Finally, thanks to a wedding invitation, I had an excuse and opportunity to set foot in the cities of Dapitan and Dipolog. What even made this weekend vacation worth looking forward to was the time that will be spent with dear friends and coincidentally, celebrating Jose P. Rizal's 150th birthday in a place where he was exiled for four years.
On our flight to Dipolog, I finally got hold of a copy of the inflight magazine and see for myself what my friends have been telling me the past weeks, that this blogger has been featured in this month's issue of Smile. And of course that made me smile and giddy. Thank you Nikka Sarthou.
After more than an hour of cruising on air, we were hovering over the norhern part of Zamboanga. One can easily identify Dapitan because of the Cokaliong ship that was about to dock in the port (my friend JRTU travelled by sea to Dapitan onboard Cokaliong and we were arriving at around the same time). And my favorite part in this view from the top was seeing that beautiful cove which, at first I thought was a lake. I lost no time taking snapshots of what can be seen by the eye from the sky.
Our plane landed and then we proceeded to the arrival area. The passengers were directed to the waiting area past the barricade while the ground personnel arranged the luggage and parcels to be claimed. When everything was in order, that was the time when they allowed the passengers to re-enter the baggage claim area.
At the arrival area, porters who offered to carry our luggage or arrange a tricycle ride. Unless there's someone who will pick you up at the airport, the public transportation available is the tricycle. Originally, our plan was to take the tricycle to the Dipolog Boulevard. But while waiting for our luggage, my friend called me up and told me to wait at the airport gate because her classmate (who happens to be the owner of the pension house where we will be staying) will be doing the rounds of fetching his weekend guests from the sea port and airport.
My friend JRTU and her friend Jo Fortugaleza (owner of Antonio's Pension House)
Our home for the weekend was the Antonio's Pension House. It's fairly new, having been in operation only in May 2010. In fact, there was an ongoing construction on the top floor. The place is owned by Jo Fortugaleza who is also the president of the Dipolog Camera Club (see his works on the wall of their information area). The pension house was named after his grandfather while the restaurant Cusina de Binoy was named after his great-grandfather, one of the first Malay settlers in Dipolog. And so I asked him if he had any business which was named after him. After some prodding, he revealed that he has an eatery which bears his name (located near the medical center) and they sell deep-fried chicken parts, particularly the neck.
We settled in our rooms. There are around sixteen rooms in this pension house (if I have to base it on the alphabets identifying the rooms). My mom and I shared the standard room for two. This airconditioned room has one double bed, cable tv, a dresser with open closet, basic amenities of a T&B and free fast internet connection inside the room. It's a bit cramped though with barely enough space to move around with the luggage that we had. But if you'll just turn in for the night, then the Php 550.00/room/night was already a good deal for us happy campers. Antonio's is also next to Karyll's, a favourite hangout where a band plays on a Friday night.
We had late lunch at Binoy's located on the roofdeck. You can dine either indoor or al fresco. We had seafood bilao of bangus, calamares, shrimps, achara and pansit. While we were feasting on our sumptuous lunch, we enjoyed the view of the boulevard.
It was already mid-afternoon when we started our tour because we waited for the rain to stop. From Antonio's we went to the terminal to catch the Evergood bus bound for Dapitan (Php 20.00/pax). We did the Rizal Trail in Dapitan.
The Boulevard in Dapitan
At dusk, we found ourselves in Gloria de Dapitan, a big complex with restaurants and of course the Fantasyland. But it was not vast as I originally imagined. We didn't stay long in this place. We proceeded to our next destination which was the Dampa for our dinner.
Gloria de Dapitan and Fantasyland
On our way to Dampa, this building caught my attention.
We decided to dine at Pocherohan ni Job. While waiting for our order of talaba, sweet and sour fish and chicken, we wasted our time taking photos of the surroundings.
For our dinner, the talaba had too much toppings --- (diced ginger, garlic, onion and tomato). I'd rather have it plain and soak it in vinegar. The sweet and sour fish dish (and it came in large pair) had the right sweet and sour mix. The fleshy fish was likewise tender, just right. Overall, the food was delicious and the bill that we paid was reasonable. The only downside was having to deal with the mosquitos and other tiny, winged nocturnal creatures. But then I guess, that's also part of the Dampa dining experience.
After our dinner, we had to rush a bit in order to catch the last bus back to Dipolog. Our thanks to the waiter who gave us tips on all possible options for our ride back to Dipolog. We were walking towards the highway when we got caught in the heavy downpour. We were still far from the main road and it broke our hearts when we saw several trykes and one Evergood bus plying the main road. Finally, one tricycle came to our rescue. We made our way to the bus terminal in Dapitan. It was a long drive. We were told that the last trip to Dipolog was at 8:00 p.m. but when we got there before 7:30 p.m., the place was empty. So the driver decided to take us to Pulô where we had better chances of getting a bus ride. That meant taking the same route back to the Dampa and beyond. The return journey was even longer coupled with the thrill of not knowing whether we'll get a ride back to Dipolog. We finally reached Pulô and yes, it was still raining. We took shelter near the rotunda and waited for the Rural Transit bus coming from Ozamis or Iligan. After waiting for about a quarter of an hour, the bus finally came (from Pulô to Dipolog = Php 15.00/pax). Glad it wasn't packed so we were able to choose our seats and had a quick rest for the next fifteen minutes. We got off at the Dipolog bus terminal and took a tricycle to the pension house.
