Dapitan City A secret gem By Marlinda Angbetic Tan
() - March 14, 2010 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The first time I was in Dakak Resort was in the late 80s, with my family, for a summer holiday. The waters pristine with a fine white sand beach and the place had a quiet privacy that was ideal for honeymooners – and there were a number of them then. The last time I visited Dakak was when a colleague from Cebu Plaza Hotel was the GM there, Eduard Hoogiewagen. I brought a group of U.S.-based doctors looking for a possible convention venue.

So it was with some excitement that I accepted the invitation of NAITAS, a dynamic association of independent travel agents led by Cebu prexy Ricky Tio of Holiday Travel & Tours and national president emeritus Bobby Lim Joseph. The Cebu-Dipolog route by PAL Express has just resumed, so it was on a Friday that we took the 35-minute flight, with a return on a Sunday afternoon at 1:30pm (which was delayed so we arrived in Cebu at 5:30pm).

At the Dipolog Airport, had a warm welcome by the Dakak Park Beach Resort personnel. Forthwith, we got into a lively river cruise on the Dapitan and Liburan rivers, with a sumptuous lunch onboard. The banks of the Dapitan River are still mostly uninhabited and garlanded with luxuriant greens, unlike the Loboc River in Bohol. We were impressed as we cruised under the Pulo Bridge, the longest in Zamboanga del Norte.

After a short drive from Dapitan City, we arrived in Taguilon where Dakak Resort is situated. Our guide explained that Dakak is from “dakung kakahoyan” (big forest) of about 60 hectares of which only 22 hectares comprise the resort. The property was acquired in the 1970s for only P70,000.00, but of course the value of the land did not appreciate until commercial development occurred in the late 80s.

The beauty of the resort is its perfect cove, facing the Sulu Sea and protected by the projecting fingers of land from both sides, with the fecund Mindanao Mountains playing sentry at its back. From the original two cottages, the resort now has 76 cottages with 152 native style air conditioned rooms, two Family Pavilions and a luxurious beachside Presidential Suite. Dakak has the distinction of being the first 5-star resort in Mindanao, garnering international recognition through awards in the ensuing years.

Aside from the magnificent white sand beach of Dakak, there are now numerous other attractions, making Dapitan a truly interesting destination. For starters, Dapitan is steeped in history, as the national hero Dr. Jose Rizal was exiled here for some years immediately before his execution. One can still see the map of the Philippines that Rizal designed and made, at the town plaza which he also designed to provide a lighting system of coconut oil lamps. In the 16-hectare Rizal Park are found the faithfully reconstructed houses the hero built, as his clinic, his residence, his kitchen, his classrooms, and maintained today by white clad women known as Rizalistas. The museum there exhibits the clothes and personal items of our national hero, eliciting amazement at how short he was at 4 ft. 11 inches, and how elegant he was.

The Dapitan Aqua Marine Park (DAMPA), along the Liburan River, boasts of a number of restaurants. We had our first dinner at Inato Lang and indeed, we were served home-style dishes so fresh and hearty. The piece de resistance was the dessert: banana grilled in its skin, topped with scoops of vanilla ice dream and liberally poured with a liquid toffee. Yummy! (Thanks, Cho-Cho!)

All agreed that the lovely sunset cruise we had from DAMPA back to Dakak was the highlight of the tour. Our boxes of Monteño sardines, chorizo, peanuts, etc. were loaded in another boat, as we set sail from the Liburan River to Dapitan Bay. The sunset was spectacular, the sea mystically placid, the merienda onboard delicious and then, a silver coin of a moon appeared just when the sun melted into the horizon. Ah, we had our sunset moments with our cameras.

The other facet of the gem that is Dakak? Why, it is Gloria de Dapitan Complex with the theme park for young and old alike – Fantasyland. There is also the Aliguay Island of the frolicking dolphins and the other side of the cove that is Baliangao in Misamis Occidental. More of these on Wednesday.

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