The Town He Built: Remembering Rizal in Exile

A replica of Rizal’s hut in Rizal Shrine Dapitan (

A trip around Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte is a history textbook in live action. A short bus ride around town will take one to a lot of shrines, ancestral homes, churches, markers and other historical spots that are instrumental in retelling how our national hero lived in exile. Here’s some dose of history from the remarkable spots around the city:

Rizal’s Landing

A monument of Rizal and his military escorts (Pagadian Frontline)

Punto de Disembarco, or Rizal’s Landing, can be found in Sunset Blvd. where a giant monument of Rizal and a number of military escorts stands in the center of the platform. A digital tourist marker describes the historical value of Rizal’s landing site:

Punto de Disembarco is the point in Dapitan generally considered as the arrival site of Rizal. According to historical accounts, Rizal arrived here at seven o’clock in the evening of July 17, 1892 onboard a vessel called SS Cebu. The ship was manned by Captain Delgras and three artillery men.
With combat lights (farol de combate), they made their way to the nearby Casa Real through Sta. Cruz Street.
The monuments at Punto are the ultimate expression of glorifying the historic arrival of Rizal to begin his life in exile in Dapitan.
Source: Digital Tourism (
#FiringSquadGoals: Leaving some space for the ghost of Rizal
The Reincarnation of Pepe in fedora (our teacher, Pep Ferreros)
Kids of today: Happily posing while Rizal is being dragged in exile

The Punto de Disembarco features a huge viewing deck to the sea where tourists can take happy pictures of themselves while Rizal is manhandled by the military towards his new home away from his family (‘effing pricks).

St. James Church

Inside St. James Church where Rizal heard mass in a corner near the doorway (

This old church was probably one of the first few built by the Jesuits here in Mindanao.

St. James Church was built in 1871 and is remarkable for its beautiful arcs and ceilings.

It also has an 18th century organ pipe from Germany.

A marker near the doorway reads that when Rizal heard mass in that church, he liked to stand in a specific corner away from the pews of the congregation.

In front of the church is a relief map of Mindanao that Rizal designed. A marker near the map explains its origins:

This artisic manifestation of a well-lived exile was made by Dr. Jose P. Rizal in August 1892 based on the map done by Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde, a French Jesuit, in 1752. He was assisted by Fr. Francisco Paula de Sanchez S.J., his favorite teacher at the Ateneo de Manila where he studied in 1872–1877.
Rizal used this map as a motivating device in teaching geography and history to his pupils during his lonely but productive banishment here in Dapitan from July 17, 1892 to July 31, 1896.
A group of devotees(?) in front of the Church

Rizal Shrine

Rizal showed off his mighty engineering prowess in his shrine. One can see a lot of huts, a mini-dam and trees lining up around Rizal’s shelter. Rizal’s Shrine is the compound where he spent most of his time. It wasn’t called Rizal’s Shrine before then, of course.

Ultimate selfie place: Lovers Rock, Rizal and Bracken’s lovenest (

A huge rock is nestled in a sweet corner of the shrine grounds. It’s called the Lovers’ Rock, a huge boulder oddly shaped like a heart. It is said that Jose Rizal and Josephine Bracken hung out a lot in this rock.

A slab inside the grounds marked the spot where Rizal turned down Pio Valenzuela’s offer for him to become a revolutionary chief for KKK. When Valenzuela returned to Bonifacio with the bad news, Bonifacio lost his cool and began cursing at Rizal.

River Cruise

Nope. I cannot confirm Rizal rode in one of these boats and belted out to Journey during the open mic.

Sorry for the “touristy af” photo.

This is the river in Dapitan where we had lunch during a cruise. It is said that somewhere in the stretch of this river in Zamboanga is a mountain water stream where Rizal sourced all water to sustain the farmlands. Rizal supported the town by building a water system to provide clean water for the residents. Take note that Rizal had knowledge on surveying as a student of Ateneo.

Shrine City

Dapitan City is the first “historical zone” tagged by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. This is important as the country should continue its great effort to make history significant to the youth by retelling the stories of the heroes of the past.

A short trip around Dapitan makes one admire Rizal more. He built huts, water systems, urban landscapes without the use of sophisticated instruments. He taught children, healed the sick, mobilized town folks in his tiny hut. All these while under the severe threat of a death sentence and the pressure of an erupting revolution inspired by his writing. One can’t help admire that in this small town he built, he has built the whole country with it.

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