In between waterfall-chasing in Negros Oriental, this city was the place to chill out, enjoy good but inexpensive food and relish an easy stroll. Dumaguete is not, by all means, a quiet little town today but compared to the crowds and traffic in Metro Manila and other major cities in the Philippines, the pace here is still remarkably laid back. And there are still several pockets inside the city where you can enjoy an even slower pace.
One such pocket is perhaps the most popular spot in the city – the bay walk along Rizal Boulevard. Just like what we did during our previous visit to Dumaguete, we strolled a few times along the bay walk at various times of the day. Our only disappointment was not experiencing the visual feast of sunrises and sunsets along the boulevard the way we did last year. The gloomy skies on our second and third days here just did not make that possible.
A short stroll away from Rizal Boulevard at its southern end is the Quezon Park and just across Perdices St. at the back of the park is the St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral (sometimes called the Dumaguete Cathedral).
Separate from the cathedral but just next to it is the Dumaguete Belfry Tower, one of the popular landmarks of the city. It was built in the 1760s to warn the locals of approaching pirates (incidentally Dumaguete came from the Cebuano word “dagit” which means “to snatch” – a reference to the frequent Moro raids on the town). Also nearby is the public market, famous for its budbud (glutinous rice cake wrapped in banana leaves) – and a variant called budbud kabog – with sikwate (hot chocolate drink made from local tablea).
Dumaguete is popularly known as a university town and the most prominent school here is Silliman University, the oldest American-established university in the Philippines and Asia. Founded in 1901 by American colonizers, Silliman is another one of those laidback pockets in Dumaguete, with its tree-lined avenues, grassy fields and examples of late 19th century/early 20th century American architecture. It’s quite similar in appearance and mood to the University of the Philippines’ Diliman campus – another American-established university.
We were not able to visit Silliman University in our two previous visits here so we were not about to pass up this opportunity. On the day Leo was scheduled to fly back to Manila we took the entire morning to saunter off to the campus grounds. First structure in sight – just past the gate along Rizal Blvd. – is Silliman Hall with its late 19th century Stick Style architecture.
Walking during a sunny day here is no problem at all with tall acacia trees lining the avenues providing a good shade. A walk down one of those avenues flanked by a wide expanse of grassy field led us to the Silliman University Church which traces its roots to American Presbyterian missionaries associated with the school’s founding.
A major point of interest in visiting Silliman University was to see its Anthropology Museum which we thought was still at the Silliman Hall. However when we asked a guard for directions we were led to Hibbard Hall where the museum is now located. (If we remember correctly, Hibbard Hall used to be the library building.)
The Anthropology Museum houses an interesting collection of ethnographic and archaeological artifacts, some of which date back to 200 BC. Most of the artifacts come from Negros Island and surrounding provinces. Picture-taking is not allowed here except for a sitting area in the middle of the museum.
A tour of Dumaguete won’t be complete without a food trip. We’ve found this city to have one of the widest selection of cafes and restaurants outside of Metro Manila – but for only a portion of the price. We’ll talk about that on our next article on this city.