Friday, October 30, 2009

Dumaguete: The City of Gentle People

On forth my travel spree for this year, I flew early morning today to Dumaguete City for yet another quick weekend getaway. Known to be the city of gentle people because of the warmth and hospitality one is to expect when visiting the city, this capital city of Negros Oriental is also famous for its universities and colleges that many students from nearby provinces come here for tertiary education, colloquially naming the city a "university town".

My plane touched down around 08:15AM at Sibulan Airport, located just off the border from Dumaguete City.

For my stay in Dumaguete City, which is just for one night, I chose Harold's Mansion, which seems to be a popular choice among local and foreign tourist backpackers and pension house/hostel-stayers. They offer free pick-up service from the airport if you call at least a day in advanced to schedule so I didn't had a hard time commuting from the airport to the hostel.

Harold's Mansion is around 15 minutes away from the airport on a normal day, outside it is a very colorful and lively building situated around 5 minute walking distance to different establishments and facilities near the city center.

reception area

Well, at least, for the first night I booked for a single bed. I also opted for a fan room (yes, a non-airconditioned one) which included it's own toilet and bathroom for PHP300 a night. There's also a cable television available in the room but hey, I'm not here to stay in the room but to go out there in the city!

Supposedly, Jojo is to join me for this trip tomorrow but due to inclement weather in Manila just hours after I left, he received news tonight that his flight is cancelled. After I write this post I'll be researching and will be adjusting my schedule a bit.

Going around, I saw the internet and coffee shop. I was told that usage of the computers is free for a few minutes every day (although there's free wi-fi), there's complimentary continental breakfast (i.e. bread, jam and sandwich spreads) and free flowing coffee and tea (help yourself) throughout the day. There were also a few reading materials and books available to guests.

I immediately left and took a tricycle to the city hall (PHP8) just to see what's in store from the city center.

Across the city hall is a park where the local tourism office is located. In there I found some officers who accomodated my queries and gave me suggestions as to what I can do for the rest of the day around the city.

Just nearby, still within the park, I saw at least a century-old spanish cannon and a monument of our national hero, Jose Rizal.

Behind that stands one of the most famous landmarks of the city - the Dumaguete Belfry. The bell tower, built in 1811 stands proudly just beside the St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral, also built on the same year.

St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral

inside the cathedral

A few minutes walk led me to another famous landmark in the city - the baywalk along Rizal Boulevard. Similar to the baywalk along Roxas Boulevard in Manila, this promenade facing the sea is a popular spot for locals to do picnics and strolling around early in the morning as the sun goes up or late in the afternoon as the sun goes down. Around here are numerous establishments and restaurants where it's nice to have something to eat while glazing at the beautiful view or having drinks with friends outdoor with a cool breeze touching your skin.

On one end of the boulevard stands a replica of the original tower, which is quite odd since it's just minutes away from the original one, although it leaves to people living today a better glimpse of how the centuries-old tower once looked like on its maiden glory.

people strolling along Rizal Boulevard


Somewhere midway along the stretch of the baywalk stands a monument dedicated to the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, who helped in educating citizens of the province from 1904.

benches along baywalk

The very end of the baywalk leads to the ship harbor but just before that, a portion of Silliman University can be seen. The university, established in 1901 by Presbyterian missionaries is the first American private school and first Protestant school in the country. Shown here is the building that houses Anthropology Museum (PHP10 entrance).

bust of Dr. Horace Silliman, a philanthropist who initially funded the school's foundation

inside the university campus

Siliman University historical marker

at the other side of the campus

grounds at the other side of the campus

Went back to the hostle and relaxed for the rest of the morning and went out later that afternoon for lunch. After eating, I went near the market where I hailed a jeepney going to Valencia (PHP12) which took around 40 minutes commute.

I thought it was easy to go to my next destination - the Casaroro waterfalls, located at the town of Valencia, just outside Dumaguete City. I was dropped off at the plaza and was told to catch a motorcycle going there, but talking to the drivers, I realized it's not an easy trip and it is an uphill ride. I rented a motorcycle and for some parts of the trip, I had to go down because road is severely rocky and damaged (it is not cemented nor asphalted).

Minutes later we were in Casaroro falls and paid PHP10 for environment fee.

I was told that I have to trek down for some minutes (it was more like half an hour if I remember correctly).

Once you go are down by the stream, you have to follow the concrete paths and some cross boulders and rocks to reach the waterfalls.


Alas, I came to the main attraction. It was a very sceneful walk and I felt I was tired only once I was already there. I didn't bring the right footwear too walking across pointed stones were a bit hurtful too. I stayed for around an hour and I thought the hardship was well worth it.

And it's all happening again, unfortunately I have to go back where I came from, and this time climb my way up again from where I was dropped off.

As we are on our way down, I inquired about another waterfalls - Pulangbato also located in Valencia. I was told by the driver it's an easier trek (almost just beside the road) but it's quite far from where I am. After haggling with him, we agreed and he took me to this next stop.

Pulangbato falls, is different and famous for its color due to supply of natural sulfur. The word in Filipino language are actually compounded words of pula, which means color red and bato, which means stone or rock.

Nearby is a smaller falls and its water falls directly to a natural pool where goers usually dip and swim.

