Dapitan now a Heritage Zone

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/3 June) – The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has declared Dapitan City as the country’s first Heritage Zone.

In its resolution, NHCP said “because of its ancient beginning and Dr. Jose Rizal’s four-year exile in the city, the district has become historically and culturally significant.”

The official declaration, timed for the national hero’s 150th birthday on June 19, was made during the culmination of the National Heritage Month celebration in Dapitan last May 27.

The occasion was attended by Vice Mayor Patri Chan, provincial tourism officer Ivan Patrick Ang, NHCP deputy executive director Emelita Almosara, National Library director Antonio Santos, National Museum director Jeremy Robert Barns and lawyer Rose Beatrix Cruz-Angeles, of the National Committee on Monuments and Sites (NCMS), among others.

In her statement, Chan expressed her gratitude to the officials of NCHP and National Commission for Culture and the Arts for making Dapitan, also known as the Shrine City of the South, as a heritage zone and historic center.

“This declaration of the Old Town of Dapitan as a Heritage Zone, which is our identity, helps the city’s tourism industry gain wider international exposure,” said Chan.

Dapitan has an important historical role, being the place where the national hero stayed during his exile from 1892 to 1896.

Meanwhile, Malacañang said on Thursday the decision of the NHCP to declare Dapitan as its first Heritage Zone rightfully pays tribute to this historic location and its role in our national formation.

“Every generation seeks and finds new meaning in the life and example of Rizal,” Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement. He pointed out that Rizal’s vision of nationhood “continues to serve as an inspiration and challenge to all Filipinos who work to fight corruption and make inroads against poverty in our society.”

NHCP recognized the city as one of the oldest settlement in Northern Mindanao inhabited by the Subanen people and surrounded by numerous historical landmarks.

Aside from the Casa Real (Rizal’s official residence in Dapitan), among the historical landmarks of the Shrine City are the Old Town Plaza, Rizal’s monument, the relief map of Mindanao made by the national hero himself, the city hall, the Punto del Desembarco de Rizal (Rizal’s landing site) and the church, a blend of ancient art and architecture.

“This (Dapitan) is different from highly urbanized cities in the country as we cannot offer the amenities found in big cities, but this city is compensated by the glory of our past that nestle our historical heritage,” said Chan as she wants the people to look at Dapitan as the backdrop of simplicity and laid-back lifestyle.

From a small town replete with history, Dapitan took a giant step forward and became a chartered city by virtue of Republic Act No. 3811, which was signed by then President Diosdado Macapagal on 22 June 1963, thus becoming the first city in the province of Zamboanga del Norte.

Recently, Dapitan successfully hosted the 2011 Palarong Pambansa, the country’s biggest multi-sports event for elementary and secondary students. (Rico Biliran / MindaNews)