June 5-9, 2015
GPS waypoint: 9°18'32.2"N 123°18'34.1"E (boardwalk)
Location: Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental Province, Philippines
With Tuyen's scheduled scuba diving course and Apo Island adventures awaiting for her, I decided to be in on the fun as well. I thought Dumaguete was a distant blip on my radar after having moved on, but almost immediately after landing and seeing the familiar places, the good food, and bumping into old friends, the reason why I lived and stayed here for 2 years came coming back. In my analogy, if a destination can be compared to a woman, Dumaguete is bridal material.
Perhaps Dumaguete's most under-rated pizza, Neva's Pizza continues to titillate my palate without boring a hole in my pocket. For loose change, you get a good sized pizza baked in a wood-burning oven, and for taste and quality, it compares with the best out there. You should really try to eat there whenever in Dumaguete. Tuyen and I practically had most of our meals there. Any tricycle driver will know where it is - and it's tucked away in some local neighborhood, so don't expect to chance on to it as you take you tourist walk around town.
Hot Cocoa, Local Coffee and BudBud Cabog at the Painitan
One of Dumaguete's charming offerings is a hearty breakfast at the market - at the Painitan, where one could have a native hot chocolate drink (sikwate) or the local coffee. Combined with their famous sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves (budbud), it makes for a truly satisfying way to start the day. There are many types of budbud - the chocolate laced Budbud Tanjay, the plain Budbud Pilit and the prized budbud of them all, the Budbud Cabog (made with millet harvested from the mountain)!
We stayed a day at Dumaguete Royal Suites Inn. Too bad Tuyen is a vegetarian. I would have let her try the hotel's staple dish - Sizzling Bulalo. It's perhaps the only hotel made famous by it's house specialty.
The next few days found us at Harold's Mansion. It remains the backpacker haven for Dumaguete. The most surprising thing was Harold himself. He looks 10 years younger! Apparently, he doesn't drink alcohol anymore, sleeps right and doesn't party as much. His diving enterprise is now full-on with 2 boats and an actual commercial dive shop fronting his hotel (his dive equipment used to be stored in his house). Way to go, Harold!
Back in my younger days, we were officemates at PNOC. It was purely by accident that we bumped into each other in Dumaguete. Now, a visit to Dumaguete is not complete without saying Hi and catching up. Tuyen and I stopped by twice and were hosted to a lavish merienda cena - good eats, good company and pleasant conversation. She and her sister were so generous to lend us a motorbike during our entire stay in Dumaguete. This allowed us to take a ride and explore more of its tourist offerings - Balinsasayao Twin Lakes, Casaroro Falls and the Japanese Shrine.
Balinsasayao Twin Lakes
On top a mountain peak sits two deep craters borne out of a volcanic eruption (time of eruption is not known). Through time, rain water filled it up to become the Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao. They rest about 1000 meters up and the lakes go about 100 meters deep (depends who you talk to). It takes a powerful motorcycle to carry two people up the steep but paved road. There were no kayaks (all broken) so we took the bigger boat to carry us to the other side. It's interesting that these 2 adjacent lakes are only meters away from each other. I am not sure if the two lakes connect but since their water level is the same, I will have to assume they do. There is a resto providing an excellent view of the lake from its deck.
On a different day, Tuyen and I took the high road to Valencia to see Casaroro Falls. En route, we passed along mountain roads offering spectacular views of the water - you could see Cebu Island, Siquijor, Sumilon Island and even Apo Island. Foreigners can't resist buying land here for their summer cottage or their retirement home. It takes over 300 steps to go down to the falls. Some of the infrastructure has been destroyed by the torrential flooding a few years ago, which claimed many lives. The falls has a foreboding plunge pool where the pencil-narrow but cliffside-high falls make its splash. This place is spectacular - but it's not easy getting here.
Straight from Casaroro Falls, we drove the unforgiving mountain dirt road to the Japanese Shrine. At some points, we thought about turning back - the roads were too steep, too technical and too rocky. One guy even rode the motorbike for us over a very technical section. There is actually a more forgiving route, but it would have been farther. Finally, we reached the Shrine where intense fighting between the Japanese and the combined Filipino and American Allied Forcees took place in the ending days of WWII. A monument resembling an obelisk and a wall structure with Japanese inscription stand to commemorate the historic event that took place. Again, given its altitude, the view of the Negros Oriental coastline could be seen from the Shrine. You could see Dumaguete and the neighboring islands.
When I was still living there, I would hangout at the market for hot chocolate drinks or local coffee and have conversation with the elderly women - my Manangs as I would fondly refer to them. During this visit, I made it a point to stop by just to say Hi. I'm glad they still remembered me with affection. I have Manangs from the Painitan at the Dumaguete market, at the market in Valencia. It was an introduction to Tuyen but a nostalgic revisit for me.
Tuyen and I could have stayed much longer, but Dauin and its scuba diving promise awaited.
- Hotel Essencia - 9-storie hotel in the heart of Dumaguete
39 Real St., Corner San Juan St., Dumaguete City - 09°18'32.1"N 123°18'20.3"E
(July 20, 2015) I like the fact that you became friend with some Manangs in the market and they like you. Yes, I love Dumaguete!
(July 20, 2015) You amaze me as always. Here we call it 'pula ug lobot' (red butt) - i think it was coined after an insect, meaning you can't stay put. Thanks. I'm glad you revisited Negros Island not as Lone Rider.
(July 20, 2015) Awesome food destination. Also a good place to Swim with sea turtles
June 5-9, 2015
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