Rizal Shrine – The Hero’s Retreat in Dapitan

Dapitan’s Rizal ShrineRizal Shrine – I first heard of this place from my teacher way back when I was still in elementary school. And for so long, I never attempted or ever tried to visit Rizal Shrine until recently when I took my family for a short vacation in Dakak. Yes, Rizal Shrine and Dakak Beach Resort are proudly two of Dapitan City’s most popular spots.

Some of the greatest tourist spots carry with them not just the overwhelming spirit of nature and the unending ingenuity of man. There are also those that carry with them the fire of man’s heart, and the unrivaled virtues of his soul. These are the places shaped almost single-handedly by the history of the people — or, in this case, person — who lived in it.

Such is Dapitan, known as the place where the Jose Rizal, National Hero and the “Great Malayan”, spent his final years. Within its expansive landscape lies Rizal Shrine, which houses several structures paying tribute to the martyr’s deeds. If you are in the least bit interested in Rizal or his contributions to our country’s history, Rizal Shrine should be on your bucket list.

A Lot of History
Dapitan’s Rizal ShrineThe place carries a lot of history, but let’s dabble a bit in the Shrine’s past. The first 16 hectares of the park was bought by Rizal using money he had won from the lottery — imagine, Php 4,000 at that time could buy you a lot of land! From this space, Rizal established a farm and built some houses. He also created a school for the local boys, along with a hospital that attracted patients far and wide. He also built the local town plaza, complete with street lights! It is here that he also discovered some species that ultimately bore his name.

During this time, Rizal exercised his talents as the quintessential Renaissance Man — scientist, artist, philosopher, engineer, and more. And while all that ended when he was executed, his Dapitan retreat was destined to outlive him to the modern times. Despite being confiscated by the Spanish, the place was eventually converted to a park in 1913. Development and reconstruction of the original Rizal structures began, and finally in 1940 Manuel L. Quezon declared it as the Rizal National Park. In 1973, the coverage was expanded to include the area we know today.

All the Modern Trappings
For a historical place, the Shrine does have all the modern trappings of a tourist attraction. It is located less than 20 minutes away from Gloria Fantasyland in Sunset Boulevard. It is also within the same general area as Dakak Park and Beach Resort, known as one of the foremost beach resorts in the country. It is also located less than 10 kilometers from Dipolog Airport, so it is easily accessible by land and air.

Dapitan’s Rizal ShrineOnce you enter the park (whose surrounding protected landscape reaches a whopping 439 hectares in size), you will be greeted with a souvenir shop, and a ship that sells snacks and drinks. Note that there are no restaurants, though so you might have to bring your own food.

Beyond these reminders of the modern world, however, prepare to be transported back in time to when Rizal set foot in the area. The majority of the “houses” you will see are actually nipa huts, reconstructions of equivalent structures that stood during the four years Rizal was in the area!

Let’s take a look at the places you cannot miss in this wide expanse our hero once trod.

A Simple Life
While in exile, Rizal led a simple life dedicated to helping the Dapiteños. He applied his extensive knowledge to improving community life, and that’s a large part of the Shrine’s draw. Then again, there’s the endless shade of trees, the warm sun, the gentle brushing of the wind, and the tranquility that can only come from this rural atmosphere.

Dapitan’s Rizal ShrineOf course, there is the modern Rizaliana Museum which houses his belongings. Here you can find the original blackboard and desk used in the school he established, along with some of his clothes. There are also reproductions of some of his works, including paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, and more.

Then, there’s the mandatory tour through Rizal’s life and eventual martyrdom, through a series of four galleries. Departing from the simple setup is an e-learning classroom that expounds on various topics of Philippine history.

There are also various casas or houses, which served different purposes during Rizal’s stay:
Casa Residencia. This is the biggest house, and served as the primary residence. Rizal stayed here, along with his family when they are visiting. It has great views of the nearby Dapitan Bay.

Casa Cuadrada. Also known as the “Square House”, this served as a workshop and a place where Rizal’s students stayed.

Casa Redonda. Despite its name which translates to “Round House”, the structure is octagonal and serves as the primary dormitory. Later on, it was converted into a clinic. This place is famous for being the house where Rizal operated on the eyes of George Taufer, Josephine Bracken’s father.

Casa Redonda Pequena. This is the chicken house, and is hexagonal in shape.

Dapitan’s Rizal ShrineCocina. This is the kitchen, with traditional implements. It has open walls so as not to suffocate the person cooking.

Casitas de Salud. These two huts are originally built as tea houses, but were eventually converted to temporary residences for the hero’s patients who came from far-flung patients. One is for men, the other is for women.

Aqueduct and Dam. One of Rizal’s greatest achievements in the area is creating a water system that takes care of the local community. The aqueduct is a network of bamboo pipes that lead to the cocina. The dam, on the other hand, serves as a catch basin for fresh water supply.

Mi Retiro Rock. Rizal takes great inspiration from nature, and it is on this natural heart-shaped rock that our hero scribbled the verses of “Mi Retiro (A Mi Madre)” and “Himno a Talisay”.

There is also a modern auditorium, an open-air amphitheatre with a 500-person seating capacity. Here you can watch the occasional presentation about Rizal or our history. Aside from these few concrete structures, however, the simple yet intensely productive life that Rizal led here is very much apparent.

It would be no wonder if visitors here would find inspiration in what they see. Maybe they will even be inspired to follow in Rizal’s footsteps, to lead a life of intellectual and philanthropic pursuits and a selfless devotion to the good of the country. The Rizal Shrine stands not just as a memorial, but as an exhortation to be the hero the country needs.

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