I’ve been to a lot of places that has significance to our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal. There’s Rizal Park in Luneta, Rizal Shrine in Calamba, and Fort Santiago in Intramuros to name a few. But this destination gave me the most intimate experience of knowing him more – Dapitan.
On the 17th of July 1892, at seven in the evening, Rizal first set his foot on the shores of Sta. Cruz beach where he was exiled, accompanied by Captain Delgras and three artillery men. Guided by a farol de combate or a lantern, the group walked to the Casa Real which is almost a kilometer away from the landing site, where Pepe will stay.
Dapitan was designed as any other typical Spanish town plaza, the park at the center surrounded by the Casa Real or the Royal House that served as the seat of government and the St. James Church, where a relief map of Mindanao was built in front by Rizal himself. The cathedral is the most prominent structure in the city boasting its huge and centuries-old pillars and walls. On the left side near the main entrance facing the altar, a marker was installed declaring the spot as where Rizal stood every Sunday to hear the mass.
On September 21, 1892, with the lucky lottery number 9736, Rizal won the second prize in the Manila Lottery amounting to P20,000, along with Francisco Equilor, a Spanish resident of Dipolog, Dapitan’s twin City. With his P6,200 share, P2,000 was given to his father, 200 of which was given to his friend Besamin, while the rest was used to purchase a piece of land near the shore of Talisay.
There he built three main houses made mostly of bamboo and nipa. The square-shaped house served as his main house. The second house is octagon in shape that was used as his clinic as well as dormitory of his pupils when they grew in number. The third has six sides used as barn.
“I shall tell you how we lived here. I have three houses-one square, another hexagonal, and the third octagonal. All these houses are made of bamboo, wood, and nipa. I live in the square house, together with my mother, my sister, Trinidad, and my nephew. In the octagonal house live some young boys who are my pupils. The hexagonal house is my barn where I keep my chickens.”
(excerpts from Rizal’s letter to Blumentritt describing his condition in Dapitan)
One interesting spot in the area is the Mi Retiro Rock or the Retreat Rock which got its name from his Mi Retiro, Rizal’s poem to his mother. And on this place he wrote the first few lines of the said poem. The place is very dramatic and romantic facing the sea where the breathtaking sunset can be observed. And how can we forget the significance of this place to the love story of Rizal and the ultimate love of his life, his wife (though some still challenge its validity)Josephine Bracken. This place also witnesses the love story of the two that’s why this was also called The Lovers’ Rock.
Rizal may have stayed in Dapitan for only four years from 1892 to 1896. But these years gave us a deeper appreciation of his daily activities, the ‘more human’ side of an artist, writer, educator, engineer, architect, entrepreneur, scientist, physician, a fighter for our freedom among his roles rolled into one, our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal.
Heritage Structures of Dapitan
Rizal Shrine Houses in Old Film