Header image courtesy of Revey S. Nuico (via Flickr)
The coastal town of Dumaguete, located in the southeast of the island of Negros, is a quiet yet captivating locale many have yet to explore. While others troop to the more popular Philippine sites like Cebu and Bohol, the “City of Gentle People,” as Dumaguete is dubbed, is a beautiful discovery with its rustic countryside charm, rich culture deeply rooted in the arts and the academe, and leisurely pace of living.
Although it is a laidback city that contents itself with simplicity, this is not to say that Dumaguete is not for the adventurous! Even if one has just a single day to explore and get acquainted with this underrated cultural hub, travellers will find themselves intoxicated with what Dumaguete has to offer.
Start your day early and catch the rise of the sun at Rizal Boulevard. If you are up for some exercise, put on your running gear and join residents on their morning jog. If you prefer to sit still while waiting for peaks of golden rays to appear, find your spot anywhere along the coast and hang out there, a cup of coffee in hand and an optional toasty warm pandesal (sweet bread roll) in the other.
Pack your snorkelling gear and head out for some underwater fun! Make sure to pre-book an Apo Island tour the day before so you are set for a half-day adventure swimming in the crystal-clear waters with schools of a great variety of fish and sea turtles. It takes less than an hour to reach the jump-off point in Malatapay, Dauin, where you will hop on a boat and sail for 30 minutes to reach Apo Island.
Get a glimpse of the well-preserved underwater marine life, where an expansive coral and marine life ecosystem will greet you down below. A tour usually comes with a delicious packed lunch for that much-needed midday fuel.
After lunch, it is time to uncover more of the town’s history in the Silliman University Anthropology Museum. Arrange your visit ahead of time and prepare US$2 for the entrance fee. Inside, learn more about the country through the museum’s collection of archaeological items from previous excavations all over Negros and parts of Mindanao, and collected ethnological items from the various indigenous groups from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
For a sugary pick-me-up, drop by the famous Sans Rival Cakes & Pastries for some silvanas, the frozen cookie version of—you guessed it—sans rival. Sans rival is a Filipino dessert consisting of layers of meringue, buttercream, and cashews. Sink your tooth in the unctuous goodness of the classic butter flavour, or savour this treat with a cocoa punch with the chocolate-flavoured ones. Better still, get a piece of each for the best of both worlds.
No matter what your religion is, the Dumaguete Cathedral—or the St Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral—is worth a visit. The centuries-old structure is the oldest in the Negros area, originally built in 1754 to 1776, later reconstructed in 1885, and its present façade extended in 1936. On its four pillars stand intricate statues of saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. After saying your prayers, walk to the nearby Campanario de Dumaguete—or Dumaguete Belfry—and light up a candle there. If the day has tired you out, spend the rest of the afternoon at Quezon Park.
When in Dumaguete, the streets are your best bet to fill your belly! Go on a food adventure on Rizal Boulevard, where you’ll find several stalls offering staple Filipino street food like fish ball, balut (fertilised duck embryo), and pork skewers. There are tables available to experience dining al fresco, with the view of the glittering moon, the scent of the salty sea, and the sounds of waves crashing onto the shore.