There was an obscure and sleepy coastal village that was thrust to prominence when the leading propagandist and national icon was banished on July 17, 1892.
With a farol de combate that lit the dark Sta. Cruz Street, they walked towards Casa Real where Rizal was presented to Don Ricardo Carcinero, the military governor of the District of Zamboanga. Rizal made Casa Real as his first residence until March 1893 when he transferred to a parcel of land in Talisay, which was bought from his winnings of a lottery. Talisay is now the present site of the Rizal Shrine.
In the early stages of his banishment, Rizal devoted his skills, time, and efforts in the beautification plan of the Dapitan Plaza. He planted acacia trees and used the money paid by an English patient to install a lighting system that used coconut oil.
In front of the Dapitan Church is the Relief Map of Mindanao. With the help of Francisco Paula de Sanchez, his teacher in Ateneo, Rizal created the map during his first two months in Dapitan. He intended it to be a teaching aid for geography and history lessons. On June 20, 2005, the Relief Map was declared by the National Museum as a national cultural treasure.
During his exile, Rizal heard Roman Catholic masses here in St. James Church. The church was originally built in 1871 under Father Juan Gelabert, SJ. It was completed before the turn of the 20th century.
Around the plaza are other interesting historical sites. One of those is Old Rizal Memorial District Hospital. On the occasion of the 20th death anniversary of Rizal, the construction of the hospital was started. It is now the office of the Sangguniang Panglungsod.
West of the plaza is a marker on the spot where Private Pedro Omakin of “B” Company, 107th Infantry, 10th M.D., under the command of Captain Francisco S. Hamoy was hit and died instantly by shrapnel of a bomb dropped by an airplane of the Japanese Imperial Army on December 8, 1941.
By virtue of Resolution No. 03, series of 2011, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines declared Dapitan City as the first heritage zone or historic center in the country. Republic Act No. 10066, or otherwise known as the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, provided the legal basis for the declaration as it embodied the criteria: historical, anthropological, archaeological, artistic geographical areas and settings that are culturally significant to the country. The heritage zone also encompasses the Rizal Shrine in Barangay Talisay.
Strolling around the Old Town of Dapitan is like following the footprints of the national hero, paying homage to his contributions, and imbibing the spirit of social transformation and community development he had exemplified.
Note: This is part of LegendHarry‘s Oct 1-10, 2013 Zamboanga Peninsula-Northern Mindanao-ARMM-Davao Regions Backpacking Trip.