Showing posts with label Mindanao. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mindanao. Show all posts

Friday, September 24, 2010

Zamboanga del Norte: Dapitan and the Rizal Shrine

Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte will always be synonymous with National Hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal. In fact, the structural works of Rizal still exist in Dapitan until today. There are in fact three declared cultural properties in Dapitan all relating to Rizal, namely the Relief Map of Mindanao, the Rizal Shrine and the Dapitan Plaza Historical Landmark.

We first visited the monument which was constructed at the site where Rizal landed when he arrived in Dapitan in 1892. It's a tableau of statues depicting the events of his arrival. There is a marker of the National Historical Institute there to mark the event. It reads: On this beach of Sta. Cruz, Jose Rizal landed at 7:00 o'clock p.m. on July 17, 1892 to begin a life of an exile in Dapitan. With Captain Delgras and three artillery men, they walked through Sta. Cruz Street with a "farol de combate" to the Casa Real where he was presented to Don Ricardo Carnicero, Spanish Military governor of the District.

From there, we proceeded to the Dapitan Town Plaza which is a National Historical Landmark. Another NHI marker can be found there. It states that the plaza was layed-out according to the plans of Rizal while he was exiled there from 1892 to 1896 and that he himself planted the acacias around the plaza. He also provided the lighting system of the plaza powered by coconut oil which he funded from a payment of a British patient.

The Relief Map of Mindanao, a National Cultural Treasure, can also be found in the same plaza, right on front of the Dapitan Church. It was Rizal and his former teacher Fr. Francisco de Paula Sanchez, S.J. who constructed the map with the help of the church staff and the students of the parochial school of Dapitan in 1892. The map was restored during the term of Zamboanga Governor Jose Asiniero, a former student of Rizal.

Inside the Dapitan Church is another NHI marker which is located in the spot where Rizal stood every time he heard Mass. The marker reads: On this spot of St. James Church contructed by the Jesuits, Rizal stood while hearing Mass every Sunday during his exile in Dapitan in 1892-1896.

Around the plaza are several heritage structures including the City Hall of Dapitan, ruins of the Parochial School, and several ancestral houses. An NHI marker can also be found in the site of the Casa Real. It reads: This is the site of the Casa Real, official residence and administration building of the politico-military governor of the district. Here Rizal lived as an exile from July 17, 1892 to March, 1893 when he was transferred to Talisay, now the Rizal Dapitan Shrine.

Our last stop for the afternoon was the Rizal Shrine, a National Shrine, where replicas of Rizal's house, classroom, clinic and other structures can be found. Also at the shrine is the rock where Jose Rizal and Josephine Bracken got married and the water system which Rizal constructed. There is also a museum which contains several personal items of Rizal including his clothes.

There are at least two NHI markers at the Rizal Shrine including one at the spot where Rizal left for Manila on July 31, 1896 with his family and friends, ending four years of fruitful exile in Dapitan.

There are two other towns with works and properties of Rizal, namely Dipolog and Kalayaan.

Part 1: Dakak Park Beach Resort in Dapitan

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Zamboanga del Norte: Dakak Park Beach Resort in Dapitan

When flying to Dipolog, make sure to include Dakak Park Beach Resort in your itinerary. In fact, most tourists fly there to visit Dakak, a really popular beach resort which has maintained its quaint 1980s charm. Their representative picks you up at the Dipolog Airport which is about 45 minutes away from Dakak and conveniently ferries you to the resort in an air-conditioned van.

After checking in, we had to walk a small distance to get to our villa room. The resort is sprawling! They have swimming pools in the resort. But I personally liked the privacy of the beach at Dakak. You can just spend the whole afternoon on the lounge chairs for a relaxing nap. Or visit some of the nearby islands.

The afternoon we arrived, we went around the historic center of Dapitan which is full of memories of Jose Rizal's exile there. But I'll talk about that in another entry.

We went back to Dakak to try their popular dinner buffet. I've heard a lot of good stuff about their dinner buffets and I wasn't disappointed. But more than the food, it's the cultural performances which make the dining experience at Dakak complete. In fact, it was a showcase of Filipino songs and dances, including local Bisaya songs. The next night, it was a Hawaiian-themed cultural performance and they do it quite well.

From Dakak, there are package tours available including city tours such as visits to Gloria de Dapitan and Gloria's Fantasyland, a cove hopping tour, visits to Aliguay and Selinog Island and the Dampa and Burgos River Cruise (take note that this boat leaves only at 11 a.m. and prior reservation is needed since there is a minimum of 10 people) similar to the one of the Loboc River in Bohol.

Dakak Park Beach Resort also has an Aqua Sports Facilities Center where you can rent boats, kayaks, hobbie cats, jetskis, go water skiing or take a banana boat ride. You can also rent scuba diving equipment and even go night diving! Other recreational activities include golf, bowling, billiards, horseback riding, tennis and mountain bike riding around the park among others.

