Friday, October 17, 2008

Discovering Dumaguete 2

The jeepney ride from Sibulan was typical. Crowded full of local Negros folks, and me a tall out of place foreigner. I was soon put at ease. several passengers helped me with my luggage, and with the info on the proper fare to pay. As we approached Dumaguete, I strained to look out the narrow side windows of the van. I could see very little as we jostled along the National highway, but did notice the diminutive and round faces I came to associate with provincial people. We passed several schools, universities among them, and it seemed Dumaguete was indeed a college town, bustling with students, motorcycles, and tricycles.

I had called ahead to the Bethel guest house, but they had no available rooms. They did recommend an alternative, the OK pension... As I had no idea where to go I asked a fellow jeepney passenger, and they were very polite and helpful, directing the driver in visayan to the pension house. Dumped in front of the hotel with my three bags, I sighed in relief that the long days trip was now over. It was just a matter of checking in, and flopping on a bed in an air conditioned room to relax for a while. I had arrived in Dumaguete, not quite knowing why I was here or what I was going to do. In any event it was a fateful and profound step in my quest to assimilate into the Philippine culture, as much as a foreigner could.

The OK Pension proved in fact, not to be so OK, so after two nights of cats fighting in the open courtyard just outside my room, I transferred to the Honeycomb guest house on Rizal Boulevard. I negotiated a rate for a ten day stay not knowing if I would remain after that or move on. The Honeycomb is an old Spanish style mansion dating to the beginning of the twentieth Century. Converted to a hotel, it was charming but somewhat rundown from lack of routine maintenance, never the less a nice place with friendly young girls at the front desk.

There I was smack dab in the middle of expat central, not knowing this at first, I quickly became aware of the charms and pitfalls of the so called "Boulevard", as it is known locally...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Discovering Dumaguete

The first time I heard the name Dumaguete, I was sitting at a seaside cafe in Moal Boal. A divers resort, Moal Boal and nearby Panagsama Beach lie on the south western coast of Cebu Province.

As I dreamily contemplated the looming mist shrouded mountains of Negros Oriental, I ask a waitress what that place was over there, pointing across the Tanon Straight. She replied "That's Negros, and it's my place." I asked her what it was like over there. She replied, "It is very green, many farms and fruit plantations sir." I said "ahh, a nice place?" "yes" she replied, "friendly people and a quiet clean place." Sitting there it looked primordal in the hazy orange sunset of early evening. What town is over there I wondered, what kind of people inhabit that place of large dormant volcanoes and verdant forests? Further conversation yielded the name Dumaguete as the principle municipality in southern Negros Oriental.

I stayed two more weeks at Panagsama beach. I enjoyed the white sand beaches, the nightlife, and touring around on a rented motorcycle. I kept wondering about Negros, it was getting the best of my curiosity. I canceled plans to return to Cebu city and bought a bus ticket to Bato, where I could catch a ferry to Sibulan, just north of Dumaguete. It happened that fast, an impulse to visit a seemingly enchanted place of waiting adventures and discovery. It was a trip that changed my life in so many ways. What follows here is a retrospective of my personal discovery, my journey to Negros, a journey to myself, and a journey to understand the Philippines and it's people.