9 Reasons We Love Dumaguete, Starting With Its Old World Charm and Gorgeous Architecture
It is not difficult to comprehend why this urban center has been bestowed the title “City of Gentle People”—folks are so warm, friendly and the place is a unique blend of old world charm and modern living. According to folklore, Dumaguete’s name was coined from the word dumagit which means “to snatch” referring to the seaborne raiders who would go to this coastal town during the Spanish era to take away its charming maidens.
Nowadays, people who have been here attest that they have been snatched, not by pirates, but by the city’s enigma, which seems to be unique in character. In 2018, it was awarded by the Philippine Retirement Authority as the top Retirement Area Deemed as Retiree-Friendly (RADAR) based on global lifestyle standards set by the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and International Living.
It has also been recognized the prestigious Forbes Magazine city as world’s fifth best place to retire because of one of the "best places for beachfront living on a budget."
Here are some of the must-see places in this comforting southern getaway and its neighboring towns.
1. Silliman University. Founded by American Protestant missionaries in 1901, this is a sprawling 62-hectare school in the heart of Dumaguete which is like a self-contained enclave on its own lined with century-old hardwood trees which have provided shade and have been witnesses of the passing of time. Its boasts of the AY Zoological and Botanical Garden, Luce Auditorium, Marine Laboratory, the Romeo Ariniego Art Gallery, and an array of American-era buildings, most notably the iconic Silliman Hall, the Silliman Church and amphitheater, and dormitories. Worthy of special mention is Silliman Museum located at the Hibbard Hall which has a remarkable compendium of archaeological, ethnological and historical collections.
2. Rizal Boulevard. Named after national hero Dr. Jose Rizal who made a pit stop here en route to his four-year exile to Dapitan, this is perhaps the shortest, but most exciting bayside road in the country. At less than a kilometer in length, it is dotted with home-grown dining outlets, cozy watering holes, ancestral homes-turned into restaurants and boutique hotels, music lounges, and bits and pieces of heritage in what once the lane of the rich and famous during the colonial era. At the boulevard’s northern edge is the #DumaGeTmE signage, with the Silliman Hall in the background, which was designed for selfies and souvenir snapshots.
DumaGeTmE landmark at Rizal Blvd.
3. Quezon Park and St. Catherine Cathedral. Situated in front of the City Hall, this is where the public congregated in the olden days. The tree-lined park, which has historical sites in its premises, is bustling with socio-civic events, zumba sessions, board games, and other government activities. Across the plaza is the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria, which serves as the seat of the Diocese of Dumaguete, and whose Spanish-era belfry is detached from the church.
Dumaguete Cathedral Bell Tower
4. Local culinary scene. Among the medium-sized cities, Dumaguete has perhaps the densest concentration of food and beverage establishments, which cater to all budgets and dietary preferences. A must-try for breakfast is the good-old painitan at the public market where you can sink your teeth on the chewy budbud, their local rendition of the suman, which is best dipped in hot chocolate drink. Homegrown brands you shouldn’t miss are Scooby’s Fastfood, Lab-As Seafood Restaurant, Sans Rival Bistro, Don Atilano Steakhouse, Don Roberto’s Bar & Restaurant, and Chin Loong, to name a few of the old guards. And the list goes on for new dining outlets which widens the choices for a gastronomic adventure. Also try: Gabby's Bistro for its casual and colorful ambiance, Casablanca known for its Mediterranean food.
Tsokolate budbud and puto maya
5. Sidlakang Negros Village. A one-stop shop featuring all the souvenirs and processed food of Dumaguete and the other towns of Negros Oriental. It also houses the provincial tourism office, as well as municipal booths showcasing the destinations and economic and geographic profile of the various towns and cities of the province.
6. Get sporty. Don’t be deceived by Dumaguete’s laid-back aura, because it has an active population engaged in a variety of sports from sunrise to sundown and beyond. Everyday, locals from all social classes indulge their chosen physical activity—biking, jogging or brisk-walking at Rizal Boulevard, zumba at the public plaza, or badminton at the indoor courts. In the afternoon, Daro Village becomes an attraction for the binaryo, a modified four-on-four street volleyball, which features tricycle drivers who spike hard after a hard day’s work. At the baywalk, the area is abuzz with beach volleyball at the courts built by the city government for tournaments. On weekends, the bay bursts into action as dragon boat paddlers train for their next race. There is also the Archery Center of former national team member Crisaldo Merto which trains the country’s emerging young archers. Indulging in these sports is one of the unique ways to immerse and be friends with the gentle people of the city.
Beach Volleyball Republic On Tour
Dumaguete Archery Center
7. Scuba Diving. Divers often bypass Dumaguete in favor of the more famous Apo Island in Dauin town, about 30 minutes away. In recent months, however, local operator Scuba Ventures has been slowly introducing the so-called “Secret Reef” in the city’s Barangay Bantayan which has splendid coral gardens, aquatic animals and sea turtles. Another spot being explored is the Barracuda Alley in Banilad whose main attraction is the mesmerizing profusion of swirling barracudas. Dumaguete is also an ideal jump-off to other exciting dive spots in southern Cebu, Siquijor, Bohol, and Apo Island, a marine sanctuary with seven dive sites whose coral wall is a sight to behold. Dauin’s mainland coast offers good muck diving even for beginners. Due to the presence of foreign divers, the town takes pride in its star-rated resorts and dining outlets.
Coral reef gardens in Dumaguete by Jo Briones (Scuba Ventures)
8. Sibulan. This northern neighboring town is also regarded as a satellite of Dumaguete because of the spillover of commercial and property development, which includes the airport. Its main attraction is the mountain-top Twin Lakes of Balinsasayaw and Danao where you can leisurely paddle a kayak or dug-out canoe for an interlude with nature. Also within the town is Bravo Hotel, a hilltop resort-like getaway with two swimming pools tucked in a palm garden with oriental motifs, and has a restaurant that whips up Filipino and international favorites. It has an adjoining 18-hole scenic golf course which overlooks southern Cebu and Tañon Strait.
Kayaking at Lake Balinsasayao
8. Valencia. Dumaguete’s western frontier and subdivision town, it is regarded as Negros Oriental’s “summer capital” because of its cool climate whole-year round due to its altitude. Its claim to fame is Casaroro Falls whose column of roaring water plunges into 100 meters into a boulder-strewn natural basin, and empties into the rivers which feed spring pool resorts. Leisure establishments have been put up in the town in recent years to enhance its natural allure, among them Tierra Alta Village and Tejero Highland Resort and Adventure Park which offer adventure and recreational facilities.
Casaroro Falls by Bhong Yangco
9. Bacong. Situated at the city’s southern front, this municipality takes pride in the massive Spanish-era pipe organ, which is among the few of its kind, installed at the loft of the San Agustin Church. Restored by the same group who fixed the Bamboo Organ in Las Piñas, the pipe organ provides majestic music to the regular masses and gets played by visiting musicians in special concerts. Near the church is the Negros Oriental Arts and Heritage (NOAH), a craft store for handcrafted products exquisitely inlaid with gemstones such as jade, agate, jasper, onyx, petrified wood, seashells, cavestone, mountainstone, fossils, riverstones and minerals, which serve as perfect souvenirs and gifts.
Bacong Church pipe organ
Getting There: Dumaguete can be reached by air from Manila, Davao, and Cebu, and by sea from the ports of Cebu, Tagbilaran, Siquijor and Dapitan.