Dakak Park Beach Resort
Taguilon, Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte
(0919) 7959416 / (0915) 3185238 / (065) 2136813
Manila: (02) 7241461 / 7247375
Cebu: (032) 2310200

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Zamboanga Sibugay: Around Ipil

Ipil is the provincial capital of Zamboanga Sibugay. I only had a few minutes in Ipil since I had to catch the bus back to Zamboanga City that same afternoon. So I visited the Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Capitol which I saw on top of a hill.

It turns out when I got there that the capitol was still under construction. But once finished, I'm sure it will become a new landmark since the architecture is quite unique, not the ugly four walls and a roof which typifies government buildings in the country.

Our government engineers should start being creative because they're churning out some of the ugliest infrastructure in the world! Good thing Zamboanga Sibugay's capitol looks like it has some character. From the same hill, visitors are afforded a very nice view of Ipil and its environs.

According to the Department of Tourism, Zamboanga Sibugay is known for its natural attractions. Unfortunately, it will take at least a day or two to visit most of them. There's Tantanan Bay, Sibuguey Bay, and Takushari in Talusan which are fish sanctuaries endowed with several corals reefs that are ideal for snorkeling and diving.

On my wish list is Pandilusan Island in Payao, and Litayon Island in Alicia which has notable white sand beaches. The province also has several caves in Tungawan and Talusan, and Moalboal Cave in Titay. Waterfalls include Tagbilat, Dalisay, Tugop Muslim, Cobacob, Go-otoc, Malagandis, Basay and Palina Falls in Ipil.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Zamboanga del Sur: Around Pagadian

Pagadian is the capital of Zamboanga del Sur and regional capital of Zamboanga Peninsula. The first thing you'll notice when you arrive in the city are its unusual tricycles which are inclined at about 30 to 40 degrees. The unique design of Pagadian's iconic tricycles add stability given the city's hilly terrain. It's quite amusing seeing 6 to 7 people (including the driver) jam-packed in this peculiar-looking tricycle.

Hoping on the tricycle is quite an experience. Getting on, especially the top level, is quite a challenge. Make sure to ride on one of these tricycles when in Pagadian.

The main attractions of Pagadian are beaches (Dao Dao Islands and White Beach), waterfalls (Lourdes, Lison Valley, Manga and Ditoray Falls) and caves (Twin Caves and Kendis Cave). This is one trip where I chose not to do research hoping to rely purely on the locals. Unfortunately, the hotel frontliners could not answer my queries about Pagadian's tourist attractions and I ended up seeing nothing major. The tourism office should train people on how to answer these queries.

They ended up pointing me to a beach resort in the town of Tukuran, which was a 45-minute jeep ride north of Pagadian. Baguio's Beach Resort was a bit too rocky. While Serena Beach Resort didn't have much of a beach and had a really noisy videoke! While videoke is an important national pastime, I've always advocated that it be kept in a contained area of a resort so as not to disturb other visitors who may have wanted to visit a beach for some peace and quiet.

Being regional capital, there are a good number of decent hotels in the city. Anyway, I decided to rest early instead since people had suggested I visit the town of Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur. So my plan was to visit the town on the way back to Zamboanga City.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Sulu: Visiting Jolo, Bud Datu in Indanan and Quezon Beach in Patikul

Sulu is indeed an island paradise. It's so unfortunate that the security situation there won't allow tourist arrivals for the meantime. But my curiosity pushed me to visit the island and see what was there. You can get to Jolo, Sulu from Zamboanga City since ferries leave Zamboanga Port every evening and arrive in Jolo at about four in the morning.

I spent Php620 for a cabin room bed (a cabin room accommodates four people). The regular aircon beds are Php470 which are all in one hallway. The cabin rooms have doors which you could lock. There are also flights to Jolo available from Zamboanga. Read Day-trip to Jolo for Part 1 of this trip.

After my quick nap, we proceeded to explore Jolo and the neighboring towns of Patikul and Indanan. We first dropped by the Sulu Provincial Capitol in Jolo. I noticed the centuries-old trees that lined the avenue that led to the Sulu Capitol. How I wish many of our old cities were able to preserve their trees.

You could also see the vernacular architecture hidden under the urban chaos of Jolo. If only the politicians there had the political will to clean up the city and preserve its character, Jolo would have been an even more fascinating town.

It's the gold domes that stand out in the Sulu Provincial Capitol. Beside the Sulu Capitol is the National Museum Sulu Branch which houses historical and cultural artifacts and exhibits on Sulu including the Sultanate of Sulu, as well as the Tausug and Badjao among others.

Outside the main building are statues of local heroes Panglima Unaid and Abduhalim Imao, as well as a century-old Bajau houseboat called a lepa.

