KINABAYO FESTIVAL: Dapitanon’s Way of Honoring St. James the Greater

When I hear the word Dapitan, the first thing that comes to my mind is the National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. In fact, Rizal has become synonymous to Dapitan as this city became his home when he was exiled in Mindanao. But there’s more to Dapitan than just Pepe.

While the City is best known for its rich history, it is also home to some grand celebrations and festivals the city hosts every year. One of these is the Kinabayo Festival, a colourful celebration staged every year in honor of the city’s patron saint, Saint James the Greater, who is also the patron saint of the entire Spain.

Dapitan City is among the first territories in Mindanao colonized by Spaniards. Aside from the deep Catholic faith, the colonizers left the Dapitanons with a very extraordinary and unique legacy – the tradition and pageantry of Kinabayo Festival which was celebrated even back in the olden days. Kinabayo is a unique festival re-enacting the Spanish-Moorish wars particularly the Battle of Covadonga.

During the early years of the Spanish rule, Dapitan was still flooded by Moro pirates. To protect the Dapitanons from an attack of Moro invaders, the Jesuit priests made St. James the Greater as their patron saint with a strong faith that the Patron Saint will protect the town and the people from the invaders. Back in the fifth century in Spain, it was believed that there was an apparition of St. James the Greater riding a horse carrying a sword guiding the Spanish Christians to win the battle against the Moors in the Battle of Covadonga. After three centuries, St. James the Greater played the same part this time in the lives of the Dapitanons.

For quite some time now, Kinabayo Festival of Dapitan has become one of the most celebrated festivals in the whole Zamboanga Del Norte. Dapitanons have remained faithful to their devotion to their patron Saint and Kinabayo Festival is their great way of honouring him.

Celebrated on the feast day, July 25, a magnificent re-enactment of the Battle of Covadonga is staged before the city folk and a sea of tourists. Thousands of residents would gather at the city center not just to be entertained by the number of events lined up for the festival but also to show their devotion to their patron saint.

Kinabayo Festival has also become the most visited season in Dapiatn City. The celebration attracts tourists – both local and foreign – to come to the southern region to experience culture and tradition embedded in Kinabayo Festival. And those who come here, they don’t only enjoy the festivities but also got to enjoy the many amazing destinations Dapitan City has to offer.

Apart from Kinabayo Festival, Dapitan City is renowned being the home of Dakak Beach Resort, the most famous beach resort in Zamboanga Peninsula. Aside from Dakak, the city also hosts the Rizal Shrine and Park, a 16-hectare property where national hero Jose Rizal was exiled from 1892 to 1896. This has garnered the city as the Shrine City of Mindanao. Dapitan also houses the only Disney-themed family and recreational park in Mindanao, the Gloria’s Fantasyland de Dapitan.

Shout out of gratitude to the LGU of Dapitan City for the invitation for the Kinabayo Festival most especially to Ms. Apple Marie Agolong, the City Tourism Officer. Same goes my to travel buddy Ida Nanette Damo of ChoosePhilippines for her letting me use of her photos in the post. Daghang salamat! Viva Senior Santiago!

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 that sometimes they get from online stores as Sheepskin Town. 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.