The next day, I was planning to walk down that long stretch of the boulevard but never got to do it because I woke up late (more of like, I woke up early but then decided to catch a few more zzzzz....). We had breakfast at Binoy's and enjoyed the view of the boulevard from above. We had the usual Filipino breakfast paired with sunny side-up eggs.
After our breakfast, we went to the Dipolog Cathedral to round up our Rizal trail. From the church, we walked towards the plaza where we took some photos.
Then, we started searching for the Pasalubong Center. After asking several persons, we finally found it next to the PS Bank and near the UCCP church. We bought bottles of sardines and other food treats from Zamboanga del Norte.
We also visited the public market and bought a few kilos of dried fish before we had our lunch break.
At the Dipolog Central Public Market
My friend's friend AB treated us to a sumptuous lunch at Big Joe's. The walls of the restaurant had posters from the American 50's as well as miniature car collection. The soft lights and the table booths added to the coziness of this place. We answered the puzzles and read trivia on the paper placemat while waiting for our lunch.
We feasted on baked fish with cheese and corn, sizzling tenderloin and baby back ribs. The baked cheesy fish was flavourful, it simply melted in the mouth. The sizzling tenderloin was okay while the baby back ribs was tender and the sauce/marinade did not overpower the meat. Add the jumbo glass of iced tea, the lunch came in cheap considering the quality and yumminess of the food. Definitely a winner meal for this trip.
In the afternoon, we prepped ourselves for a friend's wedding. AB instantly became the vicarious Iron Man as he had to get my dress pressed since the pension house did not have any pressing service. In this wedding, the bride arranged a vehicle for her guests since the venue was a considerable distance from the city center and quite a number of us were not from Dipolog or Dapitan. The number of the wedding coordinator was given to us. And so we waited for the vehicle that would pick us up and bring us to the venue. I told the wedding coordinator that we will be ready by 2:00 p.m. but he begged for an hour extension. And so we waited. 3:00 p.m. came but no car in sight. I called the wedding coordinator but the phone just kept on ringing. 3:30 p.m., the start of the ceremony, still no vehicle nor advice from the wedding coordinator. At 4:00 p.m., we decided to go to the wedding. And we were quite a sight as we rode the tricycle (I on the back seat) in our red party dresses. Remember, there are no taxis in this city, just tricycles and buses. And had the wedding coordinator advised us ahead of time (I also learned that the other guests also waited for the service vehicle in vain. There were so many of us who were late for the ceremony.), we could have arranged for our transportation and be at the venue at an earlier time. Good thing, we arrived in one piece and luckily, no "mahangin ba sa labas" moment for us. Too bad, my friend and I forgot to take what could have been classic photos which would remind us of that moment in our lives.
We missed the bridal march but we were there in time for the traditional candle, veil and cord ceremony. It was an intimate garden wedding with family members and close friends in attendance. Just after the photo-ops and when everyone was starting to take their places inside the hall for the dinner, there was a heavy downpour. Good omen (if we follow a local belief). Rains on wedding day would mean more blessings to the couple. It was a fun party and it was nice to see my friend MHZT relishing the first few hours of her lifetime as Mrs. M.
And speaking of tricycles, this is the main mode of transportation in Dipolog and Dapitan. In Dipolog, they also have their own number coding system. All the tricycles have to be off the road for one day. And their day off is printed on the front portion of the vehicle.
Again, I wasn't able to wake up early to stretch my muscles in the boulevard. We spent our Sunday morning of breakfast and packing our stuff. Before leaving Dipolog, JF brought us to KShei Aquamarine Park located in Sicayab Bucana in Dapitan. We turned from the main road and followed a long dirt road until we reached a spot which had the KShei sign.
We crossed the bridge before hopping on the raft that would take us to the restaurant on stilts on water (was it swamp or marsh or some other body of water?).
JRTU treated us to an advanced birthday lunch. While waiting for our meal, we enjoyed the serene view (still waters, verdant mangroves and locals paddling small boats) and the cool breeze, hummed and at times even sang to the standards in the background and got basic pointers from master photographer JF.
Finally, our food came and we savoured the sweetness of the camaron rebosado, the fleshy grilled fish and the thin slices of fish kinilaw.
Definitely a nice, lazy Sunday. And a perfect way to end the weekend vacation in Zamboanga del Norte.
Antonio's Pension House
Genereal Luna corner Martinez Streets
Contact Details: +63 909 4892909; (065) 9082159
Dipolog's Pasalubong Center
(next to PS Bank)
Contact detail: (065) 2127755
Big Joe's Cafe
Contact Details: (065) 2124111; 2123025
KShei Aquamarine Park
Sicayab Bucana, Dapitan City
Contact Details: +63 921 8290220 / +63 939 4188419