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If you find yourself in the Zamboanga Peninsula, make sure not to pass up the chance to visit Dipolog City’s historical sites and eco-tourism spots.

By Novie Rose Nunez

Nestled in the heart of the Zamboanga Peninsula, Dipolog City is a place of wonders, waiting to be discovered. With its captivating natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality, this city is a hidden gem that deserves to be explored.

The Archdiocese of Zamboanga established the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral in 1896. From 1896 to 1939, the parish was overseen by the Jesuit Society. In the year 1940, Reverend Father Nicasio Patangan was the first appointed Filipino diocesan cleric.

The remarkable wooden ceiling, wooden relief (made of Narra tree) of the four evangelists—Saint Mark, Saint Luke, Saint Matthew, and Saint John; the gigantic walls built with adobe stone blocks, and the three retablos of saints, are all historical and artistic treasures as the main retablo is said to have been designed by Dr. Jose Rizal.

Dipolog City tourism staff Edgar G. Largo, Jr. shares that during the exile of the national hero in Dapitan City, Rizal would sometimes visit the city of Dipolog because it was only 15 minutes away. He then designed the altar when he was invited by the parish priest.

The Diocese of Dipolog was established on July 31, 1967, by Bishop Felix Zafra D.D. who was also appointed the first bishop that year.

The original retablo was replaced by a sheer vertical design with a cross taking a prominent position as a result of Vatican II reforms, and the façade was renovated with a central bell tower during the time of Father Jesus Tuquib as the parish administrator. Meanwhile, the central aisle columns were removed in 1985-1986 under the parish priest, Monsignor Salvador Mora.

As part of the parish’s centennial celebration, Monsignor Esteban Gaudicos oversaw the restoration of the main retablo, which was replaced with carved marble.

Camping, hiking, trekking, rappelling, canyoneering, swimming, and tyrolean traverse are some of the amazing outdoor sports and adventures available at Sungkilaw Falls. It is a 20-foot-tall waterfall in the middle of a lush forest in Sitio Virginia, Barangay Diwan.

Aside from the natural features, there are several developments in the area for the comfort and convenience of would-be visitors. There is a large parking space, mushroom-shaped picnic gardens, showers, and comfort stations in the area.

Upon arriving at Sungkilaw Falls, tourists are greeted by the peaceful sound of cascading waterfalls and the cool mist that envelopes the area. The falls are easily accessible, and visitors can take a stroll along the winding paths leading to the falls. The trek to the falls entails around 400 steps weaving through the forest.

At the bottom of the falls is a serene pool, where visitors can swim and relax in the cool waters which locals believe have medicinal properties. The pool is surrounded by large rocks, making it an ideal place for tourists and locals to take a break and enjoy the stunning view. The area around the falls is perfect for picnics and family outings, and visitors can enjoy the tranquil atmosphere while indulging in some local delicacies.

One of Mayor Evelyn T. Uy’s recent projects, Demo Farm is located in Barangay Olingan. The City Agriculturist Office and the Department of Agriculture (DA) Region IX implemented this project, which has an integrated approach of diversified farming (rice, corn, vegetables, and fish culture) to intensify agricultural activities in the area and serves as a demonstration trial farm for new agricultural technologies that promotes organic agriculture.

“The city agriculturist office and DA Region IX guide the local farmers of what are the latest planting strategies. We are proud to say that last September 28, 2022, we launched the Zamboanga del Norte agri-tourism farm circuit wherein the agri-tourism farm is now included in tour packages around the region. Including the agri-tourism of Dipolog City,” says Largo.

The Php2 million property spans 1.5 hectares and houses the latest in agricultural technology. In addition to its research and training functions, Demo Farm also offers two innovative farming techniques which are hydroponics and aquaponics farming. These two have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their ability to produce high yields of crops with minimal water usage and low environmental impact. It was initiated by the Dipolog City government courtesy of Mayor Darel Uy and Engineer Kerr Porlas.

According to Yves Uy, the city agriculture officer, “Demo farm involves growing plants in nutrient-rich water instead of soil. This technique has several advantages over traditional farming, such as the ability to produce higher yields with less water, and the reduced need for pesticides which makes it more organic.”

He also says, that for every harvest, they gather six to seven kilos of lettuce depending on what kind of lettuce (Batavia Red, Eveline, and Romaine). Batavia Red costs around Php300 per kilo while Eveline lettuce and others cost Php200 per kilo. He adds, “We have sure buyers already, they go here to buy it for themselves. We also partnered with food establishments such as samgyupsal (Korean barbecue restaurants).”

On the other side of the Demo farm, you will see aquaponics farming. Uy says, “It combines hydroponics
with our fish (tilapia) farming. The tilapia’s waste is converted into nutrients and then circulates the lettuce
farming for them to grow. Take note that we should maintain the circulation to 7pH and 900-1,100 ppm,
otherwise the lettuce will taste bitter and inedible.”

Demo Farm is evidence of the commitment of Dipolog City to promote sustainable farming practices and
improve the livelihoods of local farmers. These innovative techniques have the potential to transform agriculture in the region and provide a sustainable source of food for the locals as well.

P’gsalabuk Circle is a landmark in Dipolog City, located at the intersection of Rizal Avenue and Quezon
Avenue. The circle is named after the Subanen word “P’gsalabuk,” which means “meeting place.” This iconic landmark serves as a hub for public transportation and is also a popular spot for locals and tourists to gather and socialize.