I also got to taste the local Sulu variety of durian which was really good. And the prices shocked me. A basket of lansones (which looked like almost 8 kilos) was just Php70 or less than Php10 a kilo! The durian was just Php30 a piece or roughly Php15 a kilo. A bundle of mangosteen was just Php20 and my host told me that when in season, you could buy mangosteen for as low as Php5 a kilo!

We then visited the Central Mosque in Jolo. Unfortunately, I could only take a photo from the outside. There were a lot of people exiting the mosque since Friday prayers had just finished.

Lunch and the early afternoon was spent indoors since it started raining really hard. I walked to the nearby Jolo Cathedral when the rain stopped. In front of it was a Rizal Monument.

Later in the afternoon, we motored to the town of Indanan to visit Bud Datu where the grave of Raja Baginda, the first Muslim ruler of Sulu, is located. You'll have to enter a military camp to reach it. And since it's in a military camp, it's relatively well-maintained. But I'm sure the Raja Baginda Shrine can be improved to highlight the prominence of this Sulu pioneer in our nation's history. In fact, I'm surprised the National Historical Commission hasn't placed a marker there yet.

You can also see a nice panoramic view of Jolo from Bud Datu. But unfortunately, as we were walking from the Rajah Baginda Shrine to our vehicle, the sun disappeared again and it started to rain. So we ditched the view.

We had to wait the rain out again before proceeding to our last stop, said to be one of the best beaches in the Philippines with a wide expanse of white sand that could rival that of Boracay. It was about twelve kilometers from Jolo in the town of Patikul. Quezon Beach was highly-recommended with a caveat though: that I may need a security escort to visit.

My hosts didn't mention any of that so we proceeded to Quezon Beach. We passed by several military camps and check points along the road that went deeper into Patikul. I noticed the houses, very fine examples of vernacular architecture. They rarely used hollow blocks in Patikul. And I felt I entered a time warp as we drove through since these could have been the architecture of Maynilad when the Spaniards arrived there almost five centuries ago. Most of the wooden houses were elevated on stilts with covered porches on two sides. An elevated walkway connected the main house to another structure behind the house which served as a kitchen and cleaning area.

We finally reached Barangay Igasan and parked by the beach. There wasn't too much sun. But I could see that the beach was stunning even with the overcast skies. The beach was wide and the water was baby blue. I was told that further down the road, the sand was even finer, powder fine in fact to rival the best beaches of the country. But I had to save it for another day. I did not want to push my luck any further since it was starting to get dark. The sun and sand would have been an impeccable combination. But I guess I'll have to wait for another trip, hopefully when the situation is a bit better.

What I liked about the beach was that the houses were all made of native materials. So it really gave you that tropical feel. At least for now, it will stay that way. But I wonder how they would manage development there if the situation gets better.

Back in Jolo, we had dinner and I got to try more local meat dishes like pastir and pyesak. Relatives of my host, curious as to where I went, asked which places I visited. When I told them we came from Quezon Beach, I got startled reactions. One even asked my host if they really brought me there and said I was brave to even visit. It was only then that I found out that the area was where many of the kidnappings this year occurred.

After dinner, I was brought to the Jolo Port to catch the 8 p.m. ferry back to Zamboanga. It was the M.V. Kristel Jane 3 again and I got myself the same cabin room. I was back in Zamboanga City at 4 a.m. just in time for another satti breakfast. As soon as I was done, I rushed to the transport terminal in Guiwan to catch a bus to Pagadian.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Sulu: Day-trip to Jolo, Sulu

It was four in the morning. The M.V. Kristel Jane 3 had just docked in Jolo, Sulu. Boats from Zamboanga usually arrive in Sulu at this time. When I bought my ticket, I was advised to stay in my cabin until the sun came out. In fact, the lady at the counter said to me after handing over my ticket, "Good luck!" Such were her words of encouragement which of course had a twist of irony and sarcasm in them. Good luck indeed!

I kept my trip to Sulu under wraps, knowing that everyone would dissuade me, except hardcore travelers of course! But before daring to set foot on this beautiful yet precarious island, I made sure all bases were covered. For now, it's not a good idea to visit the island if you do not have a local to accompany you. As they say, "Don't try this at home folks" since visitors definitely stand out from the language difference alone.

Weeks before, I had been in contact with a fraternity brod. His father, Ismael "Pochong" Abubakar, Jr. was the first Speaker of the ARMM Regional Legislative Assembly. They had graciously assisted me when I visited Tawi-Tawi last year. And Ka Pochong had asked his cousins in Jolo, Sulu to take care of me while I was there. So I waited in the cabin for them to pick me up.

It was still dark when we walked out the boat. As we exited the port for our predawn breakfast, melodious chants blared from loudspeakers atop the minarets of mosques around town, piercing the morning silence as muezzins recited the adhan or Islamic call to prayer.

