It’s hard not to talk about the Shrine City of Dapitan without talking about its neighboring city of Dipolog. As the capital of Zamboanga del Norte, Dipolog is the main Gateway in Northwestern Mindanao. But even as an entry point, it doesn’t mean that it’s only a transit region. There are interesting areas worth exploring. Most of the places to stay in the peninsula are found in this city with options from the cheap (P400+/night) or the moderately luxurious (P2500+/night). In this urbanized corner of the peninsula where the streets are ruled by roaring tricycles, I continued following Rizal’s trail until down south to the municipality of Katipunan.
During my first few days of stay, my host lodged me at Hotel Camilla 2, which is about 5-10 minutes near the airport. It’s a nice 3-story modern building with spacious parking area. They have their own restaurant and a small pool at the back, which is unique to hotels in Dipolog. I got a large double room with cable TV at the ground, and in the morning, I would hear kids splashing at the pool. They consider Hotel Camilla 2 as the most high-end in Dipolog, and I agree. Don’t expect a 5-star type though, probably 2 to 3 stars, but the service and staff sure was top-notch during my stay.
Finding Rizal’s mark in Dipolog is as easy as going to their plaza where the Dipolog Cathedral can be found along the street. Upon entering the church, I was impressed with the highly detailed ceiling made from the hardwood Narra tree . It’s still the original from when it was made in 1896 despite having the exteriors of the church change overtime. The church altar was said to be designed by Jose Rizal himself.
Being a gateway city, the Satellite Bus Station would the smart stop when venturing in and out of Dipolog. This is where I took a bus to nearby Dapitan, and this is also where I took a multicab for Katipunan (P20 one way) municipality heading down south. The ride to Katipunan took only about 20-30 minutes and I was the last to get off at the town plaza.
Under the drizzle, I found the minuscule plaza of Katipunan quite extraordinary. The tree house near Rizal’s monument was fascinating and a perfect place to get some rain cover. I visited the tourism office and there was no security at that time. I was able to get a habal-habal to take me to Rizal’s only about 5 minutes on the road.
Rizal used to frequent this farm during his stay. He treated blind people in this area. His students occasionally visit him and help in cultivating his farm. Now the land still looks fertile. My driver showed me a few huts where there are fertilizers and a hut where they work on abaca fibers. In my mind I could see Rizal working on the fields here with his students. He may no longer have lived here but his affective energy still lingers in this region. Probably inspiring people to continue the work he has started here in Zamboanga del Norte and make them better.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.