Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte

Dipolog Rotonda FountainDipolog City is the capital city of Zamboanga del Norte province. Dipolog sits on the Western edge of Mindanao Island, at the Northwestern rim of the Zamboanga Peninsula. Dipolog is a fishing and interisland shipping port. There is also a commercial airport. Its city status dates from 1969; it had been a municipality since 1913 and, before that, had been considered an outer adjunct of the port of Dapitan on Dapitan Bay, some 10 miles (16 km) to the northeast. Dipolog long since outstripped the other town in size and importance, however. Dipolog is bounded in the North by Dapitan City, in the East by Municipality of Polanco, on the South by the Municipality of Katipunan and the West by the Sulu Sea.

Dipolog’s earliest recorded history started in 1834 when a civil government was organized by the Spanish Provincial government of Misamis, under whose jurisdiction we then belonged, with the appointment of a “Captain” as town executive, ‘Teniente’ and an ‘Aguacil’ to maintain law and order. Don Domingo Ruiz, a native, was the town executive that year when the town site transferred from Sitio Tulwanan to where it is now.

Tradition says that in that year, a Spanish Recollect Missionary arrived in Tulwanan believing that the townsite was still there. Upon meeting a native, asked: “Donde esta el Capitan?” (Where is the captain?) Our unknown hero, understanding only word ‘capitan’ pointed to the west and said in Subano “Di. . .pag,” meaning ‘across the river’. Guided by his ‘muchacho’, a Tagalog boy named Antonio Subido, the Padre proceeded downriver and upon reaching the townsite named the place “Dipag”. Through the years, this was corrupted by mispronunciation and intermingling of Visayan and Subano words into what it is today “Dipolog”.

But many years before that, Christianized and pagan settlers from the visayas had already settled and mingled with the Subanos. For safety’s sake against marauding pirates, they established a pueblo in what is now Barangay Sianib of Polanco, some twenty (20) kilometers from the coast of Dipolog. When danger from piracy subsided, they transferred the settlement to Sitio Isab, Nipaan and constructed a church on a hilltop over looking a wide plain and the mouth of the Isab creek.

The Spanish colonization of Dipolog and Northwestern Mindanao was done with the Cross of Catholicism, and the Missionaries, demanded that the Christianized natives attend mass and church services morning and afternoon. The inconvenience of tramping up and down that hill to appease the priest, compelled the people to move downriver to Tulwanan were they build another Capilla. In 1834, as stated earlier, they transferred to the present site at the mouth of Dipolog River.

As more and more settlers composed mostly of Boholanos, Cebuanos and pioneers from Negros, came to stay and cultivate the soil, a succession of Capitanes governed the town.

In 1903, while visiting Dapitan, Judge William H. Taft, President of the Second Philippine Commission, decreed that Dapitan District which included Dipolog and the neighboring township must be separated from Cagayan de Oro of Misamis Province and annexed to the Provincia Mora which later became Zamboanga Province.

Then the ‘reversion’ came. On March 4, 1904, while Isidro Patangan was Presidente Municipal, an American Officer who was the Provincial Secretary of the Provincia Mora, and in his capacity as a Deputy of the Provincial Governor, came to Dipolog. He called an urgent meeting on all incumbent and ex-town officials and other prominent ‘principalia’ and delivered a written order that effective immediately, Dipolog was converted into a barrio of Dapitan to be represented by only two councilors with two policemen to maintain peace and order and periodic patrol of the newly-organized Philippine Constabulary.

This sad state of affairs persisted for eight years, with the people filing protests and petitions that ended nowhere. Then in 1910, a young man from Dipolog was appointed Municipal President of Dapitan. He was only 25 years old, single and his appointment came by pure chance. But Dipolognons at that time say it was providential. An old manuscript tells us this story:

“One day in the year 1910, Provincial Governor of Zamboanga Province Mr. Helper visited Dipolog and proceeded to Dapitan on horseback, escorted by the town’s principalia mostly members of the Centro Catolico de Dipolog up to the mouth of the Dipolog river at Barra District. Upon passing by the residence of Don Jose Aguirre, Governor Helper was invited to come up. There he met Pascual T. Martinez who was ahead of him in the house of Don Jose. An offer of an office as Municipal President of Dapitan was made to Pascual T. Martinez.”

Dipolog City is accessible by air thru Dipolog City Airport which is 900 meters from the poblacion via the Barra- Minaog Bridge. Flight to and from Manila is provided daily by Cebu Pacific Air and PAL’s B-737. Flight to and from Cebu is trice weekly.

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