other skies and of a larger strife, I left, scarcely a youth, my land and my affections, and vagrant everywhere, with no qualms, with no terrors, squandered in foreign lands the April of my life. And afterwards, when I desired, a weary swallow, to go back to the nest of those for whom I care, suddenly fiercely roared a violent hurricane and I found my wings broken, my dwelling place demolished, faith now sold to others, and ruins everywhere. Hurled upon a rock of the country I adore; the future ruined; no home, no health to bring me cheer; you come to me anew, dreams of rose and gold, of my entire existence the solitary treasure, convictions of a youth that was healthy and sincere. No more are you, like once, full of fire and life, offering a thousand crowns to immortality; somewhat serious I find you; and yet your face beloved, if now no longer as merry, if now no longer as vivid, now bear the superscription of fidelity. You offer me, O illusions, the cup of consolation; you come to reawaken the years of youthful mirth; hurricane, I thank you; winds of heaven, I thank you that in good hour suspended by uncertain flight to bring me down to the bosom of my native earth. Beside a spacious beach of fine and delicate sand and at the foot of a mountain greener than a leaf, I found in my land a refuge under a pleasant orchard, and in its shadowy forests, serene tranquility, repose to my intellect and silence to my grief.
Site of Casa Real, Dapitan where Rizal first lived in Dapitan
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Casa Residencia

This is a replica of Rizal’s home and that of his family members who had come to visit him. It was constructed faithfully up to the original light and native materials used for the structure. A veranda encloses the house. It is situated at precisely the “best spot” that feng sui would dictate, standing on a slightly higher ground than a flat lawn, open to see the view in front but fully protected by the hills behind.
A replica of Rizal’s bed can be seen here and a simple comfort room connected by wooden planks is found at the rear. It also houses Rizal’s family kitchen, which is a little lower than the main house. It measures 14 by 10 feet and is open on all sides from the waist up. The kitchen was intentionally designed this way to facilitate free air and prevent smoke from getting trapped inside. Near here are the following structures of note:
Replica of Rizals house in Talisay, Dapitan
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Case Redonda
This is an octagonal house that used to serve as Rizal’s clinic and the quarters of his pupils. It is believed that the first eye operation in the Philippines was done here, with Rizal operating on the eye of his mother. Because the operation was successful, Rizal soon became popular that he even had patients from other countries. The nearby Casa Redonda Pequena served as a chicken house and was later used by Rizal as quarters for patients.
Casetas de Salud
These are two structures that were extended as a tea house. Rizal converted these into a clinic to accommodate patients from other towns.
The Water System
Rizal engineered bamboo tubes that were used to connect the diversion canal to the kitchen and lavatory. The water system was completed in 1895 with the help of his pupils. It measured 110 meters long and its inclined walls were about 2.5 meters deep. At the top of the dam is the replica bust of Don Ricardo Carcinero and his wife.
replica bust of Don Ricardo Carcinero and his wife. Rizals dam in Talisay, Dapitan
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The Casa Redonda. Rizals clinic in Talisay, Dapitan
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​Rizal Shrine

If not for Rizal Shrine, Dapitan would not have come to be called the Shrine City of the Philippines. The shrine is Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s last settlement and workplace in Dapitan and has quite a story. In August 1892, a Spaniard brought with him from Manila some lottery tickets to Dapitan. Rizal, Captain Carcinero, the politico-governor of Dapitan at that time, and a Spaniard living in Dipolog bought a ticket, which luckily won.

The winnings totaled P20,000. Rizal’s share was P6,200. Out of this share, he gave P2,000 to his father and P200 to Basa, his friend from Hong Kong. Rizal invested his remaining winnings in business and bought lands and built houses in what is now the shrine in Barangay Talisay. He bought six hectares of land from Lucia Pagbangon. In March 1893, Rizal moved to Talisay. His mother Dona Teodora Alonso, his sisters, some relatives and a neighbour from Calamba, Laguna came and lived with him in Talisay until 1896.

It was here that Rizal exemplified the ideal that “a life which is not concentrated to a great ideal is useless. It is a pebble lost in the field without forming a part of an edifice.” Here, Rizal epitomized the existence of a man with a mission, making the best of every moment.

Rizal spent his lonely but productive four years in banishment working as a rural physician, farmer, merchant, inventor, painter, sculptor, archaeologist, linguist, grammarian, teacher, architect, poet, biologist, composer, surveyor, environmentalist, aside from being a lover, a father and a brother to the Dapitanons.

The court martial that tried Rizal imposed on him not only capital punishment but also the “payment of indemnity to the state in the amount of P100,000, the obligation to pay such being transferable to the heirs of the accused.”

On January 15, 1897, Rizal’s property in Barangay Talisay was confiscated by the Spanish authorities and Don Cosme Borromeo was appointed custodian of the sequestered assets. In 1913, the property was converted into a park by the government in memory of Rizal. The park was reconstructed, and eventually in 1940, President Manuel Quezon issued Proclamation No. 616 declaring the site as ” Rizal National Park”.

Containing an area of approximately 10 hectares. The said parcel of land shall be known as the “Rizal National Park” and shall remain under the administration of the Bureau of Forestry, subject to the general executive control and supervision of the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce.”

Rizal Shrine Museum, Talisay, Dapitan, Mindanao
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Links  to Interesting sites about Jose Rizal

Rizal's own story of his life, by Jose Rizal - A downloadable book in the Public Domain.
Rizal in Dapitan - A youtube video of the film
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SILVERBACKPACKER
Essential Travel Guides Jose Rizal in Dapitan Philippines

How to travel to Dapitan from Manila

By Air

There are daily flights (PAL and CebPac) to Dipolog City from Manila and from Cebu (CebPac). Dapitan is just 30 minutes away from Dipolog airport.   Take a tricycle from the airport to Dipolog bus terminal and then the bus to Dapitan.  There are Tricycles in Dapitan to get you from one point to another.

By Sea

There are ferries from Manila, Cebu and Dumaguete sailing to Dapitan.

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Rizal in Dapitan, Philippines
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In the Footsteps of Rizal in Dapitan, Philippines
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