The idyllic seaside community of Dumaguete City is perhaps one of the best locations to explore if you are looking for a laid-back and quiet destination. Nicknamed the City of Gentle People, it offers a panoramic view of the Bohol Sea glistening against the tropical sunshine. From the boulevard, one may also catch a glimpse of the fabled Siquijor Island, accessible via one ferry ride from the port.
Dumaguete City caters to all types of travelers: newbie explorers, adventure seekers who want a break from all the high-octane activities, history buffs who love heritage sites and even foodies who are on the lookout for new flavors to try.
For lovers of culture and the art, Dumaguete is also for you. It has long been reputed as a haven for artists, especially with the strong presence of institutions of higher learning that support writers, visual creators, performers, and musicians.
Dumaguete City is accessible from Manila via direct commercial flights that fly to Sibulan Airport throughout the day.
Going around Dumaguete is not a hassle; you can effortlessly comb through the city either by foot or via tricycle. To give you an idea, here is a list of things that you can try when you are here:
1. Begin your day with a breakfast at a painitan
Give your day a good start by having a filling breakfast in one of the painitans at the Dumaguete Public Market. A painitan is a place where workers and just about anybody else can have something quick and “mainit” or warm to fill their bellies and energize their bodies in anticipation of a long day of work.
Food here is very basic and usually consists of a shot of thick native chocolate drink (tsokolate), a cup of brewed coffee with condensed milk, a scoop of puto (sticky rice cooked in coconut milk and a little salt), a piece or two of budbod kabog or millet with grated coconut that is wrapped and cooked in banana leaves (similar to suman or steamed cassava or sticky rice roll wrapped in banana leaves), and bread with either margarine or peanut butter.
A word of caution though; this is not for the posh or luxe traveler but this is probably where you can get the most immersive gastronomical experience in Dumaguete City.
2. Explore Silliman University
Dumaguete City is also known as University City because of the presence of four universities, namely Foundation University, Negros Oriental State University, Siliman University and St. Paul University Dumaguete. Of these four institutions, Silliman University, the oldest American university in Asia, is best equated with Dumaguete City.
From the Dumaguete Public Market, it’s an easy walk going to Silliman University via the National Highway. While Silliman is a private academe, visitors may enter the campus grounds for free by securing a visitor’s pass from the guards stationed at the university’s gates.
Some of the more popular spots within the campus are the Silliman University Church, the Silliman University Anthropology and Whale Bone Museum.
The Silliman University Church as a congregation was organized when the university was founded in 1901 but the physical church was built in 1916 to serve as a place of worship for students and their families, faculty members, alumni, and local residents regardless of their religious affiliation.
The Silliman Anthropology Museum, meanwhile, houses age-old artifacts, indigenous art, and other antiquities that relate to Dumaguete City’s rich culture and heritage. The museum is open only on weekdays but arrangements can be made for a fee to allow visits on weekends and holidays.
And if you want to see giant skeletons on display, do pass by the Whale Bone Museum also located inside the campus.
3. Buy pasalubong (keepsakes) at Handumanan Souvenir Shop
When you exit Silliman University, you may want to take the opportunity to buy pasalubong or keepsakes at the nearby Handumanan Souvenir Shop, said to be the oldest souvenir shop in Dumaguete City. The store can be reached by entering Perdices Street.
Handumanan sells native products, trinkets, and souvenirs like key chains, t-shirts and penholders at an affordable price.
4. Visit St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral
One of the most prominent landmarks of Dumaguete City is St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral, also located along Perdices Street. If you are coming from Handumanan, it can be a daunting walk going here because of the distance so it’s recommended that you ride a tricycle.
The edifice is a 17th century church that is best known as the oldest stone church in Negros Island.
The Cathedral’s façade may not look old, possibly because it was renovated, but the interior is still grand. The altar stands impressively, with intricate pillars and arches that frame the tabernacle.
5. Marvel at the historic Campanario de Dumaguete
Right beside St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral is another remarkable landmark—the Campanario de Dumaguete which is famous for being the oldest structure in the whole of Visayas.
It was originally constructed as a watchtower in the 1700s in order to catch sight of incoming Moro intruders. It was built by then parish priest Don Jose Manuel Fernandez de Septien. The belltower or campanario was later added during the time of Fray Juan Felix dela Encarnacion in 1867.
The Campanario also houses the grotto of Our Lady of Perpetual help where visitors may light a candle and utter a short prayer.
6. Take a leisurely stroll at Quezon Park
Located across St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral and the Campanario de Dumaguete is Quezon Park, a popular spot among locals for spending quiet afternoons after work or school.
Here, you will find statues of Jose Rizal and Maria Clara, vintage canyons, an antique fire truck, and the local tourism office.
7. Tour around heritage houses
Apart from popular tourist sites, you may also want to consider visiting the heritage houses that are scattered throughout Dumaguete City. These are mostly Spanish-era houses that have withstood the test of time.
If you want to get a full list of the heritage houses and visiting details, you may get in touch with the Dumaguete Tourism Office.
8. Feel the ocean breeze at Rizal Boulevard
Rizal Boulevard is considered one of the city’s most significant historical spots because it is said that Dr. Jose Rizal once took a stroll along this stretch.
Locals and tourists flock here if they want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city center. This tree-lined walkway overlooks Bohol Sea and is perfect for taking a leisurely walk while enjoying the gentle sea breeze and the afternoon sun.
It features concrete benches and tall lampposts, both adding allure to the boulevard, especially at dusk.
9. Indulge in a sweet Sans Rival treat
They say your visit to Dumaguete City is not complete without having a bite of its famous Sans Rival, a Filipino dessert made of layers of meringue, butter cream, and chopped toasted cashew nuts.
In this city, the best place to get your sweet Sans Rival fix is at the aptly-named Sans Rival Cafe & Restaurant, perhaps another one of the most recognizable establishments in the city. If you are at Rizal Boulevard, you may just cross the highway to get here.
Aside from Sans Rival, their Silvanas are recommended, too. Pair your dessert with a cup of coffee and you’re good to go for another round of activities.
10. Enjoy street food at Rizal Boulevard
The night scene at Dumaguete City is not as bustling as, say Boracay, save for a few bars that feature live acoustic music. In the evening though, Rizal Boulevard comes alive with stalls selling Dumaguete’s most famous street food—tempura and seafood roll.
There are tables with giant umbrellas set up around each food stall so patrons can comfortably eat and chat. Drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are likewise sold. This is probably the best way to cap your day off when you are in Dumaguete City.
If you are booking a hotel, you might want to consider one that is right across Rizal Boulevard since most popular restaurants, establishments and bars are located along the stretch parallel to it. Another good option would be to book your accommodation in the city center near the public market so that you will have quick access to everything.