19 October 2007

My Flights: Dumaguete

I was supposed to be in Dumaguete for a job, but once my work was completed, I decided to enjoy myself.

I stayed for three days, and work was yet on the second day. My first day was spent just whiling away the time at the beach resort where I was billeted in, Sta. Monica Beach Resort. It rained hard that day, and for that I was grateful. Frankly, I don't enjoy the beach as much as I do the mountains although I did swim in their beautiful pool later in the evening, which I suspect was heated. It was the first time I exposed my skimpily clad, 'healthier' body in public, in a long time. Thinking no one else swam at night made me decide to give it a go. After some stranger decided to also take a dip, I couldn't get up, unless I risk being accused of obscenity.

After my work was done the following day, we had dinner at this wonderful Persian-Indian restaurant, called Persian Palate. It is located at the Spanish Heritage, right next to a quaint shop that sells PX goods, all for P99. (The merchandise I found there was really interesting, not your usual imported goods. Even by Manila or duty-free standards, the items were tasteful.). Being vegetarian, I had a large serving of Dahl, some samosas, aloo palak and a pot of Persian tea.
At around 8:30PM, somehow late for Dumaguete standards, a companion of mine mentioned to me that he saw some motorbikes, "underbones" to be exact, for rent at a rate of P20 (US 0.50). I struggled to comprehend whether what he was telling me was accurate or if he had just made an honest mistake. We (ignorant Manileños!) decided to take a tricycle to that part of town and check it out. There were 5 of us at the time, and we all boarded this huge tricycle that could seat 6-8 people! It was a surprisingly comfortable ride, with room to spare. The night wind of Dumaguete being so cool and refreshing, I actually started to feel sleepy. When we got to the 'motorbike lender' a few minutes later, all he asked from me was "any ID" and for me to sign a waiver, which I gladly did, and handed over my expired village pass, which he accepted. I started dissecting his rate structure with him, until I came to a conclusion that it would be cheaper to rent the underbone for a whole 24 hours since it would come out cheaper, at P250 (US 6.00)….mind you, that translates to a little just over P10.00 per hour! (US 0.25), so why the hell not?!?! I picked the best looking underbone (a Honda Wave) from his collection of around 15 bikes, all neatly lined up, and rode it away feeling a little guilty for having just left a P100 deposit (which is all he asked for!)….well, and an expired ID. If he had done that in Manila, that could very well have been 'Goodbye, Bike!'. What happened next, I will remember fondly for the rest of my life.

What started out as a group of 5 quickly turned into a horde of 15, with friends, friends of friends and officemates joining the pack. It would be a night of joyriding around a town I had just first set foot on a day before. From 9PM to 2AM, we rode and rode, to places whose names I don't even remember now, while the population of this wonderful town slowly diminished as the hour went by. We rode along beachlines, within subdivisions, in between tall grassy knolls, in between new government buildings being built, by school campuses, against the flow of one-way streets, along the famous 'Boulevard' by the bay. We peeked inside houses of fantastic 50s architecture, preserved as if they were built last week (reminds me of my lola's Brady Bunch-like house in Pasig), inside bars and restaurants, we stopped at famous landmarks, and when the night was almost over, sat a recollected the events of the evening by the bay eating boiled egg, squid balls and 'tempura'.

From my conversations, I learned that Dumaguete had one of the lowest crime rates in the country, one of the largest student populations, and home of Silliman and St. Paul's University, the very first among many St. Paul schools across the country founded in 1904. Silliman University, a protestant University well-known for the quality of its graduates, was established 3 years earlier, in 1901.

With good schools like those, including the Negros Oriental State University (NORSU), it did not come to me as a surprise that the people I worked with that day and spoke to on the streets were very well educated and fluent with their English. So fluent in fact, that they actually spoke with an American 'twang', or at least very close to it.

Apparently, the name Dumaguete was taken from the word "dumaguit", which meant to ensnare, such so I was told, because in Pre-hispanic times, Moro raiders would come in their Vintas to snare young ladies, presumably to use them as slaves. We went to visit the watchtower or Belfry used by the residents at the time to spot oncoming raiders. Another very interesting story I came across, and somehow tied up with the roots of Dumaguete, was the story of their Patron saint: St. Catherine of Alexandria. The legend tells of a lady who was seen walking along the bay (or shore as it was probably then) just before a fleet of Moro raiders was expected to strike. At the time, all the ladies and children had already been sent to the uplands to hide and the men had stayed to protect their land. It was these men who saw the lady on the shore. The raiders never arrived, and according to the accounts of some of the moros on the ships (presumably the same ones who gave advanced warning to the residents that they would strike on that day), they simply could not find their way. All they could see where Dumaguete was supposed to be, was nothing but clouds. When the Spaniards first arrived in Dumaguete to evangelize, the residents recognized the lady on the shore that day as one of the Saints' pictures the Spaniards had with them. The residents attributed their safety to St. Catherine and since then, made her their Patron Saint. Most people think of the story as a victory, I would like to think of it as one of compassion. It is a story of a Moro who forewarned the residents of Dumaguete of an impending strike and subsequently narrated to them the story of how they could not find Dumaguete. How could it have been otherwise? Back then, what would a Moro be talking to them for? I really, really liked that story.

