I’ve been hit hard by wanderlust this year, which made me blow off a sizable chunk of my savings on travel. I’ve gone on to visit some pretty amazing places but nothing beats the nostalgia of my first trip in 2011. I went to Dumaguete City in February to meet up with my friend so we could go to Siquijor together.
I thought of it as nothing more than a stopover before getting to the real deal. Spending a couple of days in Dumaguete, however, made me see it in a different light. It’s a small city, quiet and unassuming. It doesn’t go all out in calling attention to itself; it doesn’t have anything particularly spectacular to take your breath away. It’s simple and homey and I guess that’s where its charm lies. I only got to explore a small part of the city due to limited time but they were enough to leave me with good memories of the place.
Nostalgia is powerful. It makes you value things more; it highlights the good stuff and diminishes the bad. And it’s a big influence when I came up with this blog post so don’t take this as a definitive list of the awesome things in Dumaguete. It just happens to be my definitive list. Granted, it’s clouded by the warm, fuzzy feeling of nostalgia but that’s okay. I probably wouldn’t have it any other way. So after all that emotive blabbering, here goes:
1. Tempura and balut (fertilized duck egg) on Rizal Boulevard. It was a cloudy afternoon and I was tired from walking around the city. (I always have this bright idea of exploring a new place on foot, thinking it’s the best way to do so. I’m not sure if it is but this habit always leaves me exhausted and hungry. I still do it anyway because it’s impossible to yank a bright idea out of my head once it’s stuck in there.) I ended up in Rizal Boulevard and saw a long line of tempura carts. I love tempura. Not the real ones with the battered shrimp. The fake stuff made of flour and enough MSG to kill a pack of dogs. So I ordered a plateful of tempura and balut and happily devoured them like they were the best thing on earth. And maybe they are.
2. Silvanas in Sans Rival Cakes and Pastries. I know, I know. This is such a cliché already. Practically everyone who has been to Dumaguete has gone to Sans Rival. It has become such an icon in the city you would’ve thought this pastry was actually invented there. But there is a good reason it has become so popular. The silvanas are just so damn good ohmigod my mouth is watering as I write this. Those little babies alone are worth the trip. I could eat a whole box of them in one sitting. (And maybe I did. Don’t judge. We all have our weaknesses.)
3. Cozy restaurants with good food. I don’t know if the restaurants I’ve eaten in were the best in town. The food was not anything gourmet but they were delicious and satisfying with good, solid flavors. I was able to try KRI Restaurant and Gabby’s Bistro. My friend also brought me to Mooon Café, which is originally from Cebu but I’m still glad I got try it there. I had a blast with its name having one vowel too many. Try saying it three times while increasingly emphasizing the letter O. Mooon. Moooon. Moooooon Café. Isn’t that fun? I know it’s juvenile but come on, live a little.
4. Silliman University Marine Lab. In case you get the wrong idea that all I did in Dumaguete was eat, I’ll include something non-food related on the list. Okay, pretty much all I did in Dumaguete was eat but I sort of did other stuff, too. Like going to the Silliman University Marine Lab to stare at gigantic whale bones, watch motionless crocodiles and get all excited on seeing a tiny clown fish in an aquarium. It’s Nemo! Then I saw pictures of the Marine Science department on their fieldwork and for a while there, I regretted my decision of choosing journalism over marine biology in college. I do love writing but it would’ve also been fun to go diving, count humpback whales and watch sea turtles lay eggs. Drat.
5. One of my best friends in the whole world lives there. I crashed in her apartment, disrupted her life and annoyed her to no end. And she took it all with a prompt rolling of eyes and a resigned smile. We’ve known each other for 13 years but we haven’t been able to spend a lot of time together since we left for college. She studied in Dumaguete and I went to Manila. We lost touch for a time and missed out on each other’s lives, something I still regret to this day. But we’ve also seen each other through everything from silly giggles to brutal problems, giddy infatuations to brokenhearted whining, moments of brilliance to episodes of stupidity. She has seen me drunk and sober, crazy and serious, happy and sulky, and everything in between. She knows how much of a jerk I can be and she still sticks with me. And she will laugh to my face when she reads all this cheesiness. Because that’s what being friends is all about.
And these, my friends, are the reasons I think Dumaguete is awesome. Apologies for the hair-raising, cringe-inducing, weepy sentimentality. I morph into a melodramatic nutcase from time to time.