I still managed to go around Dumaguete and see the sights, as well as taste their food and learn about the place. I had read up on it before I went, and I was given some tips on where to go by my online friend Zerisse, who is from Dumaguete. Still, nothing quite beats the actual experience.
On the plane again
The only time I’ve been in a plane was when I went to Cebu last 2006. The experience was truly amazing, from the moment I arrived at the airport until the plane landed in Mactan. I still felt excited, as giddy as any kid who still finds wonder in something so ordinary (though I think flying is not an ordinary thing).
I was disappointed that neither Lolo Sal nor I got a window seat. The plane (we took Philippine Airlines) was a small one, with three seats at either side. I was in the middle, and Lolo had the aisle seat so he could stretch a bit. Occasionally, I’d peek over my seatmate’s shoulder to the world outside.
The weather wasn’t good when we left. It was raining really hard since the morning, and the flight had been delayed for nearly thirty minutes: first, the call to board was about ten minutes late, while the weather hindered take off for nearly 20 minutes. There were already five planes behind us and two ahead before we were cleared.
Other than that. It was a rather quiet flight. When the captain announced that we were descending, I took a look outside and was surprised that the plane was flying very low above the sea. That had me worried because my previous experience with flying had us above land at that height. Soon, the water was so close, I nearly asked my seatmate “Kuya, wala pa ba lupa?” The next thing I knew, I felt the thud of the plane’s wheels as it hit the runway. I learned then that the Dumaguete airport’s runway starts/ends at the shore of the beach. Fascinating yet scary.
Waiting for our flight going back to Manila days later
My first glimpse of Dumaguete reminded me of provincial cities in Luzon, like Dagupan or Olongapo, very much progressive cities but still retaining their quiet and laid back small town charm. This is much more evident as we headed to our relatives’ homes, despite being less than ten minutes from the airport. I love how you can be at one place in the heart of the city, but be home in a few minutes have all the peace & quiet you could want.
I always wanted to see Silliman University, thanks to Francis “Butch” Macansantos, one of my professors in UP Baguio, who took his MA in Creative Writing there. According also to what I’ve read about Dumaguete, it was where the first St. Paul university was established (yes, the same St. Paul system in Q.C., Pasig, Bocaue and others schools around the country).
The oldest building in Silliman (sorry, bad photo)
High School Elementary
On my first full day, my cousin Mark took me out for a very quick tour. When he said “Ikot tayo,” I thought he meant just going out and walking around the neighborhood. What he meant was hopping on his motor and going around Dumaguete City. I was still in my pajamas, and scared because there was nowhere in the bike I could grab on to.
We went around Silliman University, St. Paul University, Rizal Boulevard (from where I could see the Island of Siquijor and Cebu) and various areas downtown. He pointed out which building was what college (many of the buildings in Silliman and St. Paul were, if I am not mistaken, the original ones built) and gave me a bit of information about the places we passed. I was able to see these places in more detail when my uncle and aunt took us around a day later. We just drove around mostly, so my pictures are mostly blurred and tilted.
Our Mother of Perpetual Help Church (thanks Z!)
Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandra
It’s interesting to note that the relatives who took us around knew much about the places we went to see, even though we just passed them for a bit. They knew the history of it, what was special about it plus what was new about it. Not like here, where I often encounter the “I don’t know” answer with a matching shrug when you ask about something. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that a good chunk of the people in Manila are “dayo” from other towns and provinces, or are more versed with the present and pop culture than history. Add to the fact that so many buildings and places in Manila have changed, possibly erasing traces of the past that one may find interesting. I am worried that when I take my cousin around when he visits, I might not be able to tell him anything worthwhile.
Anyway… I would probably have to brush up on my Manila history for that hehe.
On our last night, we went out after dinner. I thought at first it was just to sight-see, but it turns out that my aunts wanted to have halo-halo at a hotel alongside the boulevard. We — three aunts, two uncles, two grandparents, a niece, six cousins and myself — ended up at the very bar Mark pointed out to me earlier: Haya-hay. It was right by the sea, separated only by the road. If memory serves right, it means something like “fresh air”?
Other places I’ve been to was of course, the church where we had a Mass for my great aunt, then the memorial park. I saw (but only in passing) Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandra, Dumaguete Belfry, the municipio, and the new sports complex. We also went to a subdivision almost at the outskirts of the city. The rest of the days were spent mostly at my aunt’s house, talking with the family.
Rizal Boulevard (that’s Siquijor)
The best thing about this is it smells like clean sea!
Please feel free to correct me on anything here, hehe. Also, if you know the name of the places I mentioned especially the church, let me know.
Mark said that
the main mode of transportation in Dumaguete are motorbikes and tricycles, given the narrow roads in many areas of the city. Major roads are wide, but often span two lanes at the most. Quite a few roads are under construction, and there are still dirt paths even in the heart of the city.
I was also told that it’s legal to ride without helmets, except when entering a certain part of Silliman University. Helmets were required before, but when people started abusing it (frequent hold-ups?), riding without helmets was again allowed. I didn’t dare ask about the statistics of motorbike related accidents while we were riding.
This is the King of the Road here
There are, of course, the daily flights to Manila and Cebu, as well as a ferry to Cebu and various locations in Negros Oriental.
Eat all you can
Not an hour seems to pass without someone calling us to eat. “Kaon” is one of the first Visayan words I learned (aside from the ones that were the same in Zambali or Ilocano).
I don’t think I’ll elaborate on the food much, but run through the ones that I remembered and enjoyed the most.
- Haya-hay pizza – there’s a pizza house along the bar, just below the open deck. We had their stuffed pizza: crust contains a layer of ham, with toppings of cheese, mushroom, bell pepper, pepperoni and onion. Each costs about P300 and four was enough to feed all fifteen of us… with leftovers. Toss it down with a nice, fresh fruitshake.
- Sans Rival Bakeshop goodies – my first taste of their silvañas was when Papa & Lolo went there last year. The silvañas I know are oblong shaped, whereas this one is round. The bakeshop also has as their specialty (and namesake) sans rival, which is about as big as a loaf of bread. Colorful strips of merengue were also bought by my aunt, and I got to taste their mango cake. There was also this custard like dessert: a layer of white custard and a chocolate one and a thin layer of chocolate syrup. Sugar high indeed.
- Chicharon – Forget about the chicharon being sold along the streets, the one that seems to be nothing but air. Dumaguete’s chicharon is the real thing: fat, with a generous layer of meat. It’s good to eat with rice, or on its own, with or without vinegar.
- Puto – I suppose like me, when you say “puto” you think of the white cakes that’s made of finely milled malagkit. The puto they served was made with whole malagkit mixed with regular rice grains. The result was a not-so-sticky mass that tastes not quite unlike suman, sans the wrapper. To sweeten it, you can sprinkle sugar or for the real treat, pour tsokolate. Lolo enjoyed it so much, we had it for two breakfasts in a row, not to mention merienda.
- Beef nilaga with carrots and sayote – probably nothing unusual, but having grown up with potatoes and cabbage as the only vegetables added to this dish, seeing those two other veggies were a surprise. But the taste is the same.
- Meat bread – It’s about as big as my two fists, looks like a pandesal and stuffed with meat.
- Empanada – about as big as my first, stuffed with ground beef and potato.
I stand corrected. I guess I did elaborate on the food haha.
I guess I was able to experience quite a bit as well. I want to go back, but this time, for a vacation.