The city's name is painted on a relief map.
The city’s name is painted on a relief map.

While in Zamboanga del Norte, I find myself also visiting Dapitan City just an hour away from Dipolog City. It’s popular in Philippine history as the place of exile for the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. In the four years Rizal spent his time here, he built schools and various technology, taught children, treated patients and wrote letters and romantic poems.

It’s a sunny weekday afternoon at the city center, which radiates from a handsome park that fronts a large church. The streets, named after characters from Rizal’s two novels, are quiet. A few women are chatting under the shade, a couple of students walk by, and a dog rummages through a trash can. Acacias encircle the sun-dappled grass where a statue of Rizal stands. I spend a few minutes embracing the tranquility and solitude.

Much of the historical significance of Dapitan lies in a seaside village outside the center. The Rizal Shrine in Talisay is a protected patch of trees and bush-lined paths. Inside are nipa huts, which are the vestiges of the structures Rizal created during his stay here. All of the huts – a dorm, a lodging for patients, a students’ workshop, and a clinic – are actually modern recreations, though they have been rebuilt with the same materials and on the same spot as their predecessors. A museum near the park entrance contains a number of Rizal’s artifacts.

The imposing facade of the Santiago El Mayor Cathedral anchors Dapitan's city center.
The imposing facade of the Santiago El Mayor Cathedral anchors Dapitan’s city center.
Honoring the national hero's time in the city, a statue of Rizal stands majestically in a bed of grass.
Honoring the national hero’s time in the city, a statue of Rizal stands majestically in a bed of grass.
Colonial-style houses line the city's streets.
Colonial-style houses line the city’s streets.
The Rizal Shrine occupies the grounds of a seaside village where Rizal spent four years in exile. A pathway lined by trees snakes through the park.
The Rizal Shrine occupies the grounds of a seaside village where Rizal spent four years in exile. A pathway lined by trees snakes through the park.
One of the more recognizable structures at the Rizal Shrine, the Casa Redonda served as Rizal's clinic.
One of the more recognizable structures at the Rizal Shrine, the Casa Redonda served as Rizal’s clinic.
Young girls enjoy the view on top of the heart-shaped rock, where Rizal and Josephine Bracken used to hang out.
Young girls enjoy the view on top of the heart-shaped rock, where Rizal and Josephine Bracken used to hang out.
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