The beginnings of the settlement now known as the city of Dapitan predates the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores on the island of Mindanao. The Subanens, a nomadic tribe of Indo-Malayan stock, were the earliest known settlers who lived along river banks or “suba”, from which word they received their present tribal identity as Subanen. However, it is believed that the timid Subanens were forced to move further into the hinterlands of the Zamboanga peninsula out of fear that pirates may seek shelter during foul weather in the natural harbors of Dapitan’s irregular coastlines. They are now mainly found in the mountainous areas of Zamboanga del Sur and Misamis Occidental.
Various historical accounts also indicate that trading voyages and commercial relations existed with the nascent but thriving settlement of Dapitan. This interaction with traders from the different cultures in the region may have had some influence on the cultural evolution of Dapitan itself. The influence of the Spaniards, the Americans, the Japanese, and the different Visayan ethnolinguistic groups that settled here could not also be discounted in their contributions toward the evolution and emergence of a distinctly Dapitanon culture.
Population/ Language/ Area
Famous for being the place where the National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal was exiled, Dapitan City is located on the northeastern coast of Zamboanga Del Norte Province. Dapitan is bounded on the north by Sulu Sea, on the east by the towns of Sibutad and Rizal, on the south by La Libertad and Mutia, and on the west by Dipolog City and the towns of Polanco and Pinan. Terrain is characterized by hills and mountains in the interior and a narrow coastal plain where the city center is found.
Dapitan has a total land area of 390.5 square kilometers. It is about 650 kilometers southwest of Manila. It is accessible by air via Dipolog domestic airport which is 15 kilometers away. It can also be reached by boat through its own port. Travelling to Dapitan using vehicles is made possible through the Roll On Roll Off (RO-Ro) service of the western Strong Republic Nautical Highway.
Most of the people of Dapitan are migrants from the Visayas provinces and therefore Cebuano and Ilonggo are the major dialects spoken. English and Tagalog however, are widely used especially as a medium of instruction and for business and government transactions. Majority of the residents are Roman Catholics while the rest belong to the Iglesia Ni Cristo, Protestant, and Islam.
Products and Services
Dapitan’s economy is basically anchored on farming, fishing and tourism. Coconut is the main farm product. Fishing is greatly supported with the fish port in Taguilon District. With the opening of Pulauan Port to RO-Ro Service, tourist arrivals has greatly increased.
Being the main gateway to Mindanao using the western nautical highway and considering raw materials available, the following industries or businesses are recommended:
- Hotels and resorts
- Industrial estate and commercial complexes
- Cold storage facilities especially for the fishing industry
- Organic products such as fertilizer and high value commercial crops
- Cut flower and ornamental plants
- Rubber processing – Zamboanga peninsula is a major rubber producer
- Halal foods for export
- seaweed processing – nearby Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are known seaweed producing provinces
- Oleochemical products – an offshoot of the coconut industry
- Consumer goods such as processed foods, apparel, fashion accessories using native designs
- jewelry especially pearls
- Rizal Shrine – this is considered as a major historical landmark in Dapitan and of the Philippine archipelago where hundreds of visitors come and see for themselves the beauty of this 16-hectare sanctuary. This was acquired by Dr. Jose Rizal by purchase during his exile and built several structures like the Casa Cuadrada, Casa Relonda, CAsa Redonda Pequena, CAsitas Hospitales, Aquaduct, Mi Retiro Rock, Amphitheater and the Rizalina.
- Ilahan Hill – is where Fort de Daptan was strategically constructed on its top by the Spanish Government as a military fortress in order to protect and guard thriving settlements from foreign attacks. At the top of the Ilihan Hill and Foot Trail at Talisay City Square, tourists will be amazed gazing the panoramic view of Dapitan.
- Sta. Cruz Beach – was put as a symbol of Christianity when Jesuit priest F. Pascual Acuna arrived in Dapitan in 1607 and baptized the natives. This is also the place where Rizal first set his foot in Dapitan. The Sta. Cruz Beach is part of a clean stretch of beaches of the famous Dapitan Bay also known as the Sunset Boulevard nestled on the northern section of the poblacion.
Festivals and Celebrations
- Kinabayo Festival – which is celebrated every July 25 in the city portrays a mysterious and colorful pageant re-enacting the Spanish-Moorish Wars, mainly the Battle of Covadonga where the Spanish forces under GEneral Pelagio took their stand against Saracan. They were able to overturn the tide through the miraculous spirit of St. James. The addition of local color and modernism has made this annual celebration a popular attraction which brings thousands of tourists to the Dapitan City.