When you’re in Dumaguete perhaps the one thing that you’ll notice is its simple and laid back atmosphere – and if I’m right it would remain this way for a very long time, it’s far from Cebu where the economic growth is fast transforming its landscape and its people. There are clubs and restos (and soon a Robinson mall) that lines the boulevard named after our dear national hero, stores in the streets that goes around the historic Silliman University but even with all of these, it feels like a small town. Actually, the “University town” is one of the smallest city in the Visayas but its contribution both in economy and history to the province is most significant and just like what Rizal observed, the people are truly gentle.
My favorite place here is not my rented little air-conditioned room (which by the way is probably the cheapest in town) but the stretch of red colored Coca Cola sponsored little stalls in the mercado. These food stores serve great brewed coffee! Yes, better than the overpriced imported coffee people buy to look cool and hip back in Cebu and Manila. Everything is so cheap that it’s never a bad idea to load up here before going outside the town. I regularly eat their giant pan de sal (the size of my fist!) with egg and coffee. If I’m feeling really hungry, I’ll order the all time Filipino fav, the mighty pansit. Just to give you an idea how cheap food is around here, the pancit would cost you P5 per order, yep, less than the pamasaje you’ll pay for a one kilometer jeepney ride in Manila. They also serve budbod, a type of kakanin that comes in original and choco flavor; there is also this malagkit that is similar to bico, I remember my Nanay would make these during special occasions when we were younger, this is before she shifted to making maja blanca and the popular brown bico.
Dumaguete is not far from Cebu. At first, I was unhappy with the three hour bus ride from Cebu City to Liloan port in Santander but because Dumaguete was my gateway to the other island provinces I wanted to see, I have to deal with the fact that I’ll have to come here often (not unless I can afford plane tix all the time!). I guess with these lengthy trips you’ll just have to learn how to sleep while the bus or the ship is moving, something that took me some time to learn because I’m one of those people who would always want to have the window seat so I can see what’s outside. Nowadays, I deserted this inclination and started slumbering during long trips. Sleep I figured is a time machine that cuts travel time!
How many times have we heard that the world is small and that somewhere out there is an old friend or a relative. Here in Dumaguete I would be least surprised if we have relatives since the original Arnaiz of the family (the Great Papa) is from Bais before moving to Bacolod to chase his dreams. The Arnaiz here in Negros Oriental I noticed are political, there is a man my father told me was a Judge in Sibulan whom he met many years ago and found out to be his relative. In the office where I work, I met a very kind lady whose father’s mother is related to my father, not sure though what that makes us, she’s a proud and a fine-looking Dumagueteña – the world is small they say, I think it is smaller than we think.
The minimum fare for the tricycles here is less than P8 but since we live in a country where transportation fare is ever-increasing (never decreasing) I don’t know if it would be the same when I come back (How much is the jeepney fare in Manila, I don’t know na?) Here people would para (stop the jeep) after going down would go to the driver and pay, it’s strange for someone whose use to paying while inside the jeep. In Cebu, the jeeps have these loud conductor saying things they alone can understand, they’re in charge with collecting fare from the passengers.
There are many historical sites one could visit in Dumaguete. Rizal Boulevard is an attractive walk, especially at night when their American styled old lamp posts are lighted. Rizal strolled here when his ship, bound to Dapitan, stopped over the town’s port. Old Acacia trees were scattered all over the town during the American years. One could take a leisurely stroll here even in high noon since boulevard is lined with these old Acacias (locals are taking siestas under these trees). There are also some Pine Trees and many old American colonial houses. These excellent examples of colonial architecture, comparable to the ones in Baguio should be maintained because it symbolizes the historic changes of the town.
The Cathedral of Sta. Catalina de Alexandria (the islands 1st stone church) can be found along with its massive belfry that has been the iconic symbol of old Dumaguete in the poblacion. A grotto dedicated to our most Holy Mother has been added at the base of the tower which has become a location of devotion. The church has been expanded, altering the old structure but it still has traces of its original construction. At its side plants had taken hold of a portion of wall, these were the original wall made of corals which was left unpaved, aside from this the church and its convento looks contemporary. On the other hand, the Silliman campus is remarkably preserved by its administrators. The main building is still standing and well maintained. The Protestant Cathedral and the University’s many study buildings hardly changed. I guess we Catholic’s can learn a thing or two from these Protestants in looking after our heritage buildings. I keep asking the question why our Catholic leaders haven’t fully controlled this major problem, “local parish priest treating their church like it was their own residence!”