I just arrived home from my summer trip to Dumaguete, yesterday. It was a fun 12 days with my family, and a lot less stressful than it was last year. I got to spend my vacation not only in Dumaguete, but my family planned a spur of the moment trip to Siquijor, where we spent the weekend.
Dumaguete, about an hour and fifteen minutes by plane from Manila, is the capital of Negros Oriental. You may view where it is in the Philippines, here. It’s basically located in the Central Visayas Region, beside Cebu, and is most known for Silliman University, the first American and Protestant Private School founded in the Philippines. It’s also known for the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop. I’ve been going to Dumaguete ever since I was little, since my dad was born and raised here, and most of my dad’s relatives live either here in Dumaguete or in the neighboring areas like Cebu. Every summer, I remember spending most of my time here with my grandparents. Then, it was a small city, unlike Cebu. It was a provincial city, very different from the Manila where I grew up.
Coming back to the present, Dumaguete has undergone a lot of changes. It was only a few years ago that Mcdonalds first opened a branch there. How I remember the many times when I was little that I complained that there weren’t any Mcdonalds since I was kind of fed up with Jollibee. Now, even Jollibee which used to only have one branch near the popular Lee Plaza, now has around four branches, one of which belongs to the somewhat newly opened Robinsons Dumaguete. There’s also the ever popular Scooby’s, which is a diner that sells hotdogs and burgers, somewhat like Jollibee and Mcdonalds, but different. In more recent years, there’s also the popular Sans Rival, a patisserie and eatery. They have delicious cakes and other sweets which my family always buys, but they also offer other popular meals like aroskaldo, lasagna, spaghetti and spareribs (info care of my cousin). There’s also How Yang, a restaurant owned by my aunt, which serves Chinese cuisine as well as some other variety of food that has been incorporated from my aunt’s old eatery – Taster’s Delight (across from Holy Cross High School) which offers burgers and hotdogs. A lot of my childhood days in Dumaguete was spent here after my swimming lessons or when I tried working to help my aunts. (Currently, How Yang is located along Perdices Street, near Union Drug and Dunkin Donuts, and MartOne.)
Another one of the noticeable changes in Dumaguete is the presence of a big bookstore like National Bookstore. It was only a few years ago that they decided to open up a branch here. When I was little, there was only Cang’s Inc, a slightly domineering building located along Perdices Street, that handled most of the school supplies that residents needed.
Also in more recent years, I’ve noticed the growing presence of foreigners in the city. Maybe it was because I didn’t notice most of them before, but upon my arrival a week and a half ago, I noticed that there are indeed much more foreigners about than when I went to Dumaguete last year. Okay, it’s well known that Koreans are coming by the multitudes to the Philippines to learn English. It’s not only in Manila that they’re gathering. A lot of Caucasians are also visiting and living in Dumaguete. On my trip to and from Dumaguete, there were a lot of foreigners on the plane, and while I was there, I noticed that lots of foreigners came to buy supplies from our family store. Last year, my uncle introduced me to some French customers who were friends of his. This year, I met a Mainland Chinese whom I think is already living in Dumaguete. I also spotted a couple of Mainland Chinese in some stores when I was going around, which shows that not only Koreans are coming here to learn, but a lot of other people are also coming to visit and look around the tourist areas.
Though I’m not really a local, and considering that I’ve only really learned the language (Bisaya) in the last 10 years, some of the places in and around Dumaguete that I can advise people to go (which are places I’ve been to and have liked) are:
1. Rizal Boulevard – located by the sea, it has a great view of the sunset and the ships that come in to port. Sometimes, if there are celebrations, like during New Years, this is a great place to stroll by. The sea looks amazing from here.
2. Forest Camp – located somewhere in Valencia, about an hour away from the main city. It’s located in the mountains, and has really cold swimming pools and access to a small waterfall. You can spend the afternoon there, but you can also avail of the few cottages available to spend the night. My family and me used to come here often when I was little.
3. Bais City: Dolphin Watching – Bais City is located north of Dumaguete. It’s a few hours ride (I’m estimating about two hours) from Dumaguete City. There should be something like a travel agency along Sta. Catalina Street (a street away from the Boulevard) but near Quezon Park, that schedules you for trips to Bais for dolphin watching. Me and my family went there a few years ago to go dolphin watching. The dolphins really swim by the boat and they even jump out of the sea while your boat is swimming along. The boat we took before had something like nets on the site, like a fishing boat, so me and my cousins would stay on the nets and put our feet through so that while we’re gliding across the sea, our feet glides along in the sea.
4. Siquijor – it’s an island located diagonal from Dumaguete, about an hour to two hours away by boat. Will talk about this on another post since I went there for a vacation with my family just earlier this week. 🙂
5. Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (according to Wikipedia) – located across from Quezon Park. It’s a beautiful old styled cathedral that’s always filled with people. Beside the cathedral is a bell tower that’s pretty well known in Dumaguete. My uncles would tell me when I was little that when pirates came to snatch away the women on the island, people would ring the bell to warn the villagers. The tower has those candles (for intercessions) surrounding it at the base.
(June 6 edit)
6. Twin Lakes – In a post last year, I mentioned having visited Lake Balinsasayao. Going there by road takes about an hour and a half. You enter via this off road that leads you to this open area where there’s a small pond, from there, you know you’re near the lake. There’s a beautiful lodge there that my uncle helped build (if I remember correctly). Go a bit further and you’ll reach the lake, which is really huge. It stretches on, though the end can be seen from the small pier. If you’re renting a boat or bringing your own canoe (like we did) make sure to pack your things tightly in a water-proof bag, and make sure you have small provisions in case you get semi-stranded because of the rains, which is what happened to us last year. My uncle told me that water attracts rain clouds, so it rains often at the lake. You may swim in the water, like if you plan to just get off the boat and dive into the lake, but make sure to bring extra clothes.
7. Living Christmas House – I don’t know exactly what you call it though my cousin knows the name for it since he’s a local. Anyway, it’s this huge house that’s brightly decorated every Christmas time. Located about 10-15 minutes away from the entrance of Silliman University (near National Bookstore), it’s very popular among locals and tourists during the Christmas season. The owners of the house decorate their house and garden with an assortment of statues, toys, decor and whatnot. For a small fee (below P100), you will be allowed to go within the compound. You are even allowed access into the house itself, like the dining room, living room, and you get to see how the family has decided to decorate their home for the year. Of course, some areas have restricted access, but it’s enough to see the plentiful decorations that surround the outside of the house, and adorn the inside of it as well. Note, there are always lots of people who go every year.
I’ll have a few more Dumaguete-related posts coming up over the next few days.