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Mindanao's New Hub: Fantastic Dapitan!

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The Spaniards in those times must have considered Dapitan in faraway Zamboanga as a dumping area for the undesirables. That’s why they forcibly put gentleman Jose Rizal on a boat and banished him there to stop him from doing more mischief in Luzon. (But I guess, that did not stop a rendezvous and tryst with ladylove Josephine Bracken, did it?)

Well, look again, my friends. Today, Dapitan City is far from being a dumping ground. It is in fact, during the next two weeks or so, the country’s center of gravity – for tourists, sports champs, officials and everyone.

Thousands of participants of the annual Palarong Pambansa started to arrive this week in this northern nook of Zamboanga del Norte. Former Congressman Romeo “Nonong” Jalosjos and Gov. Rolando Yebes hold sway in this area as territorial political kingpins. I started wondering how Zambo norte will take care of thousands of visitors.

The athletes and officials alone number about 10,000. Well, I was reassured that there will be room for all. Residents will open their doors to “home stays” just to accommodate their guests. That’s hospitality for you.

A few days ago, I joined Renne Subido, a friend and official of TVI Resource Development Phils, Inc. which has mining tenements in the province and neighboring areas in a call on Nonong Jalosjos who is the overall Palaro organizer to take up TVI’s support to the games.

Gov. Yebes who was on a land trip en route to Davao for the Masons’ ANCOM gathering sent his aide Jay to guide me to Nonong’s whereabouts that noon. Seated in his small office at his Dapitan resort named “Gloria” Guess after whom it was named…)In his holiday(and working) shorts, Nonong received us. He looked the same, heavy and tan as when I saw him last sometime ago. He unendingly talked about his continuing “vision” of Dapitan becoming now the tourist hub in the south.

The “Gloria Fantasyland” is a marvel of its own within the 20-hectare “Gloria” enclave. Enter the gates and you’re indeed in wonderland. Fun rides, all sorts of attractions in colorful glory. The guide Rey told us it’s a 300million peso project for “Fantasyland” alone. Fantastic!

Then a short trip to famous Dakak beach resort. It was years ago when travelling to that white-sand hideaway was considered a “long” trip. But the new concrete roads now made me feel it was just next door from Dipolog City. Nonong, since he physically returned from that “involuntary absence” had retouched the whole place.

I have an unforgettable story about Dakak. In June 1991, then Pres. Cory’s executive secretary Oca Orbos invited me to a weekend trip to Dakak to celebrate a family event: his wife Rose’s birthday. Both of us were in Congress before that and became close buddies. I got the sense that Oca’s trip was a secret escape from the palace and evidently without President Cory’s knowledge.

Then the unexpected happened. We suddenly got word that Mount Pinatubo was erupting andhe was badly needed back in Manila, the President was looking for him and was already upset as he could not be found. Our bags were still unpacked so we rushed back to the Dipolog airport. As we were airborne en route to Manila, we got word that we could not land anywhere in Luzon due to the heavy ash fall.

The pilots diverted us to Cebu City where we encamped at the Gaisano’s “White Gold” waiting for word on how the “little president” could be safely and immediately ferried back to man the fort in that time of crisis. Well, ultimately I decided to head back home to safe Davao while Oca and his family finally landed in some Bicol airstrip and took the harrowing and long land trip to Manila to be at the president’s side. I had no idea what kind of scolding Oca went through. Hahaha.!

Anyway, back to present day Dakak. During my visit, a delegation from the Manila Yacht Club was also meeting with Nonong as they were discussing plans to start a marina construction by the small island where an 18-hole golf course is also starting to take shape. The casino nearby which was closed forthwith at the onset of the Aquino administration is looking forward to a possible opening, I was told.

Yes indeed, the new center of gravity today in this part of the country is the Zamboanga peninsula: Dipolog, Dapitan, Dakak and the neighboring areas like Pagadian, Ipil, Ozamis and the queen city of Zamboanga.

So, if you’re on a holiday spree this summer, discover these unique hideaways. You’ll be surprised. Bienvenida!

By Jess Dureza




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