Dumaguete

Dumaguete is the capital city and main port of Negros Oriental, the province that occupies the south-eastern part of Negros Island, in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines. It is sometimes called the "City of Gentle People".

A laid-back university town with a charming sea-front boulevard and a good selection of tourist-oriented services, Dumaguete is a good place to relax for anything from a few days to a few decades. There are many tourists and a large contingent of resident foreigners including quite a few retirees.

Dumaguete is a major transport hub for reaching destinations anywhere on the large island of Negros which is split into two provinces, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental. In particular, it often serves as an entry point for trips to the diving on Apo Island or dolphin chasing and whale watching near Bais City. The small island province of Siquijor, with its many beaches, is also often reached via Dumaguete; it is visible from the downtown seafront.

The economy is quite diverse and is doing well; a 2009 survey showed Dumaguete with the lowest incidence of poverty of all cities in the Visayas and Mindanao. The city has been a center of education for over a century, and the transport, market and administrative hub of its region for even longer. More recently tourism and hi-tech have become important; Dumaguete is among the top ten tourist destinations in the country and has quite a few call centers, business process outsourcing companies and other IT-related enterprises.

Understand

Saint Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral

This article covers four towns that are administratively separate but effectively one city:

Dumaguete, Valencia and Bacong are connected by three roads, approximately an equilateral triangle 8km (5 miles) on a side.

Dumaguete is not a large city in population but is spread out over quite a wide area. The 2010 census gave a population figure of 121,000, including about 30,000 students, for Dumaguete City, but another government report suggests the daytime population is about 400,000. Most of the additional people live in the suburbs mentioned above; all three have seen considerable residential development in recent years and probably now have populations considerably larger than the 2010 figures shown above.

Valencia is located in a volcanic area, the volcanic soil is fertile, and there is plenty of rain. The area has long been known for agriculture, especially fruit and vegetable production. There is a large farmers' market on the Dumaguete-Valencia road.

The urban part of Valencia is over 200 m (660 ft) above sea level so the town is significantly cooler than Dumaguete on the coast. Partly because of this, it has several new upmarket real estate developments which attract both well-off Dumaguetinos and expatriates. Bacong and Dauin, the next coastal town south, also have a lot of upmarket housing development.

The climate is tropical with an average daily high of 30.6 C (87 F) and low of 24.8 (77); this does not vary much from month to month. Precipitation does vary considerably with a dry season January to May and wet season June to December. Average annual rainfall is 807mm (32 inches); for comparison, San Francisco and London each get about 600mm, while Manila gets about 2000mm and Hong Kong 2400.

As anywhere in the Philippines, there is some risk of both earthquakes and typhoons. However, compared to other areas in the country Dumaguete has relatively low risk of either.

Get in

The country's two largest cities, and its main hubs for international flights, are Metro Manila and Metro Cebu; from either, there are flights, ferries, and buses (which ride ferries for part of the route) to Dumaguete. Cebu is considerably closer.

Cebu used to be far and away the more pleasant airport to arrive at with an international connection (especially if travelling by Qatar or Silkair) but Manila has improved as the hitherto corrupt and unfriendly attitude of Manila airport officials has diminished over the past year. Most international arrivals and domestic departures operated by Cebu Pacific now use the modern and relatively efficient Terminal 3 in Manila.

If you change planes in Manila or Cebu, allow plenty of time since the security controls to enter each terminal before you can even join the queue to check in sometimes cause long delays. On a busy day at Manila Airport it can take almost two hours! You will also need a paper print out of your confirmed flight itinerary.

There are also international flights to Davao, Iloilo, Kalibo (nearest airport to Boracay), or Clark Airport near Angeles; none of those cities has direct or convenient connections to Dumaguete, but those routes might suit some travellers.

By plane

Dumaguete airport terminal is small with no air-bridges. Umbrellas are provided if there is a rain shower

Cebu Pacific has flights from both Manila and Cebu, and Philippine Airlines has flights from Manila.

Two plans to improve the airport expand the current airport or build a new and larger airport in Bacong, south of the city center have been proposed, but as of mid-2015 no decision has been announced.

By sea

Frequent sailings from Manila, Cebu City, Tagbilaran, Siquijor and Dapitan are offered with Cebu having the most options and trips.

A comfortable way to reach Dumaguete is on one of the better ferries. However, this is considerably more expensive than other ferry or mixed bus/ferry options. Also, they are for passengers only; you cannot bring a vehicle.

Ro-Ro's are also available; these are slower and cheaper ferries where cars can roll on and roll off.