Jolo was once a charming town. It used to be a walled city during the Spanish colonial period. But there's nothing much left to remind us of its fortifications, save for a few bricks and watch towers hidden by the urban chaos that politicians left unregulated. My host lamented the destruction of the historic wall that formed an inherent part of Jolo's heritage. Add that Jolo was totally destroyed in 1974 as a result of heavy fighting between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Breakfast was satti, a dish composed of small pieces of beef grilled on skewers and served submerged in a bowl of sweet and spicy sauce. Also in the bowl are pieces of puso, rice that is cooked inside a palm leaf pouch. In Malay, it's called ketupat. They also have grilled chicken as well.

Satti is actually a dish native to Jolo, Sulu. The ones in Zamboanga in fact originated from Jolo. Anyway, the hawker stalls were abuzz with activity so early in the morning since it was the fasting month of Ramadan.

After breakfast, we proceeded to the house of my host where I took a quick nap. I was in Sulu for about sixteen hours. But getting there and getting back is an additional sixteen hours. So it's not quite a day-trip. More on Sulu in my next post.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Lanao del Sur: Mindanao State University and the Maranao torogans in Marawi City

The Islamic City of Marawi is the capital of Lanao del Sur. Since it was close to Iligan City, we decided to drive to this city with really pleasant weather. It's actually 833 meters above sea level which explains the cool climate.

You know you're in Marawi City when you see all the congratulatory streamers. They congratulate their relatives and friends for even the smallest things such as promotions at work or passing the civil service exam, and the usual congratulatory streamers for board and bar exam passers. For well-off families, they'd have streamers and billboards all over the city which is almost overdoing it in my opinion.

One of the more popular places to visit in Marawi City is the Mindanao State University (MSU). If you only have a few hours in Marawi City, like in my case, this is the first place you should visit. We first dropped by the King Faisal Mosque which was donated by the King of Saudi Arabia to MSU. From there, we drove around campus. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday. So the Aga Khan Museum was closed.

A great place to view Lake Lanao and Marawi City is at the MSU Golf Course. There is also a hotel in MSU which use to be owned by the Ayalas I was told. It is now the Marawi Resort Hotel.

From MSU, we drove to two of Marawi City's last Maranao torogans. The city should preserve the few torogans that remain. And hopefully, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines starts including vernacular architecture in its list of Heritage Houses. At the moment, all the houses are bahay na bato. But it would be nice to see Ivatan stone houses, Ifugao huts and, of course, these Maranao torogans declared as Heritage Houses soon.

If you do plan to visit Marawi City, make sure you have friends there or are accompanied by locals when you make your way around.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lanao del Norte: NPC Nature Park at Maria Cristina Falls & Macapagal-Macaraeg House in Iligan City

Lanao del Norte is a a short ferry ride from Ozamiz City. From the Ozamiz Port, it's a 20-minute ferry ride to Mukas Port in Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte. The ferries across Panguil Bay cut land travel by several hours.

I was met by a colleague, Lanao del Norte Board Member Alexander Ali, who took me for a ride around the province. Our first stop was the Lanao del Norte Provincial Capitol in Tubod where a small museum on the province, its culture and attractions was set-up.

From there, we rushed to Iligan City to catch the Maria Cristina Falls. The flow of water is usually at 30 percent on ordinary days. But at 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, the Maria Cristina Power Plant opens the water gates for five minutes to allow the falls to go on full-blast for the tourists. Unfortunately for us, Lake Lanao was experiencing a water shortage. So the scheduled full-blast did not push through that day.

They opened the NPC Nature Park just two weeks before my visit. So I got to try their brand-new zip-line. Unlike the usual single or double drop zip-lines, the one in Maria Cristina had four segments. You had to climb up a hill to get to the jump-off point. The first two segments were above land over a canopy of trees. While the last two segments were over the river.

The NPC Nature Park charges Php30 for entrance and Php200 for the zip-line. Other attractions in the park include an orchidarium and crocodile farm. If you plan to fly by air to visit Iligan, the Cagayan de Oro Airport would be closer.

After Maria Cristina Falls, we had lunch at Gloria's Ihaw-Ihaw for some lechon manok. The name is no surprise since it's located right in front of the Macapagal-Macaraeg Heritage House.

I walked over to the Macapagal-Macaraeg Heritage House after lunch to take some photos. In the yard is a sculpture depicting the young Gloria Macapagal on a swing, with her father President Diosdado Macapagal.

From Iligan, we drove through Baloi which is quite popular for its dodol, a toffee-like candy made with coconut milk, panocha (unrefined sugar or jaggery) and rice flour. Baloi is a relatively peaceful town (it's home to the Philippine Science High School in Northern Mindanao) and the local government plans to construct a Maranao heritage village soon to showcase the Maranao culture.
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