Dapitan City.  in Mindanao, Philippines

Dapitan City

in Mindanao, Philippines

Dapitan City Photo © Project Kisame

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Dapitan City

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With a tranquil and 17th century-like atmosphere, the small town brimming with rich history of the Filipino people is no doubt rightful to be named as the “Shrine City of the Philippines.” Dapitan is located in the province of Zamboanga del Norte (Wikipedia Article). It has an estimated population of over 80,000 inhabitants and has 50 barangays in its territory. Dapitan has been well-known all over the country as the place where the Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal was exiled for 4 years. Aside from its historical significance, the city also showcases an amazing green and untainted expanse of nature.

Historical Landmarks

Rizal Shrine

The Rizal Shrine is the most famous historical monument in Dapitan. From the name itself, it was made to honor the Philippine National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. The 16-hectare land is surrounded by century old trees that will definitely leave the nature lovers in awe of the exquisitely preserved setting of nature. It is located in Barangay Talisay and was once a property of Rizal himself, then later owned by the local government after it was declared a National Park. The shrine features replicas of the original houses such as the Casa Cuadrada, which is the biggest among the houses in the shrine and is where Rizal stayed during his exile. The Rizaliana Museum houses Rizal’s photos, memorabilia and other significant artifacts. It was built in 1971 and now also serves as office to the Shrine Curator.

Relief Map of Mindanao

The Relief Map of Mindanao was made by Rizal with the co-operation of Father Sanchez, a Jesuit sent by the Spanish authorities to “cure” Rizal’s ways of defiance to the Catholic Church. It is molded and carpeted with soil and grass, along with flowering and some other ornamental plants to form the island of Mindanao.

City Square

Also known as the City Plaza, this public park was thought to be beautified by Dr. Jose Rizal himself with his overwhelmed ideas from Europe during his younger days. It has a serene natural aura while being surrounded abundantly by trees and bountiful flowering plants. In the center of the park lies a statue of Rizal along with the Relief Map of Mindanao.

St. James Church

The lasting heritage of Christianization in the region is the century-old St. James Church. It was built by the Jesuits in honor of St. James the Great. The structures were made from indigenous materials such as rocks, sea corals and lime, and is still still well-preserved up to this day. A Spanish Jesuit Missionary, Fr. Balaguer commissioned Rizal to make a canvass oil painting which was placed behind the altar of the church. Unfortunately, the original work was destroyed during the Second World War. Nonetheless, a replica of the painting is now kept at the church’s choir loft.

Ilihan Hill

Also called as Fort de Dapitan, it originally served as the burial grounds for the original settlers in the city. The fort was later built at the top of the hill as a Spanish Military Fortress that has a wide panoramic view of Dapitan. The historical landmark is easily accessible from St. James Church and can also be reached by taking a tricyle ride.

Our Lourdes of Grotto

Just a few minutes away from St. James Church and Dapitan City Plaza, the miraculous grotto has set locals and foreign tourists coming to offer their devotions. The statue of Mother Mary is placed in the middle and is surrounded by man-made fences and benches for the devotees. Best time to come and pray is at early morning, late afternoon and evening where you won’t feel the scorching heat of the sun.

Old Spanish Patriarchal School

With the teaching emphasized on the Catholic Religion, the Spanish Patriarchal School was the first formal school in the city and was built after the restoration of St. James Church. It is now called the “St. James Center” and is primarily used as a function for local religious institutions. Though it has undergone a number of renovations, its original façade is still preserved.

Punto del Desembarco de Riza

This historical landmark is where Miguel Lopez de Legazpi (Wikipedia Article), the first governor general of the Philippines arrived in 1565. This place is also where Rizal first set foot in Dapitan, starting his life in exile.


There is a wide selection of accommodation options in Dapitan, ranging from luxury to budget-friendly types. Here are a few options that you may want to consider when visiting the city.

Dakak Park and Beach Resort

About 30 minutes from the city is Dakak Park and Beach Resort. This privately owned five-star hotel and resort is perfect for tourists who wish to have a luxurious stay in Dapitan. The resort is surrounded by white sand, clear blue waters and lime-colored cliffs. It also offers many recreational activities such as swimming, boating, diving, golfing, water sports, and seasonal cultural shows. Dakak is well-known for its fine dining and a wide array of seafood cuisines. An entrance fee of ₱500 ($11) is required when visiting, it is inclusive of meals and the use of some resort amenities. Room rates starts at 1, ₱600 ($13).

Monina Pension House

For those who are in a strict budget and are traveling with a group, Monina Pension House is an ideal place. Notable historical sites and attractions are of walking distance from the inn and each room can accommodate up to 6 people. Rates on daily/weekly/monthly basis are also available. Monina Pension House boasts of its clean, comfortable, and friendly staff. Rates start at ₱700 ($15), you can easily get a family room for only ₱1,000 ($22).