After Pulangbato falls, the motorcycle driver would be going straight and dropping me off directly at the hostel. On the way we passed by portions of a mountain that is steaming with smoke. This is part of the area used for geothermal energy.

natural steam coming out of the mountain

The rest of the day was uneventful. After I got at the hotel and paid the tricycle for the tour (PHP400 almost half day), I rested, had dinner, browsed the internet for more suggestions on where to go tomorrow so I can create a draft plan of what I can do and wrote this blog post. It is just my first day and the natural sightseeing I got today were totally unexpected as I thought I will just be around Dumaguete and explore the university town. I'm just glad that I went further!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The island province of Guimaras

Hopping off from my church hopping sightseeing yesterday, I woke up early today for a day trip to a nearby island - the province of Guimaras. I checked out from where I was staying, rode a jeepney and got off near the Ortiz Wharf where I boarded a motorboat for Guimaras (PHP13).

Boats regularly ply this route of Ortiz, Iloilo - Jordan, Guimaras. The 15-minute boat ride I took was refreshing an uneventful and before I knew it, I was already in Guimaras.

From Jordan Wharf, I rode a jeepney to San Miguel Market (PHP12) and transferred for Our Lady of the Philippines Trappist Abbey, also fondly called locally as Trappist Monastery, via tricycle ride (PHP25). It is the only men's monastery of the Cisterian Order in the Philippines.

The grounds of the monastery is vast and walking through the place gives a peaceful and serene feeling to visitors. Cisterian monasteries are usually located in quite, remote and peaceful places to preserve living of life simple and hidden.


the abbey church

inside the church

Walking around the grounds, I met Bro. Peter whom I learned is tasked to welcome guests in the monastery. I had a half an hour discussion with him on how things work around here as well as contemplations about life. Later on, he invited me to a small house nearby where he was making charcoal.

me and Bro. Peter

Time's up! I rarely noticed that I've stayed more than 2 hours in the monastery but then I had to move on and bade goodbye to Bro Peter. I left and boarded a jeepney to Nueva Valencia (PHP20). For my next destination. Upon arriving in Nueva Valencia however, I realized the jeepney would not take me nearby where I wanted to go so I hired a motorcycle to bring me to Guisi Point. I was dropped off the entrance but for some reason, no one was around so I just continued and went inside without paying the entrance fee. It was a 5-minute trek from the road to the lighthouse.

Guisi Point is a local attraction where one can find ruins of an 18th century lighthouse, and a more recently built one.

This logo says Caminos Canales Puertos. Researching further, and comparing the logo, it seems to refer to a school in Spain, Caminos, Canales y Puertos.

view of the old lighthouse from inside the ruins

the newer lighthouse

the complete view of the old lighthouse

ruins around the lighthouse

Writings and vandalisms on the old lighthouse. One can see the staircase leading to the top but I didn't dare climb up!

On my way down the road where the motorcycle was waiting me, I saw a beautiful view of the beach. It was pristine and untouched! With the help of the motorcycle driver, I was able to find a way to get down to the shore area.

on the way down...

view from the shore

On the way down, I was discussing with the driver as to which beach resort I can stay for the rest of the day before I head down back to Iloilo City for my flight. He suggested Alobijod Cove in Guimaras which is half an hour away from the lighthouses. We negotiated and agreed to pay him PHP200 to include the trip all the way to Alobijod.

The place has facilities for day trippers and rooms who would like to stay overnight. Initially I negotiated for a day use of an airconditioned room for PHP600. Unfortunately no room was available yet and I was asked to wait. I left my things at the reception and went around the area first.

open-air cottages

I then went to the beach side and checked out the shore area.

It was a very sunny day and the beauty of a calm sea and white sand today was very inviting.

There were not a lot of people in the area even if it is a weekend. It is better this way I thought so that the local community can still preserve the place for too much commercialism.

Alas! I gave up the control and gave in to the temptation. I changed clothes and went off for some dipping at the beach. It was past lunch time when I came back. Unfortunately no room was available yet so I rented for a small cottage instead (PHP150).

As I was already hungry, before I rested in the cottage, I ordered for food and the only fish they have is bangus (milkfish). I had it grilled and asked for steamed rice (all for PHP115). Half an hour later, the food came and it was a very fulfilling lunch feast!


An hour or so after, I just rested and took a nap then went off for the Jordan Wharf (around half an hour away) to catch a motorboat back to Iloilo City again via a motorcycle. On the way, I asked if we can pass by some to buy mangoes. Guimaras is also known to produce some of the best mangoes in the country but since it isn't harvest season yet, there weren't much vendors selling mangoes. Somewhere along the way we passed by one selling mangoes for PHP60/kilo, bought 6 kilos of them and have all of it boxed up.

the mangoes

Half an hour later I was sitting on a motorboat already bound for Iloilo City. I had to bid goodbye to this very short trip but promised myself that I will be back.

Back in Iloilo City, I arrived in Ortiz Wharf and hailed a jeepney (PHP7) bound for SM City Iloilo where I boarded a shuttle to the airport (PHP70).

It was still early when I arrived so I had to wait a couple of hours.

gate information

Before total darkness ate the sky, I was already on the plane and bound for Manila. I can't believe this short getaway weekend will take me to lots of places and neither did I plan to cross the sea and go to Guimaras, but I'm sure glad I did that today. The last glimpse of the province by the plane window showed a beautiful sunset scene.