“This is it?” I asked myself when I saw the “mall” a local was referring to when I had the opportunity to stroll around the downtown area. He (the local) was talking about Lee Super Plaza, which was the bigger department store then.
Dumaguete City. It was in 1999 when I first stepped foot on the City of Gentle People and I was already dismayed with the limited recreational activities that were available – back then, ‘recreation’ meant going to the malls. Little did I know that I’d spend the remaining years of my secondary education here; a moment that I wish was longer as I grew to love the place.
Coming from the city wherein the environment is always busy, Dumaguete stunned me with its laid-back atmosphere. I'd wake up thinking that I was already late for school, only to find out that no one was still around inside the campus.
Silliman amphitheater – my favorite spot in Silliman University
I lived for almost 4 years in the capital city of Negros Oriental; a time when I had to undergo adolescence which wasn’t a grueling stage in my case. It helped that the environment didn’t put me in a lot of pressure just to fit in. This is the best place to grow up. There's still a touch of modern life, but it's not as busy as other neighboring regions.
In Dumaguete, people wear shorts and slippers even in malls; everybody is a cowboy in their own right. It doesn’t matter if you drive the latest car as there’s very limited space to show off your vehicle. Besides, you'd get more stares from people not because of how cool your wheels are, but why you had to bring it to this town. People will gawk as if it's an alien space ship. It doesn't matter as well if your wear the best shoes as your footwear will just gather dust due to the surroundings. These are just some of the ways that describe how 'rugged' this town is.
The motorcycle is a popular mode of transportation. People usually gear up their vehicles to pimp their rides but here it’s the exact opposite. Dumagueteños take away even the important parts of the bike. The more skeletal, the better.
motorbikes: no helmet? no problem.
Motorcycles for rent are abound. So long as you have a license, you can rent a bike for the day. The reason why this has become the choice of transportation is attributed to the fact that everything is within reach. Everything is within walking distance.
Dumaguete is considered a university town as most of the population consists of students from different schools. These students come from various regions in Visayas and Mindanao and there are even a lot who come from other countries mainly due to Silliman University. Being an American institution, students flock and rent dormitory rooms and lodging houses to experience how it is to study in the first American private university in Asia.
You can just go out after class and play a round of Frisbee, tennis, softball, whatever sport you’d find interesting; for sure you can find a schoolmate with the same interest. You can also go out in a local hotspot and chill over bottles of beer while staring at the beach and talking to your friends.
There's something about Dumaguete that entices one to become poetic. Blame it on the peaceful atmosphere. This is, after all, where the National Writer’s Workshop is being held during summer. Those creative juices just keep flowing especially when you're detached from the city life. If one could fall in love with a city - Dumaguete would be the place to be. You'll truly find inspiration in these simple pleasures in life because the ambiance gives you time to REFLECT.
Food is definitely cheaper here; and the choices have actually grown too.
Boston Jutsz Café pizza and pasta
Taste the famous sans rival cake, check out meals and the dining experience at Gabby’s Bistro. Bring your laptop and hang out at Café Noriter. Eat pasta at Boston Café, or take a bite at Café Memento’s Chimichangas. Buy Oatikin cookies at Tsokolat and ultimately have dinner and drinks in Hayahay restaurant – the best place to eat in Dumaguete while listening to live reggae music.
UPDATE as of March 2012: Tsokolat Bakeshop is no longer there and Boston Cafe is now named Jutsz Cafe.
Mexican Chimichanga at Café Memento
Go on a trekking adventure to the Japanese Shrine and Casaroro Falls, hop on a boat and head to Apo Island which is a famous diving center. Take a dip at the Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao or head to Bais City and check out the sandbar while you relax under the sun. These are really just some attractions that you can enjoy. It's also near islands such as Cebu and Siquijor so you can hop on a boat going to those provinces for another set of adventures.
But the adventures that I enjoyed the most during my stay in Dumaguete were spontaneous trips that my classmates and I decided while going to their houses located near the mountains. Those were inexpensive but good times.
trekking, an inexpensive activity
There are still a lot more things you can do in Dumaguete; the degree of fun depends on the people you hang out with as it's up to you to improvise.
Rizal Boulevard at night
The Rizal Boulevard has been a famous landmark for people of all ages. It isn't extravagant, but it's with the simplicity of having different lights from various establishments and lamp posts illuminating the black landscape that makes the location a great place to hang out. Couple it with the cool breeze and great company, not to mention cheap food, you can't help but just ponder on life and life again.
I recommend you try the fried tempura being sold there. It’s definitely a worthy treat.
TRIVIA: My blog’s header picture was taken in this part of the city.
A lot has changed since I last visited this quaint little town. How ironic that I never really got to get around it when I was living here as opposed to when I visited the place after my high school graduation. Bistros are put up, there's now a Robinsons mall and BPO companies are established.
Whenever I drop by, there's still a special connection that I feel because of memories that were created. Only, the faces I see are not the ones of people that are familiar to me. I realize that the time has been allocated for another generation. A new one ready to experience the highs and lows of living in this bubble until life will beckon them to pass the torch to a much younger era.
Boulevard in the morning
Dumaguete, every time I hear your name, I recall acacia leaves falling carelessly along the pathways of Silliman. You are a total walk in the park. If you were a season, you'd be autumn. One can't help but burst into a poem as the city lets you go with a rhyme.
Be careful not to get caught up with it -- else you want to fall in love and get hurt when you part ways.
staring at the sun
Dumaguete grows on you. Don’t just spend a day or two as for sure you’ll get bored right away. Don't even expect what this city can offer you as something will surely come up out of the blue. What you may ought to do is immerse yourself with its lifestyle and let nature take its course. If you're a person who's always on the go, Dumaguete will make you STOP.
Hayahay or 'comfortable/cozy/refreshing' - if I were to describe the town in one word.
When you have nothing, you make do with what you have. - this is what I've learned from staying here.
This is my entry to Pinoy Travel Blogger's Blog Carnival themed Quaint Places in the Philippines. which is hosted by RV of Living In A Back Pack. Click on the Blog Carnival Logo on the left to see other topics that the Pinoy Travel Bloggers have written about.
soloflightEd.com is a travel blog of Edcel Suyo. This is where he shares his stories of the places he's been to in his country and beyond.
For queries and other concerns, you can contact him at email@example.com.
I lived in Dumaguete for three and a half years. Check out my other articles about the City of Gentle People here:
- Dumaguete City: Casaroro Falls
- Trek to Japanese Shrine
- How to Get to Apo Island in Negros Oriental
- How to Get to Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao
- Dumaguete's Silliman University
- Dumaguete's Rizal Boulevard
- Dumaguete City: How Quaint Can You Be?
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soloflightEd.com is a travel blog by Edcel Suyo. He enjoys performing headstands and crazy stunts during his trips in the Philippines and the rest of Asia. He just started his backpacking trip across Southeast Asia in order to live as a digital nomad. Read more about the beginning of his delusions of grandeur here.
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