Zamboanga: a lot of Filipinos considered this place dangerous because of the insurgence that frequently happen in these parts of Mindanao. Dipolog City is actually the capital of the province of Zamboanga del Norte. Contrary to the fear that was reached my eyes and ears way back in my student days, Dipolog showed to me a far more peaceful city than a lot of cities I know of in the country.
The Unplanned Trip to Dipolog City
I honestly did not know what to expect because days before this trip I had nothing planned. Absolutely nothing. I had only one thing to set to do and that was a little mission to visit a coffee shop in the city as part of a 12-challenges mission that I was set to complete that year.
Thankfully, at the last minute a friend of mine, who I have had not connected with for the past five years, replied to my message. From there experiencing Dipolog completely changed. Locals know their place best and you get some pretty interesting insight about the town’s behavior and culture.
Small Town but Growing City
Imagine a small town where everyone seems to know everyone. You could actually prop up a scooter, a pair of roller skates or even use your bike and you’re set to get anywhere and everywhere in this city. It almost feels like a suburban subdivision except it’s a city.
Everything is within reach and during my stay, when I wasn’t hanging out with my new friends in the city I was walking around and exploring the city by foot. I always feel like I can get a better perspective of the local environment when I get to have long walks around. Small details like number of cars, spacing of houses, signs that stores use and even the presence of certain big brands in the city can give me a more detailed story of what this city is really like.
Walking around has allowed me to see the cities new buildings opening up to cater a growing spending market. The spending power in Dipolog is increasing as more and more OFW’s begin to fuel the economy in the city. Though there is now more spending capacity there’s still that same hesitation to splurge which kind of reminds of how Cebuanos were like before the major economic growth of Cebu.
You won’t see stoplights or even traffic officers manning the streets but you will notice that the roads are paved, there’s a lot of construction around, this city is definitely growing and there’s no stopping it.
You could easily generalise that Dipolog is just one of those small towns in the far provinces of the Philippine, I mean, who has ever said to you “Oh wow! You wanna see more of the Philippines? Go to Dipolog City! There’s SO MUCH to see!” Let’s be honest here, you prolly haven’t heard anyone tell you that.
But that doesn’t mean Dipolog doesn’t have much to offer. You could start by exploring their beautiful Dipolog Cathedral which is situated at the main area of the city, a characteristic common in the spanish era. Fronting the church is also a beautiful park with some cute attempts of sculptures of movie characters.
While going through the smaller roads in the city I got to end up in this beautiful river– the Dipolog River. If I had someone to go with, I could’ve opted to have a kayaking tour through the river under the blazing sun. Mostly I’m just not a sun person so I opted to just watch from the side.
If you want to take a break from all that walking, The Book Café offers an adorable interior while you dine and drink inside. Heads up for those concerned with phone signal, there’s no phone signal inside the café.
If you want to grab dinner, top on my list would Esquina and Songhits. Unlike the Songhits in Cebu, the one in Dipolog offers very fresh seafood which did not fail to impress me at all!
If you’re looking for a more “hole-in-the-wall” experience, go for Esquina. The small restaurant offers a unique experience in Dipolog City where your menu is actually an Android tablet and their fish and chips is actually Sardines (something the city is known for) and french fries.
Most memorable would be their crispy pata and their sausages. This place is best enjoyed with a group of friends so you get to order more options.
For Desserts? Head over to a Knickerbocker stall which is actually made popular in Zamboanga City but caught on here in Dipolog City. The Knickerbocker could be likened to our own Halo-halo but this British sweet treat is described as a sundae with layers of fruits served in a tall glass.
Simple People Simple Life
There’s no excessive luxury being flashed around in this city. When you’re there everyone is equal. The upper and lower class both dine in the same food stalls, the roads are shared by everyone, and there is not clear distinction between those who can afford great luxuries over those who cannot.
Though Jollibee has already set foot in the city, McDonalds only recently just opened up in the city. Everyone here prefers the simple joys of the city like going around the beautiful Dipolog Boulevard while watching the sun gracefully set into the horizon.
When you’re hungry again head over to this corner in the boulevard where there are several food stalls that serve deep fried goodies which I know any doctor would not recommend at all. Who can resist street food when you are in such a cozy environment.
How Time Slows Down Here
Funny thing is, I could not notice that already four days have gone by when I was in Dipolog but each day also didn’t feel like it ended really fast. I felt like each day moved very very slowly.
When I wake up there’s no hurry to get up and start moving about. I just know that there’s still much to see and I get up on my own time. I no longer look at my watch and think about what time it is already. I just go through the day and I know the day nears its end when the sun sets and the sky turns into a bright shade of orange.
Why? I guess it’s because the attitude and behaviour of most people in this town is very calm and relaxed. There’s no hustle or bustle which you will distinctly feel in a metropolitan city like in Metro Manila. Dipolog somehow gave me the breather I needed and quite unexpectedly so. From a city unfamiliar to me, to a city I long to visit once more. Dipolog has caught my heart.
How to get to Dipolog City?
So far there are two ways you can get to Dipolog City from Cebu and Manila. Both metropolitan cities have flights directly to Dipolog City via Cebu Pacific.
However in Cebu, you do not need to fly, if you have time to spare then an overnight boat ride from Cebu to Dipolog will do!
Dipolog City, humble town of the north, you have clearly shown that Philippines offers more than just the usual postcard cities. You have inspired me to see every possible city of the Archipelago. I hope I get to dive your waters one day.