Dumaguete Jan. 2013

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DH’s mother hails from Dumaguete City, on the island of Negros, in the province of Negros Oriental, the eastern side of the island, and she still has a few (ok, more than a few) relatives living there. This year his whole family decided to go to Dumaguete on a family trip just for the weekend to relax by the sea, visit some relatives, indulge in fresh seafood, and have some quality-time with each other.

Dumaguete City is a beautiful seaside town. It is the capital of  Negros Oriental, in the southern part of the Visayas of the Philippines.

negros map

Just to show you where Dumaguete is in relation to the whole Philippines….dumaguete map

Normally this area of the Philippines is blessed with fantastic weather, shielded from most of the typhoons, but with the effects of global warming, unfortunately Dumaguete suffered from the last 2 major typhoons last year.

Dumaguete is only 1 hour away by plane from Manila, and flying here is convenient and painless. There are daily flights, and the airport in Dumaguete, while small, is clean and efficient.

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Tourists fly to Dumaguete mainly for diving. The famous Apo Island, which is a reknown marine sanctuary (I even visited a huge exhibit on Apo Island in Chicago!), is nearby, and many tourists land in Dumaguete for a week of snorkelling and diving.

The thing I like most about Dumaguete is what they call The Boulevard. Its official name is Rizal Boulevard, but every local refers to this beautiful avenue beside the water by this generic name. It was designed by Daniel Burnham, the same architect and urban planner as Baguio, the Philppines’ summer capital, and, more famously, Chicago and downtown Washington D.C. (as per Wikipedia). Wow, it’s nice to say those cities in the same sentence. 🙂

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For those of you who are familiar with Manila, the capital of the Philippines, Burnham is also the architect of Roxas Boulevard. Roxas Boulevard and The Boulevard look very similar, but The Boulevard has the edge because it has retained its classic look, whereas Roxas Boulevard kind of looks worse for wear (for me) because of the modernization (or so they say) and land reclamation around it. In fact, The Boulevard kind of reminds me of Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, which Roxas Boulevard could have looked like, if they took better care preserving its original design.

Bit of trivia: Burnham may have designed The Boulevard, but unfortunately, never got the chance to visit it.

A walk down The Boulevard is refreshing to say the least. The boardwalk right beside the shore is well-maintained, wide, and comfortable for a leisurely stroll. The fresh breeze from the ocean feels like it can cure any respiratory ailment. On a warm, sunny day, it is SUCH a delight to walk. And, if you get hungry, there are many food establishments, from casual family fare to bars, along the other side of the road.

Speaking of food establishments, I must mention this one restaurant whose fame has reached Manila’s foodies. Sans Rival is a Filipino rich dessert of layers of meringue, cashew nuts, and rich buttercream (more butter than other buttercreams I’ve tasted!). I still haven’t found out why it carries a French name (meaning, without rival). Anyway, there is a restaurant along The Boulevard named Sans Rival, who’s specialty is, you guessed it, a deadly sans rival. As I said, Manila foodies have long waxed rhapsodic about this particular Sans Rival. So much so that I had at least 2 requests to bring back some sans rival from Sans Rival. Definitely if you find yourself in this part of the world, this place is a must-try. At least the sans rival, or its cookie version, the silvana, is.

A very efficient and modern counter graced the entrance.

IMG_2739But the star of the restaurant is the fully decked-out pastry showcase!

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The dining room is warm and inviting.IMG_2741With interesting design details such as birdcage chandeliers….

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Wooden lattice work…..IMG_2743

And interesting knick-knacks.IMG_2744

Here’s a slice of the famous Sans Rival. Look at all that butter! IMG_2745

For those who want more traditional desserts, they also carry a long line of cheesecakes, such as this Salted Caramel Cheesecake.IMG_2746

Sans Rival’s Sans Rival and Silvanas are popular gifts for people back in Manila, and a lot of my friends asked me to bring some home for them (called “pasalubong“, or a gift from one’s travels). Sans Rival has smartly started selling their goodies at the airport’s departure area, so in case you forget to buy a pasalubong, you can just make a snap purchase of a delicious box of Silvanas. Oh, small catch: they are slightly more expensive in the airport.

As for the other food places, you can’t really go wrong with fresh seafood, hot of the grill. We had dinner at Lab-As (“fresh” in the local dialect), and feasted on fresh oysters, fresh maya-maya (red snapper), fresh stuffed squid, and….frozen yogurt.

Lab-as is a great restaurant, but its sister-bar, Hayahay (which means “chillax”), is right beside for some after-dinner entertainment. Live bands play nightly here.

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Here is the reason for dinner!! IMG_2712

Fresh oysters……..IMG_2713

….make great appetizers!
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Where the action is…..the grilling station!
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While we opted to stay outdoors to enjoy the fresh air (Lab-As is located beside the Boulevard, so it gets very windy), there is an indoor air-conditioned dining area available.IMG_2731

Dumaguete is a small city with all the creature comforts of a tourist destination. While there are no big chain hotels here (yet), there are dozens of small, charming hotels around the town that are great stopovers for tourists on the way to their dive resorts. There is also a mall with all the usual fastfood chains (I would assume. I personally didn’t go inside the mall) for those foreigners who are looking for familiar food like McDonald’s.

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