Dumaguete, the “City of Gentle People”, has been a darling destination by foreigners, retirees, millennials and a host of travelers because of its right blend of Old World charm and modern living.
However, its mother province, Negros Oriental has been the talk of the town for several months now the wrong reason, with recent gruesome assassination of the governor and the series of unsolved political killings. Despite impressions of it as a risky place, jaded travelers very well know that it is a peaceful location which everyone should tick in their bucket lists.
Below are among the must-do activities in and around Dumaguete.
Travel Back in Time
With well-preserved structures and roads lined by trees mostly from the American period, the city is a blast from the past. Silliman University is an icon of heritage, nature, and faith, with its museums and points of interest spread across the 62-hectare campus.
Rizal Boulevard is arguably the country’s most scenic and vibrant bayside roads dotted with heritage homes which have been repurposed as boutique hotels, dining outlets, and establishments. It evokes nostalgia as national hero Dr. Jose Rizal made a stopover here enroute to Manila after his exile in Dapitan in 1896.
A new spot in the boulevard is the Pantawan Park whose centerpiece is the galleon-themed Panilongon commemorative marker of the 500th anniversary of the Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation, which passed by Negros after Magellan’s death. The 2-hectare promenade is a public socio-civic space and dining colony where locals converge for inexpensive recreation.
Another new attraction is the National Museum branch, the circa-1930s Juan Arellano-design municipal and city hall which showcases the natural and built heritage of Negros Oriental and Siquijor.
Just across is the Plaza Quezon which is dotted with historical items, and the circa-1800s Dumaguete Belfry within the St. Catherine Cathedral compound.
Negros Oriental’s natural wonders are among the reasons why tourists flock to this laid-back hideaway. Row your boat on the placid Twin Lakes of Balinsasayaw and Danao in Sibulan, and Lake Balanan in Siaton which are teeming in lush flora and fauna.
Cool off and soak in the icy natural pools of the voluminous waterfalls of Casaroro and Pulangbato in Valencia, and Niludhan and Cabuag in Bayawan City.
For sun, sea and sand, beach lovers can bum around the sleepy shores of Bacong, Zamboanguita, Basay, Bindoy and Sta. Catalina. Dolphin watching at Bais Bay and Manjuyod Sandbar are twin sea adventures you shouldn’t miss in the northern towns.
The highland town of Mabinay, dubbed as the “Cave Capital” of the province, is an exciting place to learn spelunking 101 with its series of caves, many of which have breathtaking and sparkling stalactites and stalagmites.
Dumaguete is a food haven with some 200 food and beverage outlets to cater to diverse cuisines, preferences and budgets, most of which are located along Rizal Boulevard and its reclaimed extension.
Munch on authentic Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian, Turkish, Spanish, German, Vietnamese, Swiss, and Indian dishes, prepared by foreign nationals themselves who have made the city their home. Throw in the novelty dining spots in the adjoining towns such as Sibulan, Valencia, Bacong, Dauin and Zamboanguita, and the food options can easily double.
Don’t miss the local favorites of kinilaw and grilled seafood, the ubiquitous budbud suman and hot sikwate chocolate drink at the city market, and its sought-after silvanas and sans rival desserts.
Dauin is the province’s dive resort capital and home to Apo Island, one of the country’s top dive sites with its rich marine biodiversity dominated by sea turtles and schools of jacks. The coastal town boasts of trendy boutique lodgings, concept dining, wellness hideaways and entertainment spots for divers and their families.
A popular hive for diving and dining is Silver Reef Dive Resort which takes pride in its Scuba Schools International diving courses, gourmet dishes and café food, artsy and family-friendly premises, and marine and environmental advocacies.
Hie off to Baslay Highland Coffee Brew for a taste of native snacks and organically-grown mountain coffee in the midst of a bamboo village.
Discover your green thumb at Reef’s Farm in Tanjay City, a diversified natural farm with a sunflower garden as core attraction.
The upland town Pamplona is dotted by roadside dining joints and farm resorts where lowlanders escape to feel the cool breeze and be mesmerized by the foggy mountainscape. An enviable spot is Café Alicia, which boasts of an Instagrammable café, mountain resort, container van rooms, and a postcard-pretty chapel for intimate weddings.
There’s also Rabbiton by Shekinah Farm which offers rabbit meat culinary specialties, overnight farm staycation, and a petting zoo of over 3,000 bunnies and other animals.
With these and more, a trip to Dumaguete is indeed the most gentle and memorable journey one can experience.