Punto de Disembarco

A historical tour in Dapitan is like following the foot trails of Rizal, from his arrival in the city up to his last settlement in Barangay Talisay, which is now called Rizal Shrine.

Punto de Disembarco is the point in Dapitan generally considered as the arrival site of Rizal. According to historical accounts, Rizal arrived here at seven o’clock in the evening of July 17, 1892 onboard a vessel called SS Cebu. The ship was manned by Captain Delgras and three artillery men.

With combat lights (farol de combate), they made their way to the nearby Casa Real through 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 here are about ten feet tall and valued at P35 million.

Punto has aesthetic and functional purposes. At the elevated center are the life-size statues. The figures are those of Rizal, Delgras, the SS Cebu skipper and three artillery men weaving through the shallows on their way to Casa Real.

Both sides are promenade areas with bromite flooring, finished, and enclosed with artsy concrete balustrade with granite nails. The farther side also serves as a sunset viewing deck with 16 high posts. Added attractions are a mini waterfall and a tiny lagoon.

Tony Tuviera did the research on the molding and the specifications of the statues, including the farol de combate held and hats worn by the three men. He said they were based on historical descriptions. Even the face of Rizal was molded as close to his photos on the records.

Ronel Roces, former assistant of famed Filipino sculptor Napoleon Abueva, was the one who sculpted the structures.

The whole project is secured from the potentially devastating waves by a steel file and stone masonry riprap structure.

The historical landmark became possible through the funding from the local government of Dapitan, the province of Zamboanga del Norte, and donations from prominent personalities who valued the ideals, teachings, sacrifices, and courage of the national hero.

Punto broke grounds on December 29, 2009.

New Government Center

Considered a highlight of Dapitan City’s continuing progress, the New Government Center resembles a palace from afar. Standing on the banks of Dapitan River, the three-story building in Barangay Lawaan cost P160 million to build.

It is the seat of government of the Shrine City of Dapitan, a place nestled among rolling mountains, pristine blue seawaters and two long rivers of the Zamboanga Peninsula.

The city has a landscape portrayed as level to rolling with elevations ranging from 200 to 400 feet above sea level.

The urban core, being an island itself, is surrounded and traversed by two rivers—the Liboran River and the Dapitan River. These features make Dapitan a picture-perfect destination and unique place for tourism and business.

Hero’s home

But what gives Dapitan its prominence as a shrine city is its role in history as the place of exile of Philippine national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal.

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 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.

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.

Modern city

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.

Mi Retiro Rock

In ancient history, this heart-shaped rock was known as “Batong Lumayag,” meaning “Sailing Stone” because it appeared as floating or sailing during high tide. Then 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

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.

My Retreat

(Translated from the Spanish by Nick Joaquin)

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 bowlders, 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 travelled 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 eveywhere, 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.

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:

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.

Aqueduct/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.

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 then transferred to Talisay. Later, his mother Dona Teodora Alonso, his sisters, and some relatives and neighbor 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.

An old archival photo of Rizal Park.
An old archival photo of Rizal Park.

Rizal spent his lonely but productive and altruistic 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 National Rizal Park.

There are several landmarks worth visiting inside the Rizal Shrine.