By bus

Location

The Ceres line has direct buses from the south bus station in Cebu City to Dumaguete; they go down to the south end of Cebu Island, across to Negros Island via a short ferry ride that lands in Sibulan, then on to Dumaguete. Cost for the bus as of February 2016 was ₱205, paid to the conductor. There is a separate ₱70 charge for the ferry; someone comes round to collect it. Total travel time is often around five to six hours but may be considerably longer if traffic is bad or there is a delay waiting for the ferry.

From Cebu, the Dumaguete buses are scheduled at 06:00, 7:30, 10:00, 11:30, 13:00, 14:30, 16:00, and 18:00. The first bus for Cebu from Dumaguete leaves at 03:15 and the last at 14:00; there are many trips in between, scheduled every hour or two. Scheduling is not at all strict; a bus will leave early if it is full, sometimes more than an hour early.

There are Ceres buses to and from Bacolod, capital of the western province of Negros Occidental (which shares the island of Negros with Negros Oriental whose capital is Dumaguete).

There are several trips a day. Fare for a non-airconditioned bus is ₱232 each way. Travel time is 5-6h.

Ceres also now have a bus from the Cubao district of Quezon City (which is part of Metro Manila) to Dumaguete. It goes via Iloilo and Bacolod, and uses several ferries.

Alternate routes

If you want to see more of the southern parts of Cebu Island, you can travel south from Cebu City on your own, then reach Dumaguete with smaller hops from there. All these ferries are ro-ros so bringing a vehicle is possible,

It is also possible to go west from Cebu City to Toledo and get a ferry to San Carlos (Negros Occidental) there, or get a direct bus from the North Bus Terminal in Cebu to San Carlos. From San Carlos, you can then travel south along the coast of Negros via Bais and Tanjay toward Dumaguete. This route is longer, slower and less travelled.

From Iloilo, the easiest route is by ferry to Bacolod then bus to Dumaguete. From Palawan one can take a plane or ferry to Iloilo, or fly to Cebu City. From Manila one could get a direct flight or boat, but it is also possible take a ferry or plane to any of Iloilo, Bacolod, Cebu City or Tagbilaran then continue to Dumaguete.

From Mindanao, the only direct connections to Dumaguete are by boat from Dapitan or Zamboanga. From Cagayan de Oro you can go via Cebu City or Dapitan, or take a fast ferry to Bohol and change to another for Dumaguete.

Get around

Dumaguete has few taxis and almost none of the jeepneys you'll see in other cities in the Philippines. There are some jeepneys going to nearby towns but, unlike other cities, there are no jeepneys with general-purpose downtown routes.

A "pedicab" motorcycle/sidecar rig

The standard transport option is a three-wheeled contraption called a pedicab. In parts of the Philippines a "pedicab" is human-powered but in Dumaguete it is a motorcycle, typically 200 cc and Japanese, with a sidecar. These do have a windshield and a roof so there is some protection from the elements, but they are neither quiet nor very comfortable. The sidecar has seating for four, two facing forward and two back, but it is designed for Filipinos and four Westerners will not usually fit unless one rides pillion behind the operator.

Pedicabs are generally ₱8 per person for trips within the downtown area. These are shared vehicles; expect to ride along with whoever happens to be going the same way, and to take the odd detour as the driver diverts to deliver other passengers to their destinations. When travelling to further-out destinations (airport, etc.), or if you want the machine to yourself, expect to pay more and negotiate, probably before you get in. Prices can go up to about ₱100 for a journey to a suburb late at night when the driver cannot expect to find a return fare.

Locals around the Philippines name a landmark or commercial establishment near their destinations, street names are rarely used or known. Many travellers will be able to get around knowing only the names of three landmarks: Rizal Boulevard, Lee Plaza and Robinson's Place; most other places of interest are within easy walking distance of one of those.

If you must have air conditioning and are willing to pay for it, then the few taxis are often found near the Bethel Guest House or at Robinson's Place Mall.

Motorcycles are also popular; the roads have considerably more of them than cars. They can be rented in several shops along Perdices St, near the corners of Pinili and Santa Rosa Streets, typically for ₱300 a day. Few locals use helmets; if you plan to ride it is a good idea to bring a good-quality helmet with you.

Jeepneys

There are various terminals for jeepneys to nearby towns or suburbs; these are cheap and interesting, but often quite crowded. Sit up front with the driver if you can; this is more comfortable and has a better view. Most jeepneys give a discount for students or seniors.

