Saturday, April 7, 2012

Why I Love the City of Gentle People: Dumaguete Chronicles



Some time ago, I was tasked to do events and media engagements in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental. I was convinced that this is just another rural town, with nothing much to do other than try their local delicacies and treat my lungs with whiffs of unpolluted air. Being a traveler at heart, I still did my research about the humble town and packed my bags, clueless that I was about to fall in love.

Dumaguete is a pretty small city, unexpectedly progressive, and highly charismatic. Everything you'll need is within arm's reach. Believe me, I never felt deprived of my usual, city girl needs - convenient stores, banks, bakeshops, cafes, restaurants etc. The center of the city cradles the famed Silliman University, the St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral and stone Bell Tower and the Rizal Boulevard. Being a coastal area, they also have the "Hayahay" and "Lab-as" where you can get your beer and seafood fix - reminds me of Malate during its golden days. I won't lie and tell you that there's a lot of things to do in the city, in truth, I think that the charm of the place comes from the fact that you enjoy the goodness of rural, slow-paced life without giving up all the comfort of the big city. I spent five days alone in Dumaguete, and there's not a single moment when I prayed to fast forward time. There, I enjoyed taking my sweet time, silence, good coffee, good food, and literally motorbiking around; without a damn, and without a helmet. Oops, did I just say that?
So, if your stress level is up your neck, you may want to consider a get away that is out of the usual - and by usual I mean suspects like Puerto Galera, Boracay or Bohol. In Dumaguete, you can get lost in a motorbike, taste the freshest sea catch, live in ancestral homes-turned-inns, and talk to random people over a glass of wine in a deli, or a bottle of beer in "Hayahay" - depending on your mood. It's quite inexpensive, too.
And if you're curious to know, here are the top things I love about Dumaguete City:

  • Accommodation. They have a wide range of accommodations depending on your need and budget. I chose to stay in a mansion-turned-inn called the HoneyComb Tourist Inn. When I'm OOT, I always skip the modern hotels, which I can always get in Manila anyways. If you plan to stay here, ask for a room on the second floor, facing the sea. Double Deluxe Room costs Php 1,200/night  (USD 30/night). Service is great, and food is not bad either. They have their own restaurant and ordering room service is a breeze. Just make sure that you are okay with a bit of music from the club next door.  
Photo from the website
My room. Love the curtains!

  • The Rizal Boulevard. Much like Manila's Bay Walk, this is where locals and tourists usually go to take a walk along the coast, and do absolutely nothing. I go here after dinner and just watch people (and lots of pure bred dogs) come and go, and it calms my mind like magic. I also like waiting for the vendor selling traditional "dirty" ice cream in mango flavor. 
Romantic at night
More beautiful by day

  • Food. The Rizal Boulevard is lined by lots of restaurants, cafes and even a deli. From high-end places serving international cuisines to lesser expensive ones that serve usual Filipino short orders like Tapsilog (cured beef, egg and fried rice). They also have several cafes and dessert place for your sweet tooth. I especially liked Cafe Mamia's and Casa Blanca Deli. If you're in for a short drive, or tricycle ride, you can get fresh seafood in Hayahay or Lab-as.
If you don't mind spending a few hundreds, Casa Blanca is a good place to go.
Baked Potatoes with Blue Cheese sauce. WINNER!
Calamari is three sauce
Chicken in Green & Yellow Curry



Cafe Mamia offers really good coffee and tempting cakes at really affordable prices. Big cup of hot caramel machiatto coffee is less than Php 100.00! Their cakes and pastries on the other hand start at Php 60.00 and up. A must visit place. :) Photo VIA.








