Soon after Jose Rizal Returned from Europe in 1892, the Spaniards accused him of smuggling anti friar leaflets into the country. He was immediately exiled to Dapitan, a town in Mindanao, without the benefit of a court trial.
The truth was, the Spaniards were just waiting for an excuse to get rid of Rizal. In their eyes, he was the enemy. They were particularly angered by his two novels – Moli Me Tangere, which told of the social cancer eating away at Philippine society during the colonial period, and El Filibusterismo, which warned of a coming revolution unless needed reforms were undertaken.
Rizal’s exile in Dapitan lasted four years, from July 17, 1892 to July 31, 1896. Although he was placed under the supervision of the town’s Spanish authorities, he was allowed to move around so long as he complied with the terms of his deportation.
As luck would have it, only two months into his stay he won P6,200 in a lottery. Using his winnings, he bought 16 hectares of land in Talisay, a seaside barrio. There he started a farm, put up a school for boys and built a small hospital where he treated the poor for free.
After Rizal was executed, his properties in Dapitan were confiscated by the colonial government. In 1940 President Manuel Quezon set aside ten hectares of the farm as a reservation to be known as Rizal National Park.
The Rizal Shrine Dapitan today stands exactly on the same spot where Rizal built his home in exile on a tongue of land looking into the Sulu Sea. It is as charming as the hero had described it in his poem “Mi Retiro.”
All the houses were rebuilt on their original sites and resemble the original structures of bamboo and nipa.
There are five houses. The rectangular Casa Residencia, or main house, is the biggest. This was Rizal’s house. It has one bedroom and a surrounding veranda affords a view of the sea. Flanking the main house are the kitchen and the poultry house.
Perched atop a low hill are two small huts called Casitas de Salud, or health houses, one for males, the other for females. They provided lodgings for Rizal’s out-of-town patients. A separate house with eight sides, the Casa Redonda, served as his clinic and as a dormitory for his students. At the base of the hill, close to the clinic, is the Casa Cuadrada, or square house. This was the workshop and second dormitory for Rizal’s pupils.
Among the other structures on the shrine grounds are a dam, an aqueduct, a water reservoir, an amphitheater and a museum. Rizal built the water system, but only the dam dates back to his time. The Rizaliana museum, built in 1971, contains the hero’s artifacts such as the blackboard and the table he used in his school in Talisay.