The terminal near the pier has jeepneys for many places, and seems to be the main terminus for ones to Zamboanguita. The rest are in the area around the cathedral or the market west of it.

Jeepneys northbound to Sibulan, San Jose or Tanjay can sometimes be flagged down on Rizal Boulevard.

See

Dumaguete Belfry
Brahminy kites (Haliastur indus intermedius) are commonly seen hovering in the mountains behind Dumaguete, and occasionally over the sea downtown

Dumaguete is a university town; there are four universities plus various colleges, and about a quarter of the population are students.

Foremost of the city's educational institutions is Silliman University, the oldest American university in Asia and the first Protestant college to be founded in this predominantly Roman Catholic country.

The main street running north-south through the campus is Hibbard Avenue, named for the missionary couple who founded it in 1901, originally as a high school. The street that borders the campus on the south is Silliman Avenue, named after the New England industrialist who financed the project.

Silliman Hall
Silliman University Church

Inland (west) of Dumaguete are a range of volcanic mountains running from well south of the city to well north of it. None of the volcanoes are currently active but several of them are not extinct either; experts say they have the potential to erupt again. Travel services in Dumaguete or local guides closer to the sites can arrange trips. Some of the main sites are:

The Philippines is second only to the US in producing electricity from geothermal sources
The Casaroro Falls in Valencia make a nice daytrip from Dumaguete

Each of the suburbs we include in this article Valencia, Sibulan and Bacong is administered as a separate town and all have been towns since the era of Spanish rule. They all have some buildings going back to that era, clustered around a central plaza; the ones in Bacong include the oldest church in the province.

Do

There are several popular seaside resort areas nearby and it is common for travellers to use Dumaguete as a base for visiting one or more of them, since the beaches in town are often highly polluted. Many hotels and all travel agencies in Dumaguete can arrange trips to any of them.

South of the city is a coastline well provided with dive resorts, which we cover in the articles on the coastal towns. Listed north-to-south, those are:

(either Dauin or Zamboanguita has boats to Apo Island)

Beyond Siaton, around the corner onto the southwest coast of the island, are several more towns, also often reached via Dumaguete. These are a bit off-the-beaten-path, not well-developed as resort destinations. Listed east-to-west:

Beyond those is Negros Occidental; the nearest resort area there is Sipalay, not highly developed but with good beaches and diving.

There are many dive shops in Dumaguete. Some of them are:

See also Diving in the Philippines.

There are also some golf courses:

West of downtown in Valencia there are several highland resorts. These are located in a forested area and mainly oriented to outdoor activities.

There are decorated horse-drawn carts offering scenic rides around town.

Learn

The Silliman University Library is not only one of the best in the Visayas with more than 100,000 volumes, it also provides a relatively quiet and air conditioned sanctuary from the perpetual hum and throb of the streets. It's not usually open to the public, but for a purely nominal fee and a courteous word with the librarian you might be admitted as an overseas visitor.

There is a public library on Colon Street, next to the fire station & near the post office.

Dumaguete has several international schools; as anywhere, these mainly teach the children of expatriate residents and they tend to be of good quality but quite expensive.

The city also has dozens of other schools, both primary and secondary; Wikipedia has a list. There are also four universities Silliman, Saint Paul, Foundation University and Negros Oriental State U (NORSU) plus several colleges and vocational schools. NORSU also has six satellite campuses in other towns.

Buy

The main shopping area downtown is Perdices Street from around the Bell Tower to the edge of Silliman University. The street continues north into the university, but the name changes to Hibbard Avenue.

Downtown

Outside downtowɲ

There are farmers' markets near the center of every town; the one in Dumaguete is just west of the cathedral and the one in Valencia is where the jeepneys deliver you if you arrive that way. All are very good for fruit and vegetables and have other things as well. Around the one in Dumaguete is the best place in town to look for small services: key cutting, shoe or bicycle repair, manicure, ...

Robinson's Place has two bookstores (one on each floor) both with a reasonable selection of books in English; the one upstairs sells used books. There is also a book store downtown on Perdices a little north of Lee Plaza; it has a lot of children's books and textbooks, but almost nothing for general adult readers. On the hallway leading to the immigration office (listed under #Cope) is a book rental place which seems to be the only establishment in town with a good selection of sci-fi and fantasy; they also have a large collection of romances. The second floor of that building also has a bookstore.

