DAPITAN CITY, ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE – Dapitan City, the top tourist destination in Zamboanga Peninsula, received a significant boost in tourism after hosting the Foreign Armed Forces Attaché (FAFA) Corps from October 6 to 9, 2023, for the 2nd Semester FAFA Tour.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, under the leadership of Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., along with Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence MGEN Ferdinand Barandon and Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Commander MGEN Steve Crespillo, conducted the activity that aimed at informing the FAFA Corps about the current security situation in the country.
Present were 16 Defense Attachés and Assistant DefenseAttachés/Secretaries from Australia, Brunei, China, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, Germany, and Poland.
Mayor Seth Frederick Jalosjos is optimistic that after successfully hosting the FAFA Corps, the travel ban advisory by most countries on places in Mindanao, particularly Dapitan, will be lifted, and soon the city will be enjoying international tourist arrivals that will help boost its economy.
“I think there’s been not a shade of doubt that this is a very safe and secure place for all of us to come here and enjoy the beauty of this place. [Dapitan] is a hidden gem that not many people speak about in the Philippines. We’ve spoken about El Nido, of course, Coron, and Boracay. But I think Dapitan City is very undermined, and it should rise to the top,” Singaporean DefenseAttaché to the Philippines and Dean of FAFA Corps Col. Geajaindren Mariapan said on Saturday, October 7, during their historical tour of the Museo ni Rizal sa Dapitan, or Rizal Shrine.
The City Government of Dapitan leveraged the occasion to underscore the area’s reputation for a low crime rate and seized the opportunity to demonstrate the tranquil ambiance and hospitable community that characterize the city.
“It has been a wonderful experience so far, both in terms of safety and in terms of hospitality and cultural experience. After this, we will be learning about how Dapitan and Zamboanga [delNorte] as a whole will move forward in the economic sense of things, and at the same time, we will also be learning about how the WESTMINCOM is doing its part in the military aspect to boost the economy in this area,” Mariapan added.
Mindanao as peaceful tourist spot
The Department of Tourism (DOT) has partnered with the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to develop Mindanao into a peaceful tourist destination for domestic and international travelers. A memorandum of agreement was signed in Zamboanga City on May 31 to ensure peace, security, and order, while the national government prioritizes tourism development programs in Mindanao.
The memorandum aims to establish a framework for developing rural and insurgency-free communities with tourism potential in the region and implementing community-based tourism programs in the identified areas. The DND will sustain the peace and security programs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) by evaluating and recommending prospective areas for tourism development. The DILG will maintain programs that ensure peace and order in tourist destinations by deploying tourism police personnel.
The DOT will take charge of developing tourism circuits and providing tourism product development to emerging destinations, as well as delivering training intervention programs and livelihood assistance to tourism communities and workers. Through this agreement, Mindanao aims to become a haven for tourists seeking adventure and relaxation and a safe haven for the locals who call it home.
It can be recalled that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. selected Dapitan City as the only location for the Post-State of the National Address (Post-SONA) Forum in Mindanao on July 27. The said event focused on the tourism industry, peace, and development. It was aimed at raising awareness about the government’s efforts to boost tourism, which is a key contributor to economic growth and job creation nationwide. Additionally, it highlighted the importance of peace and development for achieving stability and progress in the country.
A Haven for International and Domestic Tourists
The Sangguniang Panlungsod released on October 2 a resolution declaring the Shrine City of the Philippines, Dapitan City, as a Haven for International and Domestic Tourists, considering that the city has been identified as one of the premier eco-tourism and heritage destinations in Zamboanga del Norte and is soon to be part of its product-added value under its Proposed Tourism Masterplan as “Smart Heritage City.
“Dapitan City is the perfect destination for those seeking an adventure into the great outdoors. This charming city offers an abundance of eco-tourism activities, including stunning white-sand beaches, thrilling caves, and majestic mountain ranges that will take your breath away,” City Tourism Officer Apple Marie Agolong said in an interview.
The city also boasts of its unique historical and cultural heritage, being the home of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, for four years during his exile, during which he was able to construct his own house, clinic, and school, among many others, which are all well preserved within the premises of Rizal Shrine, the tangible Relief Map of Mindanao personally designed by Dr. Rizal himself, as well as some heritage structures erected along the Rizal’s Train and Old Dapitan.
“The cultural elements of it—being able to immerse ourselves in where the hero of this country, Jose Rizal, stayed and actually experience his life over here—have been quite humbling, very inspiring for us, and really something that we can cherish and take away when we go back to our countries. This has been very special for us,” Mariapan described their experience in Dapitan.
The resolution also points out that the city has world-class tourist destinations such as the Dakak Park and Beach Resort, Dakak Golf Club, and the Glorious Fantasyland Complex, all of which are unique to and one-of-a-kind in Zamboanga Peninsula.
Gateway to Mindanao
Dapitan City is relatively close to some popular tourist areas in the Visayas region, including Dumaguete and Siquijor. Despite this close proximity, the ongoing travel restrictions in Mindanao due to safety concerns have made it challenging for travelers to visit Dapitan City. While the Visayas region does not have any travel bans, many tourists who had initially planned on visiting Dapitan have been unable to do so.
Mayor Jalosjos emphasized the critical importance of lifting the travel restrictions imposed on Dapitan, which serves as the primary transit point connecting Visayas and Mindanao. As part of his agenda during the FAFA visit, he aims to present the city’s peaceful and secure environment to the visitors.
National and international MICE destination
Dapitan City has proven itself as a perfect destination for meetings, incentives, conferences, and events (MICE). The city has successfully hosted events that drew attention not only locally but also worldwide. Its perfect mix of stunning nature, rich culture, and modern infrastructure sets it apart from other places. Dapitan City provides an idyllic backdrop that caters to both formal and informal events. From picturesque beaches to verdant parks and convention centers, this place has everything you need for an event.
The city has a proven track record when it comes to organizing large-scale events and ensuring the safety of participants. It has successfully hosted a variety of local and international events, including the Ironman 5150 Triathlon Dapitan, the Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC), the World Art Olympiad, the Mrs. Tourism Pageant, and the Miss Universe 1994 Provincial Visit. Additionally, the city has also hosted Miss Universe 2014 Reunion, Cinemalaya, the National Chess Championship, Ride of Heroes, Motocon, Palarong Pambansa2012, and the Mutya ng Pilipinas Eco-Tourism Tour, among others.
“You know it will be very hard for us to promote our city; although we have all the beautiful scenery, all the beautiful landmarks, and all the historical stories that we have to tell, the problem is always the stigma and the travel advisory ban of all these countries. We are happy that all their comments are praise, saying that right when they get home, they will advise their country and their ambassador to lift the ban, especially here in Dapitan City,” said Mayor Jalosjos.
“The time has come, and we are optimistic that we will be welcoming international tourists in the near future. Our administration has shown our commitment to show the world that Dapitan’s door is open to both domestic and international visitors,” Mayor Jalosjos conveyed his excitement for this development.