For pasalubong, they also have the best Silvanas I've tasted so far - which curiously is being sold at SANS RIVAL Cakes and Pastries (San Jose St., still fronting the boulevard). I was so addicted that I ordered more boxes to bring home, even though I have to pick them up at 7am before my 9am flight home! =D Price is Php 160.00/box of 10 or USD 3.80
Chili Crab from Hayahay

  • Silliman University. This renowned university is also the oldest American Academic Institution in the country. The University itself is a piece of history and at present, one of the top performing schools in the Philippines. It's a melting pot of cultures and religions and is gifted with a charming location dotted with hundreds of giant trees and in some part, includes the beach. I'm so amazed with Silliman, that I long for the day I get the chance to study in such an inspiring environment.
The Silliman Museum. No picture taking inside, but let me tell you that their collection is pretty wide and well-maintained. A must visit. Entrance fee is Php 40.00. (USD 1.00)
Feeling Colegiala once again! :) - Silliman Campus

  • Old Cathedral and Bell Tower. Religious or not, you will appreciate seeing one of the oldest stone churches in the country. The St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral is actually the oldest stone church in the whole of Negros, and has already undergone reconstruction, which is no surprise since it was originally built in 1754!
The Bell Tower also served as surveillance post during the colonial period. Devotees of Mother Mary can now offer prayers and flowers in the grotto built at the footstep of the tower.

  • Beach Resorts. Mere 20 minutes of driving leads you to many beach resorts in Dauin area. I managed to squeeze in visiting El Dorado beach resort, to unwind and feel the ocean breeze while sipping a mojito fruit shake. The facilities of the resort are actually very nice, and I learned that many foreigners often come here to dive. This is also the jump point going to Apo Island, a few minutes by boat from the beach of El Dorado. Too bad I didn't have enough time to visit the pretty, white sand diving spot. Next time!

Their sand is nowhere white, but I'm still a sucker for beach and staring at the sea is a guilty pleasure, so I don't discriminate.

  • Motorbikes for Rent! Though tricycles are available everywhere, I still think that the best way to go around the city is through a motorbike! It's a common mode of transportation for locals and tourists, and you can easily rent a motorbike of your choice for as low as Php 25.00/hour or USD .60/hour. I got a brand new (3-day old) automatic Honda scooter and boy it brought me to places! =D Talk about immersion and living the locals' way of life. For your peace of mind, yes, I have a license.
SALUTE to a fun fun day! =)

If I'm effective enough to at least stir your interest to visit Dumaguete City, then it's good for you to know that whenever Cebu Pacific has Piso Fare promos, Dumaguete is one of the slow moving destinations. More chance to get a really good deal! I promise, you won't regret it., and I don't mind sharing my "in love" feeling. No wonder why many acquaintances tell me that they usually do soul searching (and even finish writing MA thesis) in this gentle city.

Have you been to Dumaguete City? Did you like it? More Fun in the Philippines, yeah?  =)

From the Nook, 
Dang

8 comments:

  1. I was convinced that this is just another rural town, with nothing much to do other than try their local delicacies and treat my lungs with whiffs of unpolluted air.

    Are you really seriously by saying the air in Dumaguete is unpolluted. Have no idea which part of the city you refer to but imho the air is poisened by the smoke of the many 2 stroke tricycles, trucks and buses with diesel engines that in the event you have the bad luck to ride behind any white shirt you wear will turn into a black coloured almost instantly. In spite of this I have a love hate affair with the city of gentle people.

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  2. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you for your comment. Yes, I'm serious about it. I guess when you commute from Las Pinas to Makati everyday, you tend to appreciate anything better than EDSA.

    I particularly like the fresh air in Silliman Marine Biology Campus (facing the sea) and the beach I visited in Bauang.

    Have a great day! :)

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  3. Hi Dang,

    Happy to know that you love our city. btw, it is Bacong not Bauang :)
    Cheers!

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  4. Dear Anonymous (I really hope to know your name =P),

    Thank you for comment. I double checked El Dorado website and found out it's actually in Dauin! Sorry for the confusion. :)I stand corrected and edited it already.

    Cheers!
    Dang

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  5. What nice things to say about my hometown. Happy you enjoyed your stay!

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Kat! I actually went back to Dumaguete just last week. I'm still in love! :) Cafe Mamia and Sans Rival moved to even better locations. i gained weight. ;)

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  6. Hi Dang,

    This is perfect as mom, younger bro and I will visit Dumaguete this November 2013. Thanks for the tips! Love it!

    Thanks,
    Kristine

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Kristine! Happy that you find this useful. I'll write about my very recent Dumaguete-Siquijor trip soon. I'm sure you'll have a great time! If you have any more question or you need contacts, drop me a comment or email anytime. ;) Happy weekend!

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