Dumaguete | A (non-definitive) primer to the City of Gentle People

12:14:00 PM



When I told a few friends (in separate occasions) that I was flying out to Dumaguete for an extended APEC holiday, they were quick to suggest attractions and activities that we could get busy with. Curiously, most of their recos require transferring to neighboring towns. The consensus was that there wasn't much to do within the Negros Oriental capital so it has always been a jump-off point to the rest of the region.

Angel (a good friend) and I are beach people, so initially we planned our trip around our friends' suggestions. We were already set on spending one night at Siquijor but as the day of our flight drew near, our thirst for adventure was overpowered by the need to stay put. And as it turned out, Dumaguete is the just the city to let our tita flags fly.

Observations 

Before I give you the non-definitive when in Dumaguete list, I'd like to share a few observations:

  • There couldn't have been a truer moniker than "City of Gentle People". All the locals we interacted with (from hotel staff to trike drivers) were incredibly polite and soft-spokena breath of fresh air from our everyday dealings with moody Manila service crews.
  • The primary mode of transportation are motorcycles and big trikes. The latter can take you to almost anywhere in the city for P8 per head (minimum fare). There are metered taxis, too, but we didn't notice any jeepneys. This could be because the main roads are a lot smaller than what we have here.
  • Dumaguete is a small city. Like, surprisingly small. By day two (out of four), we were already convinced we've seen everything (or almost everything) there is to see in the city. 
  • Even so, I see why locals choose to stay. They have everything they need in their little city, with the added convenience of being surrounded by more popular destinations (Cebu, Bacolod and Siquijor) and adventure-filled attractions.

When in Dumaguete...


If you're the restless type, skip Dumaguete altogether. But if you're looking for a restful, small town vacation, by all means come! Dumaguete is not completely uneventful. There are a few interesting things to do and see in the city when you're done Sky Cable-and-chilling from the comforts of your hipster hostel*.

1. Eat, eat, eat!

Is there even a more attractive attraction than a buzzing food scene? The answer is probably 'plentiful' but for the sake of weak argument, just keep scrolling and allow me to indulge you with this teaser:


We can talk about this now but Dumaguete's food scene deserves its own spotlight and there's just so much to share on that front. Dishing deets in a separate post!

2. Go for a stroll in Silliman University.

Trivia time! Did you know that Silliman prides itself as the oldest American university in Asia? Yep! Silliman first opened its gates in 1901 (making it 115 years old today), with David Sutherland Hibbard and his wife (an avenue is named after them!) commissioned to head its operations. The school was a passion project of a retired, businessman from New York (Dr Horace Silliman), who had long been an active supporter of educational institutions*.


Dr Silliman was a man on a mission. If I read the school's history correctly, he never set foot in the Philippines and yet his heart burned for providing the locals a good education. He persistently called for the support of a reluctant board of Presbyterian leaders, finally succeeding after a series of arguments and when the man himself committed to $10,000 of contribution out of his own pockets.
(This is the part where you pretend to be impressed with historical information quite obviously procured from the Internet.)

Silliman was first an elementary school, but was converted into a college nine years later - before gaining university status in 1938. Since 2002, Silliman has been considered a national landmark of the Philippines.

A non-definitive primer to the Dumaguete | Awesome in Manila

Because Silliman is attended by students from all over the world, Dumaguete is also referred to as University Town.

A photo posted by Danielle (@awsmchos) on

The campus is spacious and clean - great for afternoon walks! One spot in particular that's popular to both students and visitors is the amphitheater and chapel.

I read somewhere that you can approach student ambassadors for an organized tour but since we came on a Sunday, we decided to just see and appreciate the place for its aesthetics. It is a very beautiful campus.

A non-definitive primer to the Dumaguete | Awesome in Manila

Unfortunately, the museum of artifacts was under construction when we came, so we just walked around in the entirety of our visit.

The guards are quite lenient on letting visitors in. As we've mentioned, they're open on Sundays. There is no entrance fee - all you have to do is leave your IDs on the guardhouse by Hibbard Avenue.

3. Swing by Quezon Park and appreciate the architecture of Dumaguete Cathedral.

Quezon Park is only a few minutes of trike ride away from Silliman University. The city's tourism office sits on one side of the park, with the city hall and Dumaguete Cathedral across it from other sides.

A non-definitive primer to the Dumaguete | Awesome in Manila

We were there at night during the Sandurot Festival. There were loads of people, selling souvenirs and participating in fiesta games. For the kids, there were a carousel and a Ferris wheel. Since it was dark and wildly populated, we couldn't appreciate the park for what it is so after taking a few snaps, we headed straight to the church.


Which proved to be a good idea because Dumaguete Cathedral is beautiful at night!

A non-definitive primer to the Dumaguete | Awesome in Manila

There's something about the sight of a full church that fills me with awe. We're not Catholic, btw, but still - what a feeling. Even if you're not of the same faith, come to appreciate the architecture and history of the church.

4. Catch the sunrise at Rizal Boulevard. 

To manage expectations, I'll get this out of the way: You can experience a better view of sunrise in a handful of other locations in the Philippines but I still think the one in Dumaguete is not to be missed. And the best seat for this in the city is found in another tourist hot spot: Rizal Boulevard.

A photo posted by Danielle (@awsmchos) on

You can make out silhouettes of Cebu and Siquijor from the boulevard as the sun makes its way to its throne. (Siquijor might actually have a better view of the sun since the rays were piercing from that direction.)

I was surprised at how busy the boulevard is at five on a Monday morning. There were joggers, strollers and a Zumba class right smack in the middle. Street people were on their toes early, too.

When the orange glow finally disappeared, we got up and drifted to the end of the track where we found a way to the beach. It was where I took the first Instagram of this post. It was a snug view - the perfect way to end our Dumaguete trip.

Bonus round! Ride a bike around the city.

We didn't get a chance to do this but I figured it would've been an excellent idea, since there was plenty of space to ride around. I'll definitely do this if we come around again in the future - mostly to see if it's possible to scope all of Dumaguete in just one day. It is a bike-friendly city, with traffic hardly ever becoming heavy.


***

That's pretty much everything that we did in Dumaguete. I'm sure there's more to the city than this list (like Silliman's musem and the church's bell tower) - I would definitely consider coming back. Maybe next time, it'll be a side trip since I so badly want to experience Siquijor's beach scene as well.

If I got my math right, all in all the trip cost us P5,000 each. That's including airport tickets (got them on sale), hotel stay (four days, three nights), in-city transportation, food and souvenirs. We are clearly not the backpacking type and we consider this frugal by our standards. ʕ •ᴥ•ʔ

Up next!

Up next: I'll be reviewing Islands Leisure Hotel - our chosen home base in Dumaguete, and a detailed report of our Dumaguete food crawl! Do come back for that. I'll also try to make a video diary of our trip - that is if laziness does not get the best of me. (Just #KeepinItReal.)

A photo posted by Danielle (@awsmchos) on

For now, sharing time!

1. Has any of you ever been to Dumaguete or any other part of Negros Oriental? How did you find it? Share your recommendations in the comments section!

2. Are any of you considering to book a trip to Dumaguete in the near future? Do you have questions? Fire away in the comments section!


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