Dumaguete is a groovy little city, and one that has pretty much stolen my heart. That probably comes as no surprise considering that “Dumaguete” comes from the Cebuano term dagit – to snatch, eventually evolving into dumaguet – to swoop or take away. And since I’ve been feeling pretty low for the past month (and it’s yet another dreary, rainy day), I’ve decided to compile some of the reasons why Dumaguete City is such a great town – especially for clueless porenyer/power rangers like myself.
It’s probably going to be a fairly long article, so I will break it up into two parts. I will also be including some photos taken by me (my new hobby) whilst in and abouttown. (And probably overly processed in Lightroom…)
So, without any further ado, here are the first five reasons why I love Dumaguete.
1. The People
A place is more than the sum total of its infrastructure, shopping and restaurants – a ‘place’ is a reflection of the people that actually live there. This is very well reflected in Dumaguete and is the number one reason the city rocks. The friendliness of the Dumagueteños has earned it the nickname “The City of Gentle People,” and it’s well deserved. (Of course, having been here for a while, I usually – and only somewhat playfully – add “only when they’re not driving.”) This nickname is apropos and is keenly reflected in the approachability of nearly everyone you come across. (If you’re in doubt , just wander down to Silliman beach sometime and see how many people invite you to sit with them and share a drink.) I am constantly reminded of this ‘gentleness’ when I travel to other regions of the country – you simply won’t find much in the way of aloofness or arrogance among the city’s residents. Dumaguete is much smaller and laid back than the bigger metro areas of Manila and Cebu, and this is well reflected in the attitude of the city’s people.
Dumaguete is sometimes referred to as the motorcycle capital of the Philippines. There is much truth to this as there usually seems to be more scooters and motorcycles at in the city than actual people. This probably has something to do with the pleasant weather that the city receives – sunny skies and warm days make for pleasant motorbike riding and with the limited “rainy season” in this part of the Visayas, there really isn’t a need for a car. (Having heard about the Philippine rainy season, I had purchased a truck shortly after arriving – I sold it about a year later after realizing I didn’t need it). Another advantage of living in Dumaguete is its location in relation to typhoons (and the even more dreaded super-typhoons): After initially heading towards Negros, the vast majority of severe storms swoop northwest towards Leyte and Luzon. And even if a storm does decided to continue west towards Dumageute, there are a number of islands to the east that shield it from catastrophic direct hits.
3. Good Food
Dumaguete if peppered with good places to eat, and every passing years only adds more to the culinary offerings. Café Racer and Lantaw opened this past year, respectively exploding onto the scene with comfort/bar food and Filipino cuisine, Hayahay still covers the market with seaside seafood offerings, Tarbush reopened with delectable Lebanese fare, Soban is still killing it with scrumptious Korean victuals and Senorita’s has the whole Tex-Mex thing covered. Add to that Mifune (Japanese), True Love Café (Jamaican), Andy’s Golden Grill (Swiss/European), Lord Byron’s (best cheeseburger/babyback ribs)….. and all the rest. Ah, the list just goes on and on.
4. City Size
Goldilocks would mostly like agree that Dumaguete isn’t too big of a city nor too small but juuuust right. The city offers good shopping options what with the mall (“Rob”), Hypermart, Daro produce market, Kev the Butcher, and the like and a growing list of previously mentioned yummy places to eat. Combine these conveniences with the ease in getting outside the city to head down to the relaxing beaches of Dauin or the cool mountains to the north and west, and Dumaguete really has it going on. Yes, Cebu and Manila certainly offer more in the way of shopping, dining and nightlife, but if you have ever tried to get outside those cities, you’ll know it can literally take hours. And while Dumaguete definitely has its fair share of traffic congestion when school is in session, it’s nowhere near as bad as the motoring madness of the bigger cities.
5. Expatriate Population
Although I have no real data to extrapolate from, many have noted that Dumaguete seems to have the highest concentration of foreigners in terms of total city population. Yes, Cebu probably has more foreigners, but it also has total population is over 1,000,000 souls compared to Dumageute’s 140,000. Most of the foreigners in Dumaguete are Asian – mainly students, tourists or those seeking immersion in the English language. The rest are from literally all around the rest of the world: Australia, Canada, the United States, Europe, Africa, South and Central American, the UK – at times it seems as if the only foreigner I haven’t met here is a native Antarican. Some people don’t like that there are so many foreigners here – they seem to prefer more remote areas and are looking to get away from “all that.” Others, though – like myself – appreciate that you can hang out with a group of Westerners, kick back with a couple (or ten) Pilsen’s and socialize with fellow Westerners. Another positive of having so many foreigners here is their involvement in the local restaurant businesses – many of the better restaurants in Dumaguete are run by porenyers with Filipino business partners. Ah, yes – that whole diversity thing…. It’s not so bad.
So that’s the first five reasons why I love Dumaguete. In the next installment, I’ll be looking at my final five.
Until then, amping! (Take care.)