Wednesday, May 28, 2014

There Is Something about Dumaguete

The bakery cafe was not as I remembered it. It was larger, able to fit six, seven big families, maybe. A number of servers walked around now, unlike being at the back of the counter like how it was before. The ambiance was more refined, but not pretentious, like you would expect a cafe to be in a learned (not to mention, moneyed) university town.

Dumaguete, Philippines
Dumaguete, you charming small town, you.

Some things never changed though. The cafe was still housed in this old, two-storey wooden mansion, the kind of houses you would associate with vieux riche Filipinos living away from the cities. The cafe was still just a few steps away from the most scenic spot in town, the baywalk. And the food, most especially the cafe's famed silvanas? They were just as buttery, creamy, sweet, and all things divine.

In fact, it was even better as I only just then realized how cheap eating in this cafe was. A pasta meal in a cafe like this in Manila would set me back five to ten US dollars. Here, it was more like two.

Not that the money mattered at this point. I was dining with friends in The Sans Rival Shop in Dumaguete, Philippines. I do not believe I could have been any happier at that moment in time.

Dumaguete, Philippines
After dinner, a sunset. Perfect.

There was something about Dumaguete really. The first time I visited this city I hadn't traveled much yet, but I knew seeing a small town in the Philippines as charming as this city would not be easily trumped by any other travel experience. I was right. Five years later, after so many travels under my belt, Dumaguete still holds the top position of places I'd like to retire to one day.

It helped that food in Dumaguete was cheap (I cannot stress this enough); that beautiful islands and beaches are accessible (hello, Siquijor, Cebu); that the downtown area is fringed by a scenic baywalk that comes alive with food hawkers at night; and, that ultimately and historically, this is a university town, a center of learning in Southern Philippines.

Dumaguete, Philippines
St. Catherine of Alexandria Basilica, Dumaguete

I wasn't here just to travel though. This time, I was here for a wedding. A good friend now based in England was getting married that weekend. The best part was, I was here with old friends. And we were to have one great summer wedding weekend. Or at least, what we could remember of it.

There was a lot of professions of as well as toasts to love (yes, I cried); A lot of delicious food (like that kare-kare made with real peanuts and the most tender ox tail meat I had ever tasted); a wedding reception venue overlooking the sea; and, of course, dancing and a lot of drinking. I understated that. I mean, a lifetime worth of drinking (and some vomiting, okay, a lot of vomiting). Fantastic, and I mean, fantastic night.

Dumaguete, Philippines
Would you look at this wedding reception venue? I mean, this really isn't up to my standards. (Wink, smiley face.)

Dumaguete, Philippines
Getting ready for the shot, and for the shots. (See what I did there?)

It was a miracle really that we were up at 8 a.m. the next day, pounding headaches, hangovers, and all, to spend the morning at the beach. We headed to a place called Dauin, around 30 minutes from downtown Dumaguete. Inside the van as we drove there, I clutched a barf bag in my hand. Yes, I was still that hungover.

We got there. Thankfully. Worst 30-minute van ride of my life. The water was blue, but the sand was coarse and dark brown. It was not the best beach in the region, I know that. But it was the best hangover cure we all needed that day.

Dumaguete, Philippines
I mean, who'd refuse that as a hangover cure?

Dumaguete, Philippines
Quite a posh resort this. But good enough for a daytrip.

Dumaguete, Philippines
Dauin, Dumaguete, Philippines

Really there a lot of things about Dumaguete, which magnetize me, which make me want to see more, know more. The charming views, the food, the people. Maybe. I still cannot put a pin on it. Something tells me I don't want to just yet. It'll take a few more visits. Yes, a few more. That I'm happy about.


Any charming, small seaside towns you visited in your travels you'd like to tell us about?


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