Though commercialization is fast encroaching Dumaguete City, many still consider it as a relaxed base to explore nearby islands such as Siquijor , Apo Island and Simunol Island. Expats and tourists linger longer here, in fact, it is now a popular retirement destination in the Philippines. Dumaguete City’s slow-paced appeal is enhanced by a handful of tourist attractions, a charming promenade and amiable people.
Here are some of the suggested activities to help you plan your Dumaguete City tour:
1. Take a Leisurely Walk in Siliman University
Aptly referred to as the “university town” because most of its residents are students, Dumaguete City is home to the gorgeous Siliman University which is one of top tourist spots here. It is dappled by verdant acacia-lined boulevards concealing colossal buildings. Visit the beautiful chapel that sits in the green grounds of Siliman University, take a leisurely stroll and soak up the fresh atmosphere here.
2. Museum Hopping
Not to be missed while inside the premise of Siliman University is the Anthropology Museum. Interesting age-old artifacts, indigenous tapestries and hand-woven products are enshrined here. Also check out the Siliman University Whale Bone Museum or the Marine Laboratory which houses a collection of whale bones.
3. Stroll Around Quezon Park
Another tourist attraction in Dumaguete is the Quezon Park ( fronting the Dumaguete Cathedral and Belfry Tower), a public park where locals hang out. Quezon Park houses the Jose Rizal and Maria Clara Monument, archaic canyons, a vintage fire truck and a tourism office.
4. Hang Out at Rizal Boulevard
Rizal Boulevard is a local favorite, it is bursting with restaurants and cafes and the tree-lined promenade offers a respite from the bustling city center. This is one of the timeless tourist spot in Dumaguete with cemented benches and towering lamps dotting the area. It is also a perfect spot to watch the sunset and observe people. At dusk, chairs and tables start to fill the area and hawker stalls starts selling grilled food and other inexpensive dishes.
5. Visit the Dumaguete Cathedral
St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral, the seat of Diocese of Dumaguete City prides itself as the oldest stone church in Negros Oriental. It stands proudly beside the iconic Belfry of Dumaguete.
6. Light a Candle at the Belfry Tower
The massive old Belfry Tower looms over Dumaguete City and is the top tourist attraction in Dumaguete. It is a timeless landmark of this hurried metropolis, known as the oldest surviving structure of Dumaguete that was built back in 1760 to warn the residents of invading sea pirates. Today, it houses the grotto of Our Lady of Perpetual Help where locals light candles and pray and souvenir shop of religious items.
7. See the Negros Oriental Capitol
Tourists who love visiting Capitols will surely be elated to see the classical Negros Oriental Provincial Capitol built in 1924. It has a lovely manicured recreational area named Aquino Park which is dotted with trees and a dancing fountain.
8. Pig on Foods
At night dine in Sta. Monica Beach Resort, they offer one of the best buffet meals in Dumaguete. Other famed restaurants and cafe at the city center are: Casablanca, the charming Café Antonio set in a well-preserved old Spanish building, feast on seafood at Lab-as Seafood Restaurant and the artsy Jutz Café. The local delicacy called bodbod is made of sticky rice, milk, and sugar while the bodbod tanjay is the bodbod version with native chocolate.
9. Indulge on Sans Rival
Running the business since 1977, it has now turned into a charming café. One of the top food destinations in Dumaguete is Sans Rival Cake and Pastries, must-try are the heavenly sans rival, the creamy silvanas, and the yummy cakes such as Black Forest, Brazo de Mercedes, Blue berry Cheesecake and Walnut Dacquoise.
10. Shop for Souvenirs
Dumaguete city may not be the epitome of a shopping haven but it has its own souvenir shops to boast. The Handumanan Souvenir Shop is said to be the city’s oldest souvenir shop, it is packed with Filipino products, trinkets, key chains, penholder, souvenir shirts and Bell Tower miniatures.
But for one stop shopping, take a tricycle from the city center and rush to Sidlakang Negros Village near the Hall of Justice and Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital. It serves as a permanent site for trade and tourism exhibits, enter each pavilion and get a glimpse of the cultures of different towns of Negros Oriental. Here you’ll find native-looking shops set in a well-manicured garden. Each pavilions/ shops in Sidlakang Negros Village selling hand-made products, hand-woven textiles, shell products, souvenir items, trinkets, stoneware and furniture.
Disclosure: I explored Dumaguete City alone back in April 2012 but last December 2012, Sta. Monica Beach Resort sponsored our stay and tour in the City of Gentle People.