Dumaguete is hip, cool, and laid back. The city’s boulevard is my favorite college professor’s favorite strolling place. To me, Dumaguete is not just the hip university city that it is, it is also an extension of Siquijor because my grandpa used to work here and we would come here to visit him when school was off. It is easy to explore the small city in a day and hop on to another destination after the sun sets. If you only have one day in Dumaguete, then read on for my recommendations.
Breakfast. Eat an early breakfast at Cafe Filomena at the lower ground of Bethel Guest House. Order their chorizo and sunny-side up farm fresh egg, with a side of budbud Tanjay and the city’s own tsokolate concoction (mix of tablea, milk, and coffee). Also order their Ethiopian coffee for the much needed jolt to start the day. If you fancy a European kind of breakfast, go to D’ Rollin’ Pin for very cheap croissants and bagels, and other French-style pastries. Both Cafe Filomena and D’ Rollin’ Pin are located near the boulevard (but in opposite ends).
After breakfast, take a walk or a jog in the famous Rizal Boulevard. This boulevard is named after our national hero, Jose Rizal. On his way to Dapitan for his exile, his boat stopped over here in Dumaguete City, and this is the sight that greeted him (of course, with less buildings and no cars). Until now, Dumaguete is the jump off point for Dapitan, which is only six hours or less away by boat.
Museum Visit. A trip to Dumaguete would not be complete without a visit to Silliman University. The campus is a museum in itself. Be immersed in the different eras of architecture of the buildings within the campus. You can go in anytime inside the school. If you love museums, there are two museums inside the campus — the Anthropology Museum (P50 entrance fee during weekdays and P60 entrance fee during weekends) and the Rodolfo B. Gonzalez Museum of Natural History (P10 entrance fee, but we were not charged any so we left a donation instead). These two museums are located in buildings across each other. The university has an animal conservatory called CENTROP (Center for Tropical Conservation Studies) outside of the main Silliman campus, but only a few minutes ride by tricycle.
Lunch. Have cheap lunch at Scooby’s, a home-grown fastfood chain. It was such a rare treat when our grandparents take us here when we were younger (they don’t eat fastfood). We always order the pancit palabok. Scooby’s nowadays is no longer a fastfood joint, but a diner. We had lunch of typical Pinoy food (sauteed vegetables and pork dishes) and we only paid P75 for two people with drinks. I used to love Sans Rival for their set lunch meals but they don’t have it anymore. When I miss Sans Rival, I order their pasta puttanesca for lunch. Sometimes, I go to Jo’s Chicken Inato for lunch when I’m craving for their dry and salty chicken barbecue. If my Lolo is the one touring you around, he would bring you to his favorites — Kabayo-an and Ester’s. These are carenderias that serve his favorite tinolang isda and nilat-ang baka. I could not forget the huge meatballs at Ester’s. I’m not sure these two eateries are still alive. Maybe they are also gone like my grandpa. 😦
Shopping. If you are up for some shopping, I find the houseware section of Super Lee Plaza interesting with very cheap finds. I love their collection of trendy cake stands and dessert plates and their one-serving cast iron pans. There was once a second-hand books store across the provincial capitol that I always frequent, but, unfortunately, that store has closed now and I have not found any new book store in the city (except for Booksale at Robinson’s). Handumanan, a store along Perdices St. (across the stand-alone Penshoppe store) is a good place to buy Filipino souvenirs, such as basket/woven bags. My personal favorite Dumaguete souvenirs would be food stuff, specifically the very cheap pizza dough at Lee Cimbali (ground floor of Super Lee Plaza) and guava jelly and Spanish chorizo at Anna Maria’s (Perdices St.).
Check emails. If you would rather catch up with work or check emails, go to Poppy’s Coffee & Cupcakes at Silliman Portal. They have wifi (although not very fast but bearable if there are no other people around) and their food is cheap (P85 for spaghetti, a cupcake, and a glass of juice). They also collect only P30 per hour if you charge your gadget. (Note: Toilets for Poppy’s are at the second floor of the Silliman Portal. If you’re female, ask for the keys from the coffee shop attendant). D’ Rollin’ Pin has better wi-fi and a croissant would be perfect for mid-day snacks. Sometimes, when I’m not too lazy, I go to Bo’s Coffee at Robinson’s and work there.