Eat

There are restaurants all over Dumaguete and some of the plainer ones with Filipino customers away from the central strip may be the best places to search for low prices or local color. In particular, places catering to the student market near any of the universities (especially along Hibbard Avenue near Silliman University or the North Highway near Negros Oriental U) are often cheap and lively.

All the places listed under #Drink below also serve food, though not all have a large menu.

Budget

This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget under ₱200
Mid-range ₱200-400
Splurge over ₱400

Most of these places at least Filomena, Food Net and Scooby's offer free filtered and chilled water from a self-service fountain with a supply of glasses. All also have soft drinks and most have juices. Except for the buffet, none serve alcohol.

There are also two small cheap burger places on the Boulevard, next to Bogart's. See #Along the boulevard.

Mid-range

A major area for restaurants and bars is the scenic seafront strip along Rizal Boulevard and the streets just behind it, up to or a bit beyond Perdices. The cheapest food in this area is from street vendors who appear along the sea front, mainly near the north end, in the evenings selling tempura and corn-on-the-cob.

The restaurants are generally mid-range in pricing, with main courses in the ₱150-350 range, though an imported steak can be close to a thousand. Quality of the food is generally quite good. Quality of the coffee varies rather widely but they more-or-less all have cold beer (₱50-60, a bit less in happy hour) and many serve good milkshakes (₱60-110). Tea, juices, wine and mixed drinks are also on offer in many places.

Nearly all these places have patios with a view of the sea; this is a mixed blessing. The view is lovely and there is often a welcome sea breeze, but there is no air conditioning, the traffic noise can be distinctly unpleasant, and people on the patios will be bothered by beggars and vendors of various things. Also, smoking is allowed on most patios so sensitive folk may be more comfortable inside where it is forbidden.

Along the boulevard

Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres statue on the boulevard

We list the boulevard restaurants here in north-to-south order:

Bethel Guest House (listed under #Sleep) has Filomena Cafe (listed under #Budget).

Other downtown places

There are also a number of restaurants that are not on the boulevard but are within easy walking distance. Many are either on Santa Catalina (parallel to the boulevard, a short block inland) or on Silliman Avenue (running inland from the north end of the boulevard).

Along Silliman:

Along Santa Catalina:

Elsewhere downtown:

Perdices Street has several chain restaurants; Jollibee's and McDonald's have two each, and Dunkin Donuts and Chow King one. Fruit is available in the supermarkets, from fruit shops, or from street vendors, and there are many bakeries Lee Plaza and Robinson's each have one and there are several more along the street.

Further out

There are also some restaurants a bit south and west of downtown, on the road to Valencia:

Others are north of the center:

Robinson's mall has many chain restaurants including Shakey's Pizza, Mister Donut, Krispy Kreme and KFC inside the mall. A courtyard at the east of the mall has several more, including Bo's Coffee and Mooon Cafe. A food court at the north end of the second floor has many places, mostly with Filipino food.

Valencia

Valencia has a large market near the center of town with bakeries, fruit vendors, several restaurants with Filipino food, and two pizza places. On the west side are a couple of places popular with the town's large expatriate community:

Splurge

Competition is stiff for restaurants in Dumaguete, and the restaurants listed above all have many moderately-priced items on their menus so we have listed them all as "Mid-range". If you want elegant decor and a menu that includes upmarket offerings, then your best bets are Cafe Antonio, Casablanca, La Residencia Almar or Why Not?

Drink

Tourists and resident expatriates do much of their imbibing in the strip of restaurants and bars along Rizal Boulevard; those are listed under #Along the boulevard above. There are also a number of other restaurants, plus some discos and karaoke places, just inland from there.

Some bars outside that central region, but within a few minutes pedicab ride, are:

For those who enjoy karaoke, there is a KTV place above Moon Cafe on Silliman Avenue, and another a few doors further west.

When ordering a rum & coke in Dumaguete, a double usually costs less than a single; Philippine rum is cheaper than the mixer. Some places offer a triple for even less.

Unlike some places in the Philippines, Dumaguete does not have a flourishing sex trade. As anywhere on Earth, there is some prostitution, but it is not nearly as blatant as in places like Angeles or Puerto Galera. There are some go-go bars out beyond city limits (technically in Sibulan) along the North Highway between E. Rovira and the airport, but nothing so obvious in town.

Sleep

Dumaguete is a tourist town with a large number of hotels, not all listed here. Walk down almost any street near the center of town and you are bound to find several.

Budget

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget under ₱600
Mid-range ₱600-1200
Splurge over ₱1200

Mid-range

Splurge

At late 2015 exchange rates $50 US is ₱2350, so even these upmarket places are cheap by Western standards.

