Feb 29, 2012
|Dumaguete is a town located on the southeast coast of the island of Negros. It's the closest place to Siquijor with an airport, and I had to fly out of somewhere. Besides, the guidebook's description was encouraging: "it has attractive architecture, a laidback university town ambience, and a lovely seafront promenade shaded by acacia trees and coconut palms and lined with lively bars and restaurants".
I stayed in Dumaguete for one day and a half, and it was one day too many! The seafront promenade is indeed very nice and will provide a pleasant five-minute walk (despite the occasional sewer smells) but that's about it. The rest of the town (with the additional exception of the university grounds) is noisy, smelly, and unattractive with overhanging electrical cables, too many tricylces and other vehicles, and almost unusable sidewalks cluttered with parked cars and other obstacles.
And of course it's hot and very humid. And did I say smelly?
I arrived around 4 pm on Sunday afternoon, and was able to walk to my hotel which was only about 10 minutes away from the ferry port. Hotel Palwa is a typical business hotel, with clean air-conditioned rooms, so I was confortable there, except for swearing many times at the unreliable hot water (had a couple of cold showers before discovering that the water heater was hiding in a corner "under" the sink).
That first evening, I walked past the market, the medieval-looking stone belltower, and the church. It was Sunday night mass and the crowds of worshippers spilled outside. I walked down the seafront promenade (very busy at dusk) where some guy was preaching through a loudspeaker, and a half-sunk ship loomed in the distance. Had a pretty pleasant dinner at an outdoor restaurant called the Blue Monkey Grill.
Monday morning I woke up and realized there wasn't really anything left to do in this town... except perhaps the small anthropological museum at the university. Fortunately, one good thing about the place is that it has the cheapest food I've encountered so far in the Philippines. Consequently, I spent the best part of the day sitting at cafes and restaurants eating and drinking. And reading a novel. I had good lattes and pastries, bad pizza, and pretty good fish tacos. I walked by the university twice and the museum was closed both times. I walked the seafront promenade again. I walked by the church again. For the first time of the trip I actually felt bored. Not sure if it's a coincidence that I'm feeling that way just as the trip is about to end. It's probably a good thing as this actually makes me look forward to my return home.
And since this will be my last entry about the Philippines, I thought I would provide a short summary of my impressions on the country.
From what I have seen and experienced (a small sample of the country I must admit), I would say that two of the country's greatest assets are its people and its beaches. The people are always friendly and polite and speak surprisingly good English. Of course, the constant "Yes, Ma'am" replies can become grating after a while... but oh well.
I knew that the Philippines would feel different from the rest of Asia (given centuries of Western colonization and influence). There is a definite latino feel here.
Philippinos like to be entertained. Any music or noise is better than silence. This can mean live entertainement delivered through bad speakers on a lunch cruise, or blind musicians playing for tips in the departure lounge of ferry ports and small island airports!
I also experienced a number of "firsts" here, some bad, but most just interesting. Here are a few:
- First time getting to the front of the line at airport immigration to find that the clerk has left his booth with no indication whether he's coming back or not!
- First time being asked to step on the luggage scale with my hand luggage upon checking in for a flight.
- First time having my bank card swallowed by a bank machine.
- First time seeing a "Male" and "Female" line-ups at the airport X-ray machines (they pat everyone down, but don't seem to care about liquids...)
- First time being asked to pay for my entire 3-night hotel stay by bank transfer before I even get there.
I'm sure I forget some... Will add them as they come back to mind.