I spent a weekend in Dumaguete late last year on a trip made possible by Go Hotels and Cebu Pacific. On that trip, I was able to rediscover the city and had a taste of what’s the southern Negros has to offer – the foods, churches, historical spots and other places that define the city and the province.
Known as the City of the Gentle People and University City, Dumaguete is the capital of the province of Negros Oriental in Central Visayas, a city by the bay, also popular for its scenic baywalk, great foods and motorcycles.
Yes, motorcycles. It is dubbed as the Motorcycle Capital of the Philippines, believed to be the Asian city with the second most number of this two-wheeled locomotives, next only to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. It is estimated that the number of motorcycles in Dumaguete is around 20,000; or one motorcycle for every three residents, and the number is still growing everyday.
But we went there neither for the motorcycles nor the experience of riding it in and around the city. We were there to experience Go Hotels; to checkout the landmarks of Dumaguete and southern Negros Oriental; and of course, to try the foods!
Monsoon season was still up when we were there and it wasn’t a perfect day for Apo Island tour. Although there were no torrential rains during day time, the sky was overcast almost the whole day and the sea was rougher than normal. The organizers decided to cancel the Apo Island per recommendation of the local handlers; instead we went to Lake Balanan and made short stops at the town of Zamboanguita, Dauin and Bacong. The next day, we spend some time in the Greek inspired club house of Tierra Alta in the town of Valencia.
On the first day, it was drizzling when we arrived at Lake Balanan and the water current was so strong that our van wasn’t able to cross the river so we opted to trek from the parking area to the lake. Just a short five minutes trek and we reached the calm and serene Lake Balanan.
Situated in Barangay Sandulot, in the town of Siaton, almost an hour drive down south, Lake Balanan is a freshwater lake formed by a tectonic earthquake that struck Negros Island in 1925. The earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.8, caused landslides on the southern ends of both the Balanan and Nasig-id ranges in Siaton, and blocked the Balanan River that flowed between these mountain ranges creating a lake to what is now known as Balanan. Today, the lake is an emerging eco-tourism destination in southern Negros that is being managed by the local government and the community.
There are twin waterfalls on the other side of the lake that can only be reached by riding a boat but since it was raining, we missed it. A sumptuous lunch was served to us and when the rain died down a bit we headed back and made a short stop at San Isidro Labrador Church of Zamboanguita and on the site where the Japanese soldiers surrendered to the Filipino-American forces during Second World War also on the same town. Zamboanguita or “Little Zamboanga” derived its name from Zamboanga City in Mindanao which is just across the sea.
Next stops were the old churches of San Nicolas de Tolentino in the town of Dauin and the St. Augustine of Hippo Church in Bacong.
San Nicolas de Tolentino Church of Dauin was built in 1854 on a design best described as a fusion of European and Asian architectural motifs. Still on its original forms, the church and its belfry are said to be the oldest in Negros Oriental. Meanwhile, the St. Augustine of Hippo Church of Bacong is regarded as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Historical Institute. Built by the Augustinian Recollects in 1865, its main attractions are the altar and the pipe organ, which are made from Spain.
The next day, we visited the Greek-inspired clubhouse of Tierra Alta in the town of Valencia. Tierra Alta has an elegantly designed clubhouse and aside from the towering and picturesque lighthouse, it has an inviting swimming pool. I am tempted to swim but since I did not bring extra clothes, I just watched as Marky and Adrian enjoyed the water. It was a cloudy day, luckily it didn’t rain. We also tried their zip line and feasted on their restaurants before heading back to Dumaguete City.
Dumaguete and the entire Negros Oriental will not disappoint food lovers. From fresh sea bounties, sinfully delicious sweets and novelty local dishes and delicacies, there’s something here for everybody. Whether you prefer to dine in the wide array of restaurants along the bay-walk or within the streets of Dumaguete, or try the street specialties, you will fall in love with the distinct taste of the place.
On our short stay here, we had sumptuous banquets in Hayahay Treehouse Bar and Viewdeck, Lake Balanan Restaurant and my local favourite Sans Rival Bistro. Sans Rival Bistro’s mouth watering dishes, pasta and sweets are truly great treats for the palate, their Sylvannas and other cakes painted smiles on our faces. We also had a quick stop at Panda’s Ice Cream Bar and got a taste of their unique cold refreshments.
But aside from the great offerings from these famed restaurants, we also had a taste of some of the province’s prized local novelties – the Torta of Zamboaguita and Bud-bod Kabog con Hot Tsokolate from Tanjay.
It was a short stay but we got to rediscover and enjoy Negros Oriental.