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[OPINION] An open letter to Erwin Tulfo from a Dapitanon

I am Gualberto Laput, 53 years old, resident of Guading Adasa Street, Dapitan City, and founder of the Dapitan Historical Society. 

I am a Dapitanon. 

Last April 28, you were interviewed by members of the media at a lunch in my hometown with former Dipolog City mayor Evelyn Tang-Uy, who is running for mayor in Dapitan. Just like a lot of my fellow Dapitanons, I was hurt, insulted, disgusted and angry at the comments you gave about Dapitan and its people.

Towards the end of the interview, you said: “Tayo hong mga broadcasters bumabanat not just for the sake [of hitting somebody], but para umayos. Alam ho natin yan, kahit taga-Manila na media o taga-probinsiya na media, iisa lang naman ang pinag-aralan natin sa eskwelahan ng journalism.”

(Broadcasters like us cover not just for the sake [of hitting somebody] but to find solutions. We all know that, whether you're media from Manila or from the province, since we learned the same lessons in our school of journalism.) 

But I find your comments about Dapitan and its people unlikely to come from a sensible journalist, outrageously unfair and full of mistakes, which are indicative of incomplete and inaccurate background information.

The entire interview could be digested in 5 statements by which you said:

1. “Saan ka ba nakakita ng city na you only have one bank?” (Where can you find a city with only one bank?)

Dapitan has 4 banks–  a government bank, LandBank; a thrift bank and two rural banks. But that is beside the point as banks are not a requirement for a place to become a city. Only the Congress can create cities. And there were no requirements except for an approved City Charter until 1983 when Batas Pambansa Bilang 337 became a law that enacted the Local Government Code.

For the sake of your education, my dear Mr. Tulfo, please know that Dapitan became a city because of its historical value – it is where Dr. Jose Rizal spent 4 years in exile. In their cityhood effort, Dapitanons cited the creation of Trece Martires City in Cavite as an antecedent.

On June 22, 1963, President Diosdado Macapagal signed Republic Act 3811, which provided the Charter of the City of Dapitan.

2. “Pumunta ka ng Dipolog, maraming fastfood. Bakit ba ang taga-Dapitan hindi marunong kumain ng Jollibee?” (Go to Dipolog, where there's a lot of fastfood.  Don't people from Dapitan know how to eat Jollibee?)

We sometimes eat Jollibee, but we cherish our home-cooked food. You see, Dapitan’s development thrust is tourism because of its rich history both on the life of our national hero and that of the Catholic Church. (Walking Rizal's steps: Where to go in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte)

Dapitanons’ way of life is very much part of tourism, and how else can we impart ourselves other than offering the food we eat.

Did you know that the popular Spanish bottled sardines of Dipolog City actually has roots in Dapitan? The great grandmother of the family that started the Spanish sardines business was a Dapitanon and a cook of the Jesuit priests in Dapitan. She learned how to preserve sardines from the missionaries, who found out that sardines in our place taste good.

Lately, a United Nations-funded study discovered that the great taste of sardines here is because of the upwelling of the sea in which nutrients from seabed are brought up and finally carried to the shores. Nutrients are followed by planktons, which are food of fish, including sardines. So, the next time you eat Spanish sardines, think of a natural phenomenon called upwelling, and history put into a bottle.

By the way, Mr. Tulfo, tourists don’t go to a place because of Jollibee.

3. “Alam kong may negosyo dito, pero isa lang ho ang may-ari, yung Dakak… It’s a sad reality na it’s a city… Papaano matatawag na lungsod ito na ganito naman, backwards.” (I know there are businesses here but there's only one owner, Dakak... It's a sad reality that it's a city... How can this be called a city when it's like this, backwards?)

Dakak is prominent because it is a five-star resort, and its owners also built the first theme park in the city complete with restaurants, ice cream stall, rides, cinemas and nightly production that currently highlights the preservation of Butanding or whale sharks.

But we also have a lot of other businesses. If you go to our coastal barangays, it is covered with beach resorts, some of which are even owned by businessmen from Dipolog City. We also have floating cottages at a cove in Barangay Taguilon. The biggest of which is owned by a close relative of the Uy family, the political rival of the Jalosjoses who own Dakak.

The heart of Dapitan remains sleepy though. And that is exactly how we want it to be – we preserve our heritage and our history. There you can find the relief map of Mindanao in front of St. James the Greater Church. Rizal’s map is within the city plaza, which is patterned after the plazas in Europe.

Dapitan is mainly an agricultural place. And business and industrial growth is confined outside the city proper because we want to have a balance between making money and preserving our heritage in the center of Dapitan.

Besides, you cannot call us backwards. Examples: we have a five-star resort and smaller resorts, a lot of budget hotels, bed and breakfast inns, and five-star restaurants down to eateries. Try our “Pinakurat” with “puso” Mr. Tulfo, it’s better and healthier than hamburgers or French fries.

If you say we have backward development than our neighboring Dipolog City, include this in your news: a day after Teatro de Dapitan joined all legitimate movie houses worldwide in showing Avengers: Endgame, Dipolog’s Orient Cable TV provider illegally aired the Marvel movie.

Tell your friends in Dipolog to build their own movie house if they want to stunt Dapitan’s economic growth. It’s legal and much better than piracy. 

4. “Pati yung police station, gusto kong maiyak nung nakita ko. Tinanong ko yung driver kung dyan ba kinulong si Rizal, hindi naman daw. Estasyon ho ng police yun, akala ko estasyon ng guardia civil.” (Including the police station, I wanted to cry when I saw it. I asked the driver if that was where Rizal was jailed, he said no. It was a police station, I thought it was a station of the Spanish era civil guards.)

At present the Dapitan Police Office is temporarily located at the old City Hall, pending completion of the new police station.

Our local government, and we Dapitanons, have no plans of demolishing our old city hall, again, because of its historical value. It was constructed during the American time. And it was designed akin to the 18th century Casa Real, the Spanish governor's residence where Jose Rizal stayed during the first few months of his exile. (READ: Rizal's student in Dapitan recalls service, duty, sense of dedication)

We want to restore the old city hall and make it a museum.

By the way, Mr. Tulfo, there is a big difference between exiled and imprisoned.

5. “Ganito ba talaga sa Dapitan? Buti na lang pati yung mga tao hindi nakasuot ng kamisa de tsino ng Espanyol…” (Is it really like this in Dapitan? Good thing the people aren't wearing kamisa de tsino of the Spaniards.)

Why not? Visit us again in December when we hold our “Handuraw” (remembering). You can join us in wearing our traditional Spanish-era clothing, and we will together eat our homemade food. Perhaps, while having dessert and coffee, we can share to you our story, our life and about Dapitan, which we dearly call home. – Rappler.com

Gualberto Laput is a journalist and founder of the Dapitan Historical Society.