The day I was to leave back for Manila, I decided to spend with 'Family'. The Perdices clan of Dumaguete has a long loving history with my family, which is why my mother always reminds me that we are not family friends, but relatives. I personally believe that we may not be blood relatives, but we are karmically connected, by an even greater bond. I actually took my rented bike back home with me to the resort the night before and rode it back to the City that morning to first take a sunlit spin around Dumaguete, such that I would see it in a different perspective than that of the previous night. I then realized that I had only used up P50 (US$1.00) of gasoline for all the places I went to! Amazing. I had a lunch date with my Tita Maryann 'Inday' Perdices-Templo, so I had to be contented with having just the morning for sightseeing. I practically spent all morning walking around the Silliman campus and checking out the local lifestyle nuances. It was finals week, so I was pleasantly delighted to see a group of students all packed neatly in the back of a pickup truck, frolicking after probably surviving finals week. Now, this is something I have not seen in a long time. I reckon that with all out fancy regulations in Manila, this practice is now probably unallowed.

I met up with my tita at their nice, quaint and cozy resto called Mamia's, named after the term of endearment for their Lola. There is an old picture of Mamia at the entrance of the restaurant, and quite amazingly taken, at my Lolo and Lola's old home in Retiro, QC. My Tita Maryann asked me to take a photo of Mamia's picture and ask my mom if she knows where the photo was taken. Naturally, when I next saw my mom, that was the first thing I showed her. After barely a second of looking at the picture, she immediately recognized the place as the home of her youth. I spent hours chatting away with my tita, as I enjoy conversations so much, especially when they involve stories of times gone by, of events even before I was born. I am neither a historian nor a student of history, but something about stories of the past just excites me, specially when the stories are about relationships. Maybe that is why I dislike history as we know it, peppered with dates, names and places: I just can't relate without the human side of it. Now, that's just my take. I'm sure I would enjoy history if I only spent more time with it. Funny enough, my mind is a repository of life events of family, friends and people who matter to me.

Mamia's is owned by Tita's nephew and niece, Tincho and Lizza, who I had the pleasure of meeting. I enjoyed the food and ambiance of the place. It was comfort food! Sophisticated, exactly the way I liked it! And the ambiance, Über comfy. It was like dining in Greenbelt at Dumaguete prices. Two things I would insist any Dumaguete visitor to try: the Frozen Cappuccino and Churros con Chocolate. Believe me, these are not your usual dessert and merienda items. I heard my cousin, Olsen Racela, and his team went to Mamia's just for the frozen capp. The churros is really different, at least from the churros I am used to, and very filling.
Mamia's is set along the boulevard. You can find it almost in front of the monument dedicated to the seven nuns who established St. Paul's in the Philippines. Sitting inside, you get to enjoy the fantastic view of the bay, watch ships as they sail by and the people as they walk by to enjoy a leisurely walk. I wouldn't have it anywhere else in Dumaguete.

I couldn't return to Manila without any pasalubong, so I scampered next door to Sans Rival to get some Silvanas and Bico for my family. Boy, were they wonderful as well. I usually don't enjoy Bico, but since it was the most recommended item, I bought some. I didn't regret hand-carrying it back to Manila at all. I did regret not buying enough.

Of all the places I have been to in the Philippines, Dumaguete sure left a lasting impression on me. Despite being a mountain person, I wouldn't mind spending time in this place, or even living here. It could be because of the pace, the lifestyle or even the way the place is oriented or set up, but I honestly think it is because of the people. They don't call it the "City of Gentle People" for nothing, I guess.

(All pictures taken using my Sony Ericsson P990i Mobile Phone)


Anonymous said...

so im guessing were somehow related as you mentioned, but i dont recall you or even seeing you in dumaguete

Ang Kuwago said...

Please click on my twitter ("follow me on Twitter" link) on the top right side of this page, and you'll see my picture there. BTW, who is this please? :-)

Hope you'll remember me then...

rutnlat said...

... and that is why I moved my family to Dumaguete 8 years ago! It was more peacefull, more serene, more natural, more gentle back then.

Ang Kuwago said...

Thanks for dropping by, rutnlat!

More people should emulate you and move back to the countryside, where life is much more simpler and where our children will be able to accummulate so much more lovely memories than they would in the city. If they decide to live life in the big city later on, then they would really appreciate the contrast.

I actually wrote an article about moving to the countryside.


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