DAPITAN CITY: More Than Just A Shrine City

It was an invitation I have long wanted to get. In fact, years ago, I was invited to visit this very important destination in Mindanao but for some reasons I wasn’t available. But being on my bucket list, seeing this city has always been my dream. Finally, a very enticing invitation came to travel and experience the wonders of this phenomenal destination – the Shrine City of Dapitan.

Like those other destinations in my bucketlist, this beautiful and tranquil city is among those places that topped on my Sibika at Kultura Book. How can I forget those lessons I learned about Rizal in Dapitan? Or that commercial ad of Dakak Park and Beach Resort played repeatedly on Eat Bulaga? And with this invitation, seeing, experiencing and relishing Dapitan is a dream unfolding.

One week before the trip, the whole island of Mindanao was placed under Martial Law. Checkpoints were everywhere. Strict security measures have been implemented. Many tourists and travelers cancelled their trips to many destinations in Mindanao even to those that are not directly affected by the crisis. I, on the hand, found myself traveling to Dapitan on the 5th day of Martial Law in Mindanao. From Davao, I flew to Dipolog City via Cebu and headed straight to the famed Shrine City of the Philippines.

Unlike other trips I have, I did not do any research about Dapitan. In fact, I did not check the photos and images in the internet. I wanted to be surprised. I wanted to be amazed by the things and wonders that I will see in Dapitan. And true enough, Dapitan City did not only surprise me but amused me with so many things that I never expected to experience.

Here are some of the most exciting things that made my stay in Dapitan City more fun, memorable and worth-sharing.

DAKAK PARK AND BEACH RESORT

If you grow up in the 90’s, you probably heard and watched that of Dakak Beach Resort’s advertisement played on Eat Bulaga. That TV Ad actually ignited the interest in me to experience this famed Beach Resort of Northern Mindanao. And just like what that old ad said, DAKAK BEACH RESORT is indeed a paradise to enjoy. Staying there is like reliving that childhood wish of experiencing this Northern Paradise that has enticed tourists from all over the world including the beautiful Misses of the Universe. I was booked at the Deluxe Room. It’s a very spacious room with amenities that promise comfort, ease and relaxation. The beachline is clean. And the food is incredibly good.

VILLA ANGELINA LUXURY SUITES

Dakak Beach Resort now boasts of its newly constructed Villas situated in the Cliffside. These beautiful villas provide an amazing view overlooking the calm waters of Dakak Cove and the famous sunset of Dapitan. This beautiful array of exquisitely designed villas is called Villa Angelina Luxury Suites. This is located just adjacent to Dakak Beach Resort but unlike Dakak, Villa Angelina Luxe Resort is exclusive and more luxurious than the regular rooms of Dakak. The construction is still in progress but some 20 luxury suites are now open for its valued guests. These suites are called Cliffside Casitas and each villa comes with amenities that promise luxurious, relaxing and comfortable stay.

DAKAK ADVENTURE ZONE

Dakak never runs out of fun and exciting things in store for their guests. Aside from its beach and aquafun activities, it also boasts of its facilities apt for thrill seekers and adrenaline junkie – the Dakak Adventure Zone. It is home to the longest dual zipline in Asia that stretches up to 1.3 kilometers long and said to be one of ziplines in the country offering the most scenic view.  Aside from the zipline, there is also an ATV Thrill Ride that offers extreme adventure and fun-filled drive.

GLORIA’S FANTASYLAND

Dapitan City takes pride as home to the only theme park outside of the island of Luzon and that is courtesy of the Gloria’s Fantasyland. With its theme “Everyday is a Festival!”, spectators are assured of one magical experience. The theme park features a line-up of thrilling rides and attractions and spectacular quality entertainment. The Grand Night Parade is a must-see. It features a Fire and Thunder Show, a parade of Festival Colors and Cultures of the world and a specular Firework Display. Indeed, one’s stay in Dapitan is not complete without a visit a Gloria’s Fantasyland.

