After 2 nights in Bacolod City, it was now time to move on to our next destination (with a change in dialect) – the Cebuano-speaking Dumaguete City, the capital of neighboring Negros Oriental. Like Bacolod City, this visit was a first for me. We departed Bacolod City by 1 PM. To get to Dumaguete, we had the choice of two routes. Both entailed making an 86.9-km. drive to Kabankalan City. From here, the first route entails making a further 140.2 km. drive, along the southern underbelly of the island, to the border plus and an additional 140.8 km. drive to Dumaguete (total of 367.9 kms.). The second and shorter route entails a 25-km. drive from Kabankalan City, cutting through the mountainous spine, to the border and an additional 101.3-km. drive to Dumaguete (total of 213.2 kms.). As time was the essence, we took the second route. What a spectacular route it was! Traveling through Kennon Road-like zigzag roads, we passed lush and spectacular mountain scenery all the way to the coast. After a 4.5-hour drive, we arrived at Dumaguete by 5:30 PM and checked in our tired, travel-weary bodies into airconditioned rooms with bath and cable TV at Harold’s Mansion.
Negros Oriental has, in the past, been mistaken (by the national media as well as Pres. Gloria Arroyo) for its better known, and more prosperous, neighbor Negros Occidental, so much so that it is seriously considering a name change (i.e. Oriental Negros). Even Dumaguete, its capital, is a relative unknown compared to its counterpart, Bacolod City. However, both city and province are slow waking up to economic potentials domestic tourism brings. More so with Dumaguete City, a city which, in my opinion, exudes a quaint and quiet charm plus a campus life quite similar to my alma mater, the University of the Philippines.
Dumaguete, like Bacolod City, is a showcase of Spanish and American-era architecture. The City Hall, along Sta. Catalina St., was built in 1907. In front of it is Quezon Park, a flower market and a children’s playground. The Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria, located across Perdices St. (formerly Alfonso XII St.), from Quezon Park, has a coral and brick Spanish bell tower built in 1811 to warn townsfolk against piratical raids. The tower was restored in 1985. The Provincial Capitol, along North Road, was built in 1924 in the same Roman Neo-Classical style used by Daniel Burnham, the American city planner of Manila and Baguio City. It has a park (Ninoy Aquino Freedom Park), 3 tennis courts and 2 schools nearby.
The distinguishing landmark of Dumaguete, however, is the beachfront area along Rizal Blvd., much like Manila’s Roxas Blvd. (before reclamation). Our National Hero, Jose Rizal, was said to have once strolled here during a stopover on his way to his 4-year (1892 to 1896) exile in Dapitan (Zamboanga del Norte). Today, Rizal Blvd., a favorite area for picnics, play or retrospection, is also the favored address of a number of cozy places to eat, drink and be merry. Our favorite watering hole here is Loco-Loco.