Satisfy your sugar rush. Like Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental where Dumaguete City is has lots of sugarcane farms. It is not a wonder that there are so many pastry shops and cafes in this little city. My husband (and I) love, love Anna Maria’s. Their cakes and pastries are delicious and very affordable, but we always come back to their chocolate cake. Sometimes, we order their brazo de mercedes. Sans Rival is also another place to get your sugar fix. It’s prices have exponentially increased through the years, but I still love their coffee bread (ask for it if it’s not on display) and their nangka bars. We recently discovered Abby’s by Pinky, which sells mini cupcakes and their home-made iced tea.
Dinner. For dinner, we almost always go to City Burger and we order their chicken barbecue and pancit guisado. They also serve burgers. TIP: There is a slight price difference for food served outside and inside the restaurant. City Burger’s chicken barbecue does not come close to Bacolod’s chicken inasal, but I think City Burger’s chicken barbecue is the best in Dumaguete City. If you prefer a fancier dinner with a view, drive a few minutes to Tierra Cafe at the Tierra Alta Residential Resort. Sometimes, when we want a combination of dinner and music, we head to Hayahay Treehouse Bar and View Deck at Piapi.
Night cap. The Boulevard is another great option for a night cap. Near the port entrance are several tempura and balut vendors. Across it are bars and beer houses. We used to frequent Cafe Antonio at the second floor of the Spanish Heritage Building for their coffee but it seemed they have stopped operating already. Otherwise, we would just retire to bed early or head to the port to wait for the boat to take us to our next destination.
Note 1: There are lots of places to eat in Dumaguete. You can find a cafe/restaurant/eatery in almost every corner. The places I mentioned above are the places I always frequent. I will have new discoveries every time but many of these do not stay long in business. Most of the places I mentioned above have been operating for more than a decade, and hopefully, they would stay open for the next decade.
Note 2: Dumaguete has a rowdy transportation system with their tricycles. One tricycle ride within the city proper costs P8.00. If you can help it, just walk, anyway most places are walking distance of each other.
Outside of Dumaguete, you will find countless of other adventures. My preferred would be the following:
- A day trip to Casaroro Falls and Forest Camp in Valencia. If you go during week days, you’ll find the falls empty. When we got there, it was just my husband and I that it got too eerie after we’ve eaten our pasta lunch (that we cooked there using a camping burner). We love the halo-halo served in buko at Forest Camp.
- A day trip to Antulang. You can do a day trip to Antulang Resort. But we did a day trip to a nearby resort called Kookoo’s Nest (which was very private and not fussy) and we just walked a few meters to get a glimpse of Tambobo Bay. Our P200 entrance fee was consumable and we used it for lunch. We had a delicious freshly grilled chicken kebabs.
- Road trip to Tanjay and Bais. We’ve done this countless of times when we were children that this kind of trip almost always fill me with nostalgia. It’s best to drive slow when you get outside of Tanjay, near the sugar mills. If you are lucky, the train that used to carry might still be there.
- Dolphin watching is also one thing you can do outside of Dumaguete. Just proceed to Bais and to their port or at their tourism office, and ask for guidance on how to go dolphin watching.
- Highland resorts at Mabinay. We’ve done a road trip to Mabinay in the middle of the night. When we arrived, Typhoon Ondoy was beating Luzon and a Ceres bus almost toppled over in the highway near the resort we were staying.
- Apo Island. I’m not sure if there is one person who’d say Apo Island is not worth visiting. Even if you’re not a beach bum or marine life aficionado, you would appreciate how beautiful and rich our country is when you get there.
- Siquijor. Of course! It is just less than two hours away by boat. 🙂
Where to Stay
Avenue Park Hotel. This is actually not a hotel. More like a hostel. We usually book the airconditioned room (only 4 rooms, I think), and they will set us back P600 a night. The bathrooms and showers are common but separate for men and women. The bathrooms and showers are pretty decent and clean, but they will be cramped if you are tall and big. Location: Perdices St., above Handumanan Souvenir Shop
Bethel Guest House. I would consider this an institution in the city. At the ground floor of the building is Cafe Filomena. I have stayed here a couple of times. The first time was great because the room we were given were cozy and comfortable. The second time was not so great because I was alone and the room I was given had a huge glass window that could not block the lights from the hallway and I could not sleep. Location: Rizal Boulevard.
Worldview Pension Plaza. We have stayed here twice. The rooms are all air conditioned and kinda cramped. What I loved about this pension house is its roof top. The pension house is on the second floor, and this might not be the place to book when you are with senior citizens or with people with disabilities.
La Planta Hotel. This is in Bais. This used to be a power plant converted to a hotel. I loved the house because it gave me a glimpse of history but the time we stayed there it was raining hard, and the bathroom was flooded.