Dumaguete, from a local to a tourist: What to do and where to go in the span of a weekend

Photos by Gian Nicdao

 

At the heart of the Philippines pumps Dumaguete — my hometown and your next weekend destination. Surrounded by mountains and beaches, this small-town city is not only a jumping-off point to the rest of the country, but also to a great vacation.

But what happens when you only have the weekend to spare? There are way too many things to experience here in Duma to finish in a weekend. But whether for a Saturday and Sunday or, in my case, your whole life, Dumaguete is the best place to take a breather. Here’s a handy guide from a local like me:

SATURDAY

5:30 A.M.

JOGGING AT SUNRISE AT RIZAL BOULEVARD

I wouldn’t normally recommend exercise as a way to start off a vacation (who wakes up early on a vacation?) but the Boulevard is the best place to watch the sun as it rises from the Tañon Strait. Us locals get to enjoy this sunrise every day; why not invite the tourists to come and experience it themselves?

6:30 A.M.

BELLTOWER PICTURE-TAKING

The best time to take a picture of the Campanario de Dumaguete (and the adjacent Iglesia de Santa Catalina de Alejandria) is during the morning, when the sun hits the facades of these architectural landmarks from the east. Once you’ve had your Instagram fill, you’re in luck: you’re at a jumping-off point to the Downtown Area, the bus terminals, and the public market.

7 A.M.

KAKANIN AT THE PAINITAN

Every morning, Dumaguete makes breakfast a time to see everyone in the city in a stretch of stalls known as the Painitan, which lies in the heart of the public market. Along with savory silogs, you have a selection from budbod sa Tanjay to kutsinta with grated coconut to cassava cake, all served with hot coffee. My personal favorite? Go to Stall #12 and get the 10-5-5: puto maya, rich tsokolate, and a slather of warm peanut butter.

11 A.M.

CHICKEN INATO AT JO’S

When you’re in Dumaguete, you can get a decent meal at any price point. Jo’s Chicken Inato, a veteran in the local food scene, keeps up against a constantly changing landscape with reliably good Filipino food. Get the chicken inato — I’m more of a paa person, but take petso if you like.

2 P.M.

TOURS AROUND SILLIMAN UNIVERSITY

You can join the group tours or have a private tour courtesy of the Campus Ambassadors who volunteer during the school year. Take a cart ride around the 62-hectare campus learning about the university’s history and then afterwards, take a visit to the Anthropology Museum at Hibbard Hall. (Their souvenirs are at the cafeteria; inquire inside — and get some of their cheese bread while you’re at it!)

5 P.M.

SOUVENIRS AT SUBIDA

I’m the kind of tourist that gets the touristy business done on the first day: group tours, go-to landmark visits, and souvenir shopping. In a small department store beside the bus terminal is Subida, a local souvenir shop. What makes it stand out is the collection of traditional toys, upcycled jewelry, and books printed by local authors.

8 P.M.

DINNER AND DRINKS AT SEÑOR JUAN AND CIAO BELLA

Don’t underestimate these two local restaurants. Get the chistorra and the crazy hot wings from Señor Juan or any of the pasta dishes in Ciao Bella. Don’t leave Dumaguete without having the diabolical Chupito.

10 P.M.

PARTY NIGHT IN ESCAÑO

At Dumaguete’s party strip, there’s no escape from a good time. Headbang with local rockstars at Hayahay, enjoy dancing to the local DJs at Café Racer, have a club night in TIKI, or sing karaoke at the Watever Family KTV.

SUNDAY

8AM

BREAKFAST AT ALIMYON KAPEHAN

A 30-minute drive from the city and you’ll have the best view of Tañon Strait for breakfast.

Alimyon Kapehan sits at the side of Cuernos de Negros. If you don’t have a private van that can bring you up there, you can take the bus to the way to Lake Balinsasayao on the highway in San Jose and take a habal-habal up the mountain from there.  A great place to visit if you plan on going to Balinsasayao.

You’ll never want to leave once you lounge on their mountainside veranda, sipping on a cup of coffee and biting into fried bananas overlooking the palm trees and the waters.

12 N.N.

SIZZLING BULALO AT ROYAL SUITE INN

Sizzling bulalo. That’s it, that’s the tweet. Nothing gets heavier and more delightful in Dumaguete than this offering from Royal Suites Inn. What meat-eater can resist unctuous beef on a hot plate? Pour the gravy and watch it bubble. Pair it with a vegetable side dish and cap off your meal with their Choco Dome.

2 P.M.

COFFEE AT SANS RIVAL BISTRO

Nothing beats an afternoon relaxing at a café along the Boulevard. What makes Sans Rival Bistro extra special is their silvanas. (Get ready to hoard them for your hotel room mini fridge.)

7 P.M.

DINNER AT ADAMO

By far the best food in the city. It’s no secret that I adore this little nook near the highway.

Take on the spicy chicken coconut broth, the restaurant’s take on chicken halang-halang, but you can’t go wrong because the entire menu is the bomb. (Make a reservation a day ahead.)

10 P.M.

SAUNA AND BODY MASSAGE AT GRAND ROYAL SPA

Finish the day with a sauna and a body massage at Grand Royal Spa. A sauna might be counter-intuitive especially during the summer, but I love the feeling of sweating out the bad juju and kneading the knots out afterwards.

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