The sculpture of the P’gsalabuk Circle is both abstract and classical. It is Architect Manny Dacanay’s interpretation of Dipolog City today—a harmonious blend of rich cultural, ethnic, and historical legacy; deep-rooted traditions, values, and customs; and technological progress, modern innovations, and conveniences.

The three figures represent the three distinct civilizations that exist in Dipolog City: Lumad (Subanen), Muslim, and Christian settlers. Despite their differences, the people are bonded by a shared vision and optimism. The sculptures are over 4.50 meters tall and composed of resin, a polymer fiber product that is sturdy, light, and less expensive than bronze or brass. The raising of the bowl to the heavens is a symbol of appreciation and offering to the Almighty for the abundant outpouring of favors and blessings.

The 3,003 Steps to Linabo Peak is one of Dipolog City’s best nature ecotourism locations, which is found in Sitio Dinginan, Barangay Lugdungan. The city government built it in the early 1990s as one of the city’s major tourist attractions. At 486 meters above sea level, the spot is Dipolog’s highest peak. It is only six kilometers and 15 minutes from the city center.

According to Largo, it was originally built for the community of Dipolog city to have road access to the city and vice versa. They use horses to lift heavy things going upward. Tourists and locals can visit the community on the 2000th step and another 1003 steps to reach the peak. The entrance fee is Php20 for
adults and Php10 for kids. The parking fee is around Php5 to Php25. The path is marked with markers
symbolizing the 14 Stations of the Cross. Thousands of people flock here during the Lenten season to take part in the Katkat Sakripisyo, a religious reenactment of Jesus Christ’s passion, suffering, and death through the traditional Way of the Cross. Largo adds, “Our arrivals count more or less 20,000 a year
plus 20,000 more arrivals every Holy Week.” Reaching the top of Linabo Peak is a rewarding experience. The panoramic views of Dipolog City and the surrounding countryside are breathtaking, and tourists can also take in the sight of the nearby Dipolog Airport. The peak is also home to a small chapel, where
visitors can take a moment to rest and reflect. The 3,003 Steps trail is not for the faint of heart, and tourists must be physically fit and mentally prepared for the challenge. The trail is steep, and tourists will need to take frequent breaks to catch their breath and rehydrate. However, the feeling of accomplishment upon reaching the peak is worth the effort.

Cogon Ecotourism Park is a natural wonder located in Dipolog City. It is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike who are looking for an adventure in nature. This is a must-visit for those who want to experience the beauty of the great outdoors and learn about the importance of conserving the environment. The eco park covers an area of 355 hectares and 100 hectares of rattan plantation. Visitors
can enjoy the trails that wind through the eco park, taking in the breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. According to Largo, the local government approved the harvesting of rattan due to its huge leaves and branches with thorns that will kill the other plants and also help the locals to build their livelihood. He shares that recently the Women’s Association made products such as chairs, tables,
and bags out of rattan raw materials. Also, to help the locals, the DA in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) conducted training on how to make a product made of rattan. Cogon Ecotourism Park also provides livelihood opportunities for the local community. The eco park employs local guides, vendors, and craftsmen who sell their locally made handicrafts to tourists. This helps the local people showcase their culture and traditions to visitors while boosting the local economy.

Sometimes, the Subanen tribe showcases their traditional dance called Buklogan. This dance is an integral part of the tribe’s culture and is performed during festivals, weddings, and other important events. The dance is accompanied by the sound of drums and other percussion instruments. The Buklogan dance has gained recognition beyond the Subanen tribe and it has become a popular attraction for tourists.

It also has a Subanen village replica that allows visitors to get a glimpse into the daily lives of the tribe and
learn about their customs and beliefs. In addition to that, Cogon Ecotourism Park is also home to a variety of rescued animals such as giant heron birds, monkeys, and snakes. The eco park also offers a variety
of outdoor activities, including a challenging bike trail. This difficult bike trail is designed for experienced
mountain bikers who are seeking an adrenaline rush and a challenging adventure in the midst of nature.
Once you are done with the challenges and exhaustion of trails, the eco park has a designated
camping area that allows tourists and locals to enjoy. The camping area offers a variety of facilities to ensure that visitors have a comfortable and enjoyable stay. There are designated camping sites with fire pits and benches for visitors to use. They also provide clean and well-maintained restrooms.

The eco park receives an average of 60 to 100 visitors per day according to Largo. Visitors need only pay the affordable entrance fee, which is Php10 for kids and Php20 for adults.

DIPOLOG BOULEVARD The Dipolog City government developed the Foreshore Development Project to protect the shoreline and its surroundings. The project’s construction began in the year 2003. This Foreshore Development project was made possible with the support of the President’s Office through its Department of Finance’s Local Government of Finance and Development (LOGOFIND). The boulevard, which faces the Sulu Sea is 3.5 kilometers long and is ideal for promenades, physical fitness enthusiasts, and recreational activities. It has seating, restrooms, a working stage, and a children’s playground.

This boulevard comes alive during the P’gsalabuk Festival, Dahunog sa Dipolog, and Christmas time.
The boulevard is also home to several restaurants and food stalls that offer a wide range of local and
international cuisine tourists can feast on while enjoying the sea view. There is also local street food, such as grilled corn and fish balls. However, it is not only a scenic destination, but it’s also an excellent
example of the city’s commitment to sustainable tourism. One of the most notable features of the boulevard is its no garbage policy, anyone who breaks this policy faces substantial fines. The policy is an essential part of the city’s efforts to protect the environment and promote responsible tourism. So, whether you’re looking for a peaceful respite from city life, a romantic spot to watch the sunset, or an opportunity to experience the local culture, Dipolog Boulevard has something for everyone.

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