RIZAL SA DAPITAN

Aside from Dakak Beach, another synonymous phrase to Dapitan is “Rizal sa Dapitan”. Our national hero’s exile to Dapitan has made remarkable significance to the city to be coined as the Shrine City of the Philippines. Rizal spent 4 fruitful years in what was then a laid-back town of Dapitan and helped the community develop significant changes that until now can be sensed. The works, life and great contribution of Ka Pepe is preserved until now.  The Rizal Shrine tops as the number historical and heritage spot in the whole city.

CAVING, WATERFALLS AND MANGROVE TOURS

I was wrong when I thought that Dapitan is just all about Rizal and Dakak. Truth is, this Shrine City of Mindanao is home to a number of natural wonders that is truly something that Dapitan can boast. It has long coasts, majestic waterfalls, pristine cave system and rivers that remain untainted to this day. In Ba-ao, the Kamanganon Cave is a must visit. It is about 20 minutes trek from the jump off area passing through series of streams and waterfalls that make the whole experience more exciting and fun. The city is also home to a vast mangrove reserve. In fact mangrove trees thrive everywhere and have become sanctuary for marine life. River cruising can also be experienced here. It is something one should experience when visiting Dapitan away from the usual tours.

HERITAGE TOUR

As a Spanish settlement, Dapitan is a home to a number of heritage sites in Mindanao. Being Jose Rizal’s official home in Mindanao, Dapitan boasts of its rich heritage roots tracing back pre-Spanish times. The City Poblacion boasts of its rich heritage sites that until now are carefully preserved not only by the City Government but even by the people. Some of these heritages sites are already marked as National Historical Site by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

DAKAK GOLF CLUB INCORPORATED

Dapitan will soon become one of Mindanao’s Golf Destination. This is courtesy of Dakak Championship Golf Club being developed in the vast acre of Dakak Park Complex.  The golf course is eyed to become one of the best Golf Courses in the Philippines and in Asia. The nine hole championship golf course is designed by no less than Greg Norman, an Austrailan golfer who used to be world’s number 1 Golfer. My favorite area is the Balete Hole with an amazing view of Dakak Park and the Sulu Seas.

SHORTEST MAN ALIVE

It’s not hearsay. It’s a record and it’s a Guinness World Record. The shortest man alive is in the Philippines and now lives in Dapitan. He is Junrey Balawig from Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte. He is 23 years old now and stands 69.93 centimeters (23.59 inches) tall. He was declared the shortest man alive during his 18th birthday. Junrey the record of Khadendra Thapa Magar of Nepal who is 0.67 meters tall. With the help of former Congressman Nonong Jaloslos, Junrey and his family now live in Dapitan City and resides at the Heritage House, the building occupied by the City Tourism Office.

THE NEW CITY HALL OF DAPITAN

Among the cities and towns that I have visited in the country, I find Dapitan’s New City Hall as one of the most impressive. It perfectly sits in an area that commands a perfect view of nearby river and the bridge that connects the City to the mainland. For me, I consider it a perfect sight as a welcome treat to people entering Dapitan City. The City Hall is a newly constructed building. It houses the office of the Mayor, the Vice Mayor and the Sanguniang Panglungsod and the key offices government officer of the city.

FOOD TRIPPING IN DAPITAN

If you’re on a gastronomic journey, Dapitan City will never fail you. With a good number of restaurants and cafes scattered in the different areas of the city, Dapitan is a delectable choice for you. Seafood is one of the city’s specialties. Some of Dapitan’s good food choices can be found at Gloria’s Fantasyland complex.

These are just among the many spectacular sights to see in Dapitan. There is more to see and more to experience in this city that was once loved and nurtured by no less than our National Hero Jose Rizal. And like Ka Pepe, if given a chance, I want to be exiled here – a sweet beautiful exile. After all, Dapitan City is more than just a shrine city – it has everything one is looking for in a destination.

TACURONG BIRD FESTIVAL: A Celebration of Wildlife Conservation

One of SOX’s premier tourist destinations is the center of the 3rd Tacurong Bird Festival, the first and the only bird festival in South Central Mindanao. This is the Baras Bird Sanctuary, home to tens of thousands of cageless wonders of SocCSkSarGen Region.

Baras Bird Sanctuary in the City of Tacurong covers about two hectares of land that is home to more than 20,000 beautiful birds of different types. The area is situated beside a river and very close to swamplands, wetlands, and marshes. In 2002, Baras was declared a bird sanctuary by the city government.

