Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Philippines: Dipolog Travel Guide

Aliguay
Aliguay
Aliguay: Kids on Bike
Shoes!
Goldfish for sale
Dakak
Dakak
Summer Snaps by Maria Cruz

(Image 1, 2, 3; Aliguay Island. Image 4 & 5; Dipolog Markets. Image 6 & 7; Dakak Beach Resort. Image 8; Pinahon Island. All images shot by me)

A few days before I left Sydney I went to the bookstore to find a section on Dipolog in the Lonely Planet guides. To my surprise there was no section about the town. So, with this in mind while I was overseas, I decided to write a small guide through my experiences. 

Dipolog is a small provincial coastal town situated in Zamboanga del Norte, north of Mindanao. The languages spoken are Visayan, Tagalog and English. What I love about Dipolog is it's small town vibe, amazingly cheap and abundant seafood, and surrounding islands. The best mode of transport is either by renting motorbikes or tricycles (similar to Thailand's Tuk-Tuks), the fare for tricycles are about 8 pesos.
Downtown is probably the size of, maybe, a couple of football fields. You'll find small malls, drugstores, supermarkets, hotels, markets, franchise restaurants as well as local ones. All information can be gathered at the airport information booth, if you haven't prepared an itinerary in advanced. When you arrive it's best that you register detailing your stay.

Markets:
The main market is located downtown off Rizal Street you can find pretty much everything you need, from butchers, fruit and vegetables, rice, clothing, shoes etc. They are open everyday from 9am- to about 9pm (even later). 

There is also a second market on Friday, where farmers around Mindanao travel to sell their produce. Somewhat like a farmers market. It's located near one of the boat ports. Also, surrounding this market are Ukay-Ukay stalls, which sell second hand clothing, you can definitely bag a bargain. Prices range from 5 to 100 pesos per garment, you can haggle for a cheaper price if you wish.

Places to eat/ things to try:
When you arrive at Dipolog Airport and if you're feeling a bit peckish and looking for a place to eat, I recommend a canteen located outside the airport. The name escapes me (Cafe Baen?). But if you are standing on the airport steps and facing the exit gates, on the far left you will see a small little house which is a canteen. Meals are very affordable and are Filipino dishes. I ate 4 dishes + rice, the cost was about 250 pesos all up.

Dipolog is famous for orchids and Spanish Sardines, the sardines are definitely worth a try and a great gift idea.

Cafe Isabelle is one of the fancier places to eat. A fairy lights drenched place with a wooden furnished Filipino charm to it. it's not located downtown, but a couple minutes away in the suburbs via Tricyle. Filipino dishes can be ordered at the main restaurant for lunch and dinner, but there is also a small cafe/ bakery at the front if you're just after a quick coffee or breakfast. A meal would cost you about maybe around 300 to 500 pesos. Bring your laptop as they have free WiFi there.

Ur Choice Cafe is an Italian restaurant owned by a Italian native who migrated to Dipolog. It's located near Lee Plaza, off a side street opposite a school. Food I recommend are the blue cheese pizza and seafood marinara. The pasta is served with fresh seafood which was absolutely delicious, and I am told they make their own pasta noodles and sauces. Meal prices range from 100- 500 pesos.

Honrubia's Halo-Halo and Refreshment House is a great little hole in the wall Filipino desert bar, a great way to cool yourself down on hot days. There is an assortment of different Halo-Halo mixes, between 30-100 pesos. It's located off Dipolog Boulevard. Buy a take-out cup and walk down to the Boulevard to watch the sun go down. Nothing beats desert and the sunset!

Dipolog Boulevard is a 3km stretch which rivals Roxas Boulevard that looks over Manila Bay. It's a lovers lane, teenage hangout, longboarding/ skateboarding dream. If you are a sports enthusiast you can test your basketball skills against the locals at it's many basketball courts. If you like Thaibo you can participate with the hundreds of locals for free. Classes are located at the Boulevard stage at 5am and there is a sunset session at 5pm. If you're a skater there is also a small skate park between the basketball court and main stage. Or you can jog the 3km stretch.
In the evening food stalls line the street. Do try Balut a Filipino delicacy which is a young chicken fetes boiled. Or try the many BBQ street food stalls. Prices are about 10 pesos each.

Islands and Resorts:
Dakak Beach Resort is a beautiful palm tree drenched beach resort nestled in Dapitan. Room prices range from $100-195 USD. I stayed there back in 2004, but they have recently renovated. There is a hotel restaurant, 3x pools (main pool with water slides), basketball court, kayaking, snorkelling, jet ski activities. At around 7pm they have traditional dance performances near the resort restaurant. And a live band that plays easy listening tunes, as well as old retro Filipino love songs at the Pirate Bar. Dakak is the main resort that tourists go to and one that should be visited, even just for one night.

Pinahon Island. You can either drive there which takes about an hour. Or you can rent a bangka (boat) and travel by sea, which I suggest to do. Travel time is the same as land, depending on how choppy the sea is. Pinahon is small and quaint, it's a no fuss, crystal clear water kind of place. Where swimming, eating and relaxing are the main activities. You can take a small bangka to big bamboo fishing boats 300 metres near the island, where you can jump off into the very deep blue sea. Definitely a place to reflect, read a good book and swim to your hearts content. 

Aliguay Island, is part of the Dapitan district. It is part of Dakak Resort's island hopping tours, however you can rent beach bungalows and stay there. The mode of transport is by bangka (boat) via Dipolog's boat piers. You can book boats in advanced via private operators. Travel time is 35 minutes if it is not choppy, and about 1 hour if it is. When staying at beach bungalows, there are caretakers who will be happy to cook for you, you don't need to pay them to cook as it is art of the package when staying, but I recommend that you give them a tip. Buying fresh produce doesn't cost an arm and a leg and quite frankly, tastes better. There is a resort restaurant that you can eat at too.
The island has a paved track that you can circle in about an hour depending on how fast you ride or walk. The track takes you through small seaside neighbourhoods, gorgeous age old coconut trees, mangroves, and the peak of the island that is untouched; which seems to be like a bird sanctuary. There is also a few underwater caves you can swim through, however, I recommend this for the brave, as sea snakes do live there. The beach doesn't have fine sand like Boracay or Dakak, so reef shoes are a must. Alternatively you can swim at the resort's pool. Make sure you head to the make shift plastic pier to test your balancing act ability, also, this vantage point is the best place to watch the sunset.

For more info visit the Dipolog City on http://dipologcity.gov.ph/

I will always advocate travelling to The Philippines, my motherland. Do visit Dipolog and it's neighbouring small towns and islands, it really is a lovely place. This travel guide is just a small snap shot of what this area of Mindanao has to offer.

5 comments:

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Raver Ria said...

It is a beautiful country. I love going back there :)

Yes, I shall visit your blog!

Thanks for stopping by.

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