And here goes my year summarized in photos taken from all over the Philippines. I have thus proven that once bitten by the travel bug, one can never go back. Thanks to all the friends I met online at first, on the road eventually. I hope 2012 has a lot more in store for me and my itchy feet. 🙂 Cheers!
Food is plentiful and cheap in Dumaguete. I cannot believe the number of local restaurants dominating the city proper. And with the market of hungry university students looking for a great fill on a student budget, Dumaguete’s homegrown restos face stiff competition. We dined at Kawaway’s, a native restaurant serving mostly grilled fish and meat and filling stews, and the bill was just around 600pesos. Note that we had 4 viands, 4 cups of rice, plus drinks. For breakfast, we grab coffee at Mcdonald’s, just 2 blocks from our accommodation. Refills are free until 10:30am – a fact that I was unaware of till my last breakfast in Dumaguete where I didn’t even avail of the free refill as we were pressed for time. Or haven’t I had enough Mcdo pancakes and sausages in Metro Manila to know that this is indeed the case with all Mcdo braches?
The night is alive with bars and grill restaurants providing local entertainment to enhance the gastronomic experience. Hayahay, for example, conveniently located along Rizal Boulevard was staging an acoustic one-man show when we stopped by to grab some drinks during our first night in Negros Oriental. We squeezed in some shuteye at our humble room in OK Pension House where the rates are perfect for the budget traveler who’d rather spend the money on his daytime adventures. An airconditioned room with a queen-sized bed costs just 440pesos a night. We were lucky enough to get soap and towels with that rockbottom of a price. Cheapskates as we were, we didn’t even buy toiletries from the nearby grocer. My 3 shampoo sachets and 1 toothpaste twin sachet (emphasis on the twin!) proved sufficient for our hygiene needs. (I sense that sneer of disgust in you, reader!ha!) Don’t worry; I brought a deo all along. (Now a sigh of relief I hear!)
The second night’s socials was much affordable with 4 500-mL beers for just 168pesos at Garahe, a raw and rustic no-nonsense drinking arena which reminds me of Papus near ADMU and brings to mind another bar bearing same name in UP Diliman (yes bandang amorsolo. haha). We decided not to wait for the band playing as they were busy watching ‘Naked and Funny’ non-verbal comedic gags on the bar’s mounted TV screen. We then hopped to a bar our tricycle driver recommended where the showband’s female lead was earning raving reviews and howls of approvals from the old men in the front row of tables. Right there and then I knew why our driver liked this place. haha
When in the province, I cannot miss watching a movie on the big screen. Movie tickets are cheaper in the provinces compared to their Metro Manila counterparts. And as Green Lantern was right on schedule, we scored seats for just 110pesos each at Robinson’s Dumaguete on our second night. Back in my hometown, I watched Thor for a measly 60bucks. Now that’s cheap! You wouldn’t kick yourself and feel bad for falling asleep halfway through the film because it cost you just half of what you pay for that tall cafe mocha.
Going home late after the cinema’s last full show (which is not that late in Dumaguete, actually) is never a problem as tricycles are easily accessible for just 8pesos per ride (minimum). I was sorry and embarrassed to have haggled for my tricycle fare to the airport during my last day, only to settle at a higher price in the end. The Sibulan Airport was already too far from the city center, I have come to know. In this Negros Oriental trip, I have realized that not only do I have a tendency to become disoriented every 30 minutes; I also lack spatial relation and distance approximation skills. I’m a complete geographic idiot.
30 minutes from Dumaguete City is the sleepy town of Valencia. 30 minutes more of alternating rough and paved roads is a mystic waterfall sheltered within a vast forest declared as a protected area by DENR.
The trek was long and winding, 13.5 kilometers from the national highway to be exact. The road was a rocky horror and the rain was starting to pour. The air was cold and inviting and the flora wild and varied. We hired a motorcycle for the butt-numbing long ascent and anticipated exhaustion. An hour later, after countless stops for photo breaks, we reached the twin lakes office and registration area adjacent to Lake Kabalin-an, where tree reflections intentionally distract you from the seemingly emerging creatures in the water. And with the imagination kicking in, the small body of water appears eerily reminiscent of Loch Ness where Nessie could devour the most unsuspecting stranger. Entrance fee is 10 pesos per person.
And the living is easy…
By 10 am on Day 2 of our Negros Oriental escapade, we were at bais City, a 1-hr commute from Dumaguete via Ceres Liner bus. We headed to the city tourism office to inquire about the dolphin watch tours. Ate Maria Fe, from the local tourism office, said she’d meet up with Sir Anton who facilitates the tours. Off we went with her towards the city hall where we finally saw Sir Anton. He let us set the price for the whole tour. Since the normal rate good for 20 people costs 4K, we told him we’d settle with 3K since it was just the three of us. He said if we came earlier, and by earlier he meant 6am, we could have joined a big group so as to save money. But it was a great deal, actually. We had the boat to ourselves for a 5-hour tour consisting of dolphin watching, mangrove tour, and beach bumming by the Manjuyod Sandbar.