Developed as eco-tourism site, the sanctuary is the most popular tourist spot in Tacurong City and considered as one of the most significant tourist destinations in Region 12. Year after year, these cageless flying wonders of the city attract various local and foreign tourists to come to the area and enjoy the wonderful sights and hear the melodies of some of the world’s most beloved birds including the great egret, the intermediate egret and the Rufus night heron. It has also become one of the most favorite birding sites of Wildlife Enthusiasts and Wildlife Photographers in the country.

Among the bird species that can be found in Baras Bird Sanctuary are the Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Intermediate Egret, White-collared Kingfisher, Emerald Dove, Hawk, Eurasian Sparrow, Javan Pond Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Variable Dwarf-kingfisher, Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Magpie Robin, Pied Fantail, Glossy Ibis, Black-naped Monarch, Rofous Night Heron and Ruddy Kingfisher.

In line with city’s advocacy of wildlife preservation, the city government in partnership with different line agencies and private sectors has led the annual celebration of Tacurong Bird Festival for three years now. The Festival is designed as a celebration of wildlife conservation and hopes to make locals and tourists aware about the importance of birds in the environment, encouraging them to take the pledge of conserving natural habitats such as the Baras Bird Sanctuary.

The bird festival featured various activities such as conservation forum on Philippine Birds where speakers come from Wild Bird Club of the Philippines. The forum was held outside of Baras Bird Sanctuary to accommodate more participants. The talks centered on eco-tourism and biodiversity conservation and the role of Birds in our environment.

At Baras Bird Sanctuary, where the center of the 3rd Bird Festival was held, highlights included bird watching with a license tour guide. A bird mural art stroke was also made available at the reception area. Other environment-friendly art activities include bottle recycling, keyholder/refmagnet painting, face painting, coloring and jigsaw puzzle and other activities that make the event more fun and exciting.

The 3rd Tacurong Bird Festival was spearheaded by the City Government of Tacurong in partnership with Department of Tourism (DOT) XII, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines and other stakeholders.

Groupie with Tacurong City Mayor Lina Montilla, Koronadal City Mayor Peter Miguel and DOT-12 Regiona Diretoc Nelly Nita Dillera

Sharing this frame with Tacurong City Mayor Lina Montilla, City Touris, officer Emelie Jamorqabon, Ida Damo of ChoosePhils.Com and Ian Garcia of M Magazine.

Congratulations to all the Tacurongnons for your undying efforts for the conservation of these baras Birds. Kudos to Tacurong City Mayor Lina Montilla and Tourism Officer Emelie Jamorabon!

Ten Most Strikingly Beautiful Mosques in the Philippines

Amazing Mosques in the Philippines

Definitely, the Philippines is home to breathtaking sites of worship. Proof to that are the four Baroque churches in the country which are recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. And if you roam around the country, several stunning churches are scattered in the different regions of the country. But the Philippines is not just home to amazing churches. If you travel to Mindanao, some of parts of the island boast some of the most strikingly beautiful mosques in the country. Although these structures are places of worship, one can’t resist of admiring of how these Islamic structures are designed and constructed.

Amazing Masjid in the Philippines

Having gone to the different parts of Mindanao and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, here I compiled 10 of the most strikingly beautiful mosques in the country – they’ll all found in Mindanao.

The Grand Mosque of Cotabato City

The Grand Mosque which is also called Masjid Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is the largest and said to be the grandest mosque in the Philippines. It is located along Tamontaka Bubong Road in Cotabato City. The construction of this grand structure is funded by the Sultan of Brunei to whom the Masjid was named, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

The Grand Mosque also know as Masjid Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Cotabato City

The Pink of Mosque of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao

Known for its strikingly bright pink color, the Pink Mosque of Datu Saudi Ampatuan in the Province of Maguindanao is the most popular and most photographed mosque among the many mosques in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Named after Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom who initiated the construction of the structure, the Pink Mosque was painted in bright pink to represent peace and love. It is one beautiful way of showing another side of the province – something so different from what we hear in the news.

