You’ll never run out of things to do in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte. It has everything for all kinds of travelers—from the adrenaline junkie to the history geek, the nature lover to the insatiable foodie. It’s home to the famous resort Dakak, has a host of natural wonders, and shares a deep connection with the country’s national hero Jose Rizal.
Aside from these, the city is home to an attraction that has been well loved by locals and visitors for the past 12 years: Glorious Fantasyland (formerly Gloria’s Fantasyland), Mindanao’s biggest and most famous theme park.
Rides and attractions for all ages
Glorious Fantasyland opened its doors in 2009 as the brainchild of Zamboanga del Norte’s Jalosjos family who also owns Dakak. What started out as a humble pint-sized perya (or fair) has since expanded to a five-hectare theme park with rides, attractions, and shows to keep visitors entertained.
It takes pride in its over 30 rides and many other attractions. Arconil Jose Jalosjos, general manager, says that many of their rides are unique to the theme park, at least locally. “We have a 5D cinema, one of the best horror houses in Asia, one of the biggest rollercoasters, the Zimmerman, and now we have Lakbay Pinas.”
“Lakbay Pinas” is Glorious Fantasyland’s newest attraction, which opened just last December. It’s inspired by Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” and aims to showcase the beauty of the Philippines through miniature replicas depicting each region’s icons, which visitors can “explore” through a 7-minute train ride.
Among those featured are the Ifugao Rice Terraces, Manila’s Rizal Park, the different Visayan festivals, and the Grand Mosque of Cotabato, the second largest in Southeast Asia.
Aside from the rides that appeal to thrill seeking guests, younger visitors can choose among kid-friendly options like the carousel, tea-cup ride, and bump cars.
“The theme park can carry as many as 5,000 guests and all the employees are 100 percent vaccinated. We’re ready to receive visitors,” shares Jalosjos.
Most visitors are from nearby areas in Mindanao, but interestingly, the park also receives guests from Manila. Jalosjos explains that they “have a package with accommodation, Dakak, and a visit to Glorious Fantasyland that’s why we get guests from all over.”
More than the adrenaline pumping attractions, the theme park is also known for its musical show entitled “Nia and Anwar.” A favorite among visitors, the production starts at 8pm just before the park closes, but guests start saving a spot as much as an hour early.
The story follows Nia, the daughter of the great voyager Indri. She guards the goddess of night and day Rahna’s Cape of Stars that guides the voyagers’ boats home. One night, Nia gets distracted from her duty and leaves her post unguarded enabling the villainous Daawe to snatch the Cape of Stars in a sinister plot to overthrow Rahna. Helping in Nia’s fight against Daawe is her warrior friend Anwar.
Glorious Fantasyland’s entertainment director Jason Salvez shares how their chairman, Romeo Jalosjos, has always been a fan of the butanding and this served as the inspiration for the play. “That’s why the story features the butanding and the fantasy world.”
The audience only has a few seconds to catch their breath after the musical, because immediately following is the park’s equally famous “Festival of Colors” parade. Its 12 giant floats represent the culture and colors of 12 different countries from India to Brazil, Japan to the Philippines.
Pre-pandemic, they had about 170 talents who were largely outsourced from Manila. Now they only have 75, the majority of which are locals of Dapitan, with the remaining few from neighboring Dipolog.
“That’s how talented Dapitanons are,” shares Salvez. “Maybe after the pandemic we can hire more talents. Most of our performers are students. That’s one of the visions of our chairman—to help students help their families.”
Salvez says that they have recently revamped the production after observing that the audience couldn’t seem to relate to the previous iteration. “The audience wants fantasy. They want it easy to understand. They want it pleasing to the eyes,” he explains.
To address these observations, he revised the choreography for both the musical and the parade and even had all the costumes redesigned.
New attractions for the new year
The chairman of Glorious Fantasyland is a visionary who never runs out of ideas for the park. “All of the ideas are from him. We just execute and support (his ideas),” Jalosjos says.
Following his ideas, the management is all set to open a new attraction called “Snow World” and a Go Kart ride in the first quarter of 2022. Snow World sits on an area that’s almost 1,500 sqm wide and promises to let Mindanaoans experience winter.
Salvez adds with a chuckle, “We don’t know but with the chairman, probably after ‘Snow World’, we will have another (attraction) again. He will not stop.”
Glorious Fantasyland’s all-in package of unlimited rides, show, parade, and fireworks display (every weekend) is at Php1000/adult and Php500/kids 4ft below. Gates open at 2pm and close at 10pm or later depending on the volume of guests.
Shuttle services are available in Dipolog and Dapitan. Guests can also hop on a tricycle at the Dapitan town center and ask to be brought to Gloria de Dapitan.
Companies can make arrangements for the Glorious Fantasyland shuttle bus. Guests can be picked up from neighboring cities in Mindanao like Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro, or Ozamiz for a minimum of 50 pax.
Outsource the Planning
For a seamless trip, you may leave the planning to DOT’s accredited tour operators in Region 9:
- Itravel Tourist Lane
(062) 991-1174 / 0917-722-6410; email@example.com
- Buenas Travel and Tours
- Travel Max Tours
(062) 990-2100; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Happy Campers Tour and Leisure
- MTR Travel Specialist
0930-061-1690 / 0997-745-2957; email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
All tourist destinations in Dapitan have health and safety protocols in place to protect locals and visitors alike. Everyone is expected to comply by wearing face masks, regularly washing their hands, and practicing physical distancing.
To check out up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.