Long-term stays

It is fairly common for travellers to stay in Dumaguete for long periods, in particular for most or all of what would be the winter season back home. Some even settle permanently; this is a prime destination for retiring abroad. Many hotels and some small guest houses offer by-the-week or by-the-month deals.

There are also places catering mainly for long-term guests. Prices range from roughly 6 to 30 thousand pesos a month. Toward the upper end of the price range you can get a very nice furnished one-bedroom apartment including kitchen.

There are real estate agents (web search will find a dozen, or you may notice signs around town) who can connect you to anything from by-the-month accommodation to buying property of various types. A foreigner cannot legally own land in the Philippines, but they can buy a condo in their own name or start a company which can own land.

Both Coco Amigos and Why Not? on the boulevard have notice boards with ads to rent or sell property, cars and motorcycles.

Stay safe

Dumaguete is generally a safe city. There are enough beggars and touts to be annoying, but by Asian standards these problems are relatively mild. Police are quite visible, especially along Rizal Boulevard.

You do see plenty of evidence that locals are concerned about security. Many of the larger old houses and more-or-less all the new luxury housing are in walled compounds, and barbed wire, spikes or broken glass to discourage people from climbing the walls are common, as are bars to keep burglars from entering windows. Most businesses have roll-down metal doors for protection when they are closed. Many businesses and some residential compounds have armed guards. Guards at the entrances to many department stores or malls use metal-detecting wands to scan customers before entry. All of this, however, is true in most areas of the Philippines, and much of it is common to most low-income countries.

As anywhere in the Philippines, pedestrians should be quite cautious in Dumaguete. Some roads lack sidewalks, and even if there is a sidewalk, it may be blocked by parked motorcycles. Both roads and sidewalks are often seriously uneven some have holes that could easily break a leg, and many more could turn an ankle so it is essential to watch your step.

Traffic can be distinctly hectic; there are no traffic lights or stop signs anywhere in the town, and you rarely see policemen directing traffic. Most of the oddities of Asian driving are seen in Dumaguete: motorcycles fairly often go down the wrong side of the road, running without lights at night is common, one-way traffic signs are sometimes ignored, and so on. On the positive side, the traffic is not remarkably fast, there are few traffic jams and, compared to some other Asian cities, Dumaguete has fewer drivers who seem obviously insane to western observers.

As in any tropical area, there is risk of sunburn; it is quite important for newly arrived visitors to exercise caution.

Stay healthy

Health risks in Dumaguete are not large but, as for most travel, it is worth checking with your doctor and possibly getting some vaccines before setting out. The area is tropical, so see also tropical diseases.

A few vaccines may be of particular concern:

Dumaguete is not one of the parts of the Philippines where malaria is a risk. In fact the entire Visayas region is malaria-free.

The city has many health services doctors, dentists, pharmacies, optometrists and, as elsewhere in the Philippines and indeed most of Asia, these services are often much cheaper than in higher-income countries. There are exceptions when imported products, such as dental implants or certain drugs, are required for the treatment.

There are three hospitals:

The city's health department has its office in City Hall on Colon Street; it includes a Social Hygiene clinic for sexually transmitted diseases. Region 7 (Central Visayas) ranks third in the country for the most cases of HIV.

Connect

Internet service is generally very good; Dumaguete is one of the hubs of the fiber optic network that connects the country. Most hotels and many restaurants offer free Wi-Fi; connection speed is fine for text and most graphics but music or video streaming is often jerky due to high latencies.

Cell phone connections are fast and reliable anywhere in the city.

Cope

Negros Oriental Capitol

Smoking

Smoking is not encouraged in Dumaguete; a municipal bylaw prohibits smoking in public places, including on the streets, and most or all hotels prohibit smoking in the rooms. However, many restaurants have patios where smoking is allowed and some hotels provide a patio or balcony area where nicotine addicts can indulge.

For those who prefer a vaporizer:

Go next

When moving on from Dumaguete, easily reached places include Cebu City or Bohol by boat and Bacolod by bus. The valley town of Mabinay is on the Dumaguete-Bacolod bus route and is a center for spelunking; the area around it has many caves but accommodation choices are not brilliant. Various more distant places are also accessible; see the Get in section for details.

Bais City, 44km to the north, is famous for its dolphin watching, public ballroom dancing in the plaza, mangrove swamps, and a 7km long white sand bar that is washed clean twice a day by each high tide. Oslob on Cebu Island is known for whale sharks.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 31, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.