Masjid Dimaukom more popularly known the Pink Mosque, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao

Bacolod Grande Mosque of Bacolod, Lanao Del Sur

In the Mid-1900’s, this stunningly magnificent mosque is said to be the “Little Mecca of Lanao Del Sur”. This is the Bacolod Grande Mosque located in Barangay Lama, town of Bacolod-Kalawi, Province of Lanano Del Sur. The structure is painted in dark green colors. Like other mosques painted in green, the color green is a traditional color of Islam and has represented Islam for centuries. Some believe that green was the Prophet Muhammad’s favorite color, and it is mentioned in a number of verses in the Quran as the color that will be worn by the inhabitants of paradise.

The Bacolod Grande Mosque of Lanao Del Sur

Masjid Al-Nasser Abpi of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao

About 30 minutes from downtown Cotabato City, another town of the Province of Maguindanao boasts of its imposing white Mosque called Masjid Al-Nasser Abpi. This is situated in Magelco in the town of Datu Odin Sinsuat. This is a newly built mosque and painted mostly in white. The color white is perhaps the second-most associated color with Islam symbolizing purity and peace.

Masjid Abpi also known as the White Mosque of DOS, Maguindanao

Hja. Sitti Raya Mosque of Talipao, Sulu

In the province of Sulu, another quaint town boasts of its uniquely designed and painted mosque – this is the Hadja Sitti Raya Mosque of the Municipality of Talipao, about an hour ride from the Capital of Bongao. Unlike other mosque painted with one single or two colors, Hadja Sitti Raya Mosque is painted in different colors with different patterns. This is built the former local chief executive of the town Mayor Sitti Raya Tulawei for the people of Talipao.

Hja. Sitti Raya Mosque of Talipao, Sulu

Masjid Kapunan of Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi.

In the island provice of Tawi-Tawi, its biggest mosque is situated in the quiet town of Panglima Sugala. It is called Masjid Kapunan located in Batu-Batu, Panglima Sugala and said to be the most beautiful mosque ever built in the whole Tawi-Tawi Province.

Masjid Kapunan of Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi

Buluan Mosque in Buluan, Maguindanao

The capital town of Maguindanao, the town of Buluan is also home to one of the beautiful mosques in the entire Province. Named Buluan Mosque, it is built by the family of Maguindanao Governor Toto Mangudadatu for the people of Buluan. This magnificent structure is located in Barangay Maslabeng.

Buluan Mosque of Maguindanao

Buadi Sacayo Masjid in Marawi City

There are plenty of beautiful mosques scattered in the many parts of Marawi City, the capital of the province of Lanao Del Sur that I have yet to visit and see. For now, one of those that attract me most is the Buadi Sacayo Masjid located in Barangay Bangon.

Marawi City’s Buadi Sacayo Masjid

The White Mosque by the Sea of Bongao, Tawi-Tawi

In the small village of Bongao in Barangay Tubig Tanah, a tiny white mosque gleams just a few meters from the seas of Tawi-Tawi. Despite its tiny size, there’s something about this mosque that visitors love about. Some even describe it as an igloo-inspired mosque. But what I love about this mosque is its quaint setting sitting quietly by the bay amidst the blue sky on a clear day, a manicured Bermuda grass and old tall coconut trees around.

The White Mosque by the Sea of Bongao, Tawi-Tawi

Sheikh Karimul Makdhum Mosque in Simunul, Tawi-Tawi

It may not be as grand as the Grand Mosque of Cotabato but the country’s oldest Islamic worship site situated in the island town of Simunul in the Province of Tawi-Tawi is a sight to behold – this is the Sheik Karimul Makdum Mosque, named after the first Arab missionary to set foot in the South to propagate Islam. What’s amazing about this mosque is the four columns found and preserved inside it believed to been erected since the mosque was built in 1380 – that means they’re 636 years of age. Amazing!

Sheikh Karimul Makdhum Mosque in Simunul, Tawi-Tawi

THERE YOU GO! Ten of the most strikingly beautiful mosques I have visited in the country. And so, if you’re into culture and architecture, never miss visiting these #ARMMazingMosques when you visit MINDANAO.