Home Sweet Home by the Bay

Another option if you’re looking for something convenient and affordable. It is located at Sunset Boulevard and just a few blocks away from commercial establishments. Rates start at ₱800 ($18), family rooms at ₱1,600 ($35) (good for 4 people).


A city situated beside the sea, Dapitan offers a myriad of fresh and exquisite seafood dishes along with local and international cuisines. Check out these restaurants along the city proper and experience the history of Filipino culture through your taste buds.
  • Erlinda’s Food House – This humble restaurant serves affordable and delicious festive Filipino food. The establishment is made mostly of bamboo and nipa that adds to a very native ambiance. The place is also packed with hanging festive banderitas to really make you feel that you’re at a town fiesta. Breakfast meals are only ₱50 ($1.10), while their best-seller, Crispy Pata (pork leg) is priced at only ₱300 ($6.60).

  • Il Patio is open from 11 AM to 11 PM.
  • Floating Restaurants – Tourists who want to experience a new kind of ambiance while dining, the floating restaurants located just by the Dapitan City Hall is the place to go. Aside from the fresh seafood and flavor-packed grilled choices, the amazing scenic view and relaxing good vibe sets the floating restaurants apart from other places.
  • 77 Band Barbecue Grill – Also located along Sunset Boulevard and approximately 25 minutes away from Dakak. This rad restaurant offers a delicious trademark of grilled barbecue and features music nights with live bands and other entertainment.

Getting There and Transportation

From Manila and Cebu, traveling through air would be the fastest and most convenient way to reach Dapitan City. Major airlines such as Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have direct flights to Dapitan daily. From Ozamis City, tourists can take a Dipolog-bound bus. The fare for air-conditioned buses is around ₱250 ($5.50) and the travel time is approximately 5 hours.

From Davao City, tourists can take a bus bound for Cagayan de Oro City for only ₱600 ($13). Travel time takes about 8 hours. Upon arriving in CDO, take a taxi ride to Bulua Bus Terminal. From there, take another bus ride bound for Dipolog City. The fare will cost around ₱475 ($10) and the travel time from CDO to Dipolog is approximately 9 hours. Upon reaching Dipolog, transit buses bound for Dapitan City are available.

When getting around the city and moving from one tourist spot to another, tricycles are the easiest and most common mode of transportation. The tricycle is perfect for short distance travel and only costs ₱7 ($0.15) per person. Dapitan also has multicabs and jeepneys for long distance travel, such as going to other municipalities near the city.

Other things to do in Dapitan City

Aside from the city’s historical landmarks and tourist attractions, there are also other fun activities tourists can enjoy in Dapitan.
  • Biking – Since the city proper is quite small, getting around the city with bikes should be easy. Some establishments offer bike rentals for only ₱50 ($1.10) a day.Chill at Gloria de Dapitan and Dapitan Boulevard – the Gloria de Dapitan and Dapitan Boulevard houses a myriad of restaurants, bars, and other stores where friends and families can get together and simply relax, have fun, or maybe have a night they won’t forget in Dapitan City.
  • Shop and Play at Gloria’s Fantasy Land – Gloria’s Fantasy Land is recognized as the first world-class amusement park in Mindanao and is situated within Gloria de Dapitan. The park offers a magical experience of thrill and fantasy for kids and adults, and has all kinds of stores and boutiques that sells souvenir items and other novelties. Tickets are available for only ₱500 ($11) and ₱1,000 ($22).
  • Explore the ancestral homes – To get more of the nostalgic 17th century feel of the city, visit the best heritage houses in Dapitan, such as the Paje Ancestral Home, Adasa Ancestral Home, Chong Ancestral Home, and Bajamundi Ancestral Home.
  • Sunsets at the beach – Dapitan is conveniently located by the sea and is known for having one of the best sunsets in the country. Visit the Dapitan Boulevard or the Sta. Cruz Beach for some romantic pre-dinner sightseeing.


Dapitan City is considered a very safe place for tourists and foreigners to visit, even being in the controversial territories of Mindanao. Dakak and the Rizal Shrine have thousands of visitors every year and the locals have grown accustomed to the increasing number of tourists flocking into their city. Just be sure to avoid unnecessary transactions with locals, and also, be alert when it comes to suspicious characters offering unsolicited help.

Travel Tips

  • You can easily visit all the historical landmarks in Dapitan by booking a day tour in one of the travel agencies in the city. Make sure that you only deal with certified tour guides.
  • The popular bottled “Monina Sardines” can be bought in Dapitan. These sardines are prepared using recipes learned by Filipinos from the elite Spanish families that occupied the country in the 1800’s. It is one of the province’s unique delicacies, a must-try for all visitors.

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Author: radiantan. Last updated: Jan 10, 2015


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