YOU SHOULD BE HERE AND EXPERIENCE MINDANOW!

MAGUINDANAO: It’s MagandaNOW

NATURE | CULTURE | HERITAGE | PEOPLE | FLAVORS

These are some of the things that await you in the #ARMMazing Province of Maguindanao – all at their best.

MAGUINDANAO: It’s MagandaNOW

What used to be a laid back province in the Philippines is now an emerging tourist destination in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – an emerging destination that has created buzz and interest especially in social media. Blessed with majestic mountains, unspoiled waterfalls and springs, magnificent lakes, vibrant and rich culture, warm people and delectable flavors, Maguindanao is an amazing destination to explore and experience.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE PHOTO TEASERS THAT CAN ENTICE YOU
TO TRAVEL TO MAGUINDANAO

MOUNT MINANDAR in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao

The historic Maliga Walay or Red House of Datu Piang, Maguindanao

The Masjid Dimaukom which is more popuparly known as the Pink Mosque in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao

The Masjid Abpi, a beautiful white mosque in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao

The magnificent lake Bulan in the town of Buluan, Maguindanao.

The old Capitol Building at Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao

The enchanting Blue Lagoon of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao

#ExperienceMindaNOW team at the magnificent Lake Bulan in the town of Buluan, Maguindanao.

#ExperienceMindaNOW team at the Pink Mosque of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

#ExperienceMindaNOW team at Masjid Abpi in the town of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

#ExperienceMindaNOW team at the Kusion Beach in the town of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

The famous Pastil of Maguindanao

The Inaul, the colorful weaves of the Maguindanaoan that speaks so much of their vibrant culture and tradition.

The Travel Teller at MOUNT MINANDAR in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao

Travel to Maguindanao and be inspired by the stories of its people, be at awe by the spectacular view of its landscape and seascape, be filled by the deletable flavors and be amazed by their wonderful culture.

This is Maguindanao. It’s #MagandaNOW.

CELEBRATE THE CULTURE AND HERITAGE OF MAGUINDANAO THROUGH INAUL FESTIVAL

For the very first time, the Province of Maguindanao in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will be celebrating the Inaul Festival, a festival honoring the Province and its people’s identity and cultural heritage – the Inaul.

INAUL, a Maguindanaon word that literally means “weaved”, is a unique fabric manually and meticulously woven mostly by Maguindanaon women weavers in Mindanao. More than just piece of textile used traditionally as a “malong”, it is considered as a “Bara-Bangsa”, a term tantamount to something with royalty, dignity and nobility. In the past, the use of inaul in Muslim Mindanao was a status symbol and worn always with pride and respect.

Inaul weaving is said to have more than twenty designs, with the royal heirloom piece being the rarest since it is no longer being produced. Other ways of inaul weaving include the “umpak”, “binaludto”, “panigabi” or “taro” and “binaludan”, which is also called “ikat” by the T’boli and the tribes of Cordillera. There are three types of threads used in weaving the inaul: the cottony “tanor”, the silky “rayon”, and the shiny “katiyado”.  “Rayon” and “tanor” can be combined to form a malong called “mestiza.”

The colors of the inual fabric reflects the vibrant culture of Maguindanao. Each color used in weaving corresponds to a specific meaning. Yellow and orange is for royalty while red represents bravery. White is the color of purity that speaks of grief and mourning, whereas, green indicates peace and harmony. Black denotes nobility and dignity.

Today, the inaul is no longer confined to “malong” and other traditional garments. The beautiful woven fabric of Maguindanao is now being made into modern outfits, such as gowns, long and short sleeved shirts for men, trousers, accessories, among many others. An example of the modern evolution of the inaul are the fashionable and glamorous ball gowns worn by the Miss Universe candidates during the recent Mindanao Tapestry Show in Davao City.

With inaul in the spotlight and on the world stage, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao gives honor to this regal fabric of Maguindanao along with the weavers who painstakingly create them with the celebration of the first Inaul Festival sa Maguindanao on Febreuary 9-14.

The Department of Tourism-ARMM supports this endeavor and commits to align its tourism promotions program in helping preserve, protect, promote and develop this intangible cultural heritage of Maguindanao.