Lion and the Pig

641 kilometers (398 miles) south of Metro Manila in the Philippines lies, what’s been dubbed as,The City of Gentle People – Dumaguete (doo-mah-get-eh), the capital of the province of Negros Oriental. A captivating hodgepodge of sun, sand, sea, food and endless supply of good vibes. Legend says Dumaguete was coined from the Visayan word “daggit,” meaning “to snatch” owing to alleged frequent pillaging attacks of pirates and snatching of its beautiful women. But Dumaguete preys on its visitors and snatches our will to move on as she imposes her natural beauty, gastronomical excesses and laid back, sleepy way of life! It’s the Lair of the Lotus Eaters that devours all our stress and negative vibes replacing these with laughter and affirmation that life truly is beautiful.

Our journey started off to be quite a stressful one. I was running around like a headless chicken the day before, attending meetings and doing some last minute errands and shopping. Our flight was at 7:00 AM the following day and I just completed all our packing by 1:00 AM. We grabbed a couple of hours’ of Z’s and headed to the airport at 4:30 AM. In our haste, my partner accidentally left his iPhone in the cab. Further, the ATM was offline and we only had enough cash to pay for the airport fees and we knew our luggage was over the weight allocation…luckily they accept credit cards. My partner was also dreading the one hour flight since he can’t sit for long due to his slip disc.

But arriving in Dumaguete changed everything! The sun shone brightly and we were greeted by our gracious host for the trip – Rene Juntereal – with his infectious smile, a booming reassuring voice, warm hugs (which never run out), and an equally warm and friendly entourage.

Bell Tower

Bell Tower

We stayed at Obdulia’s Business Inn, right next to Saint Catherine Cathedral at the heart of the city. It’s not an uber posh accommodation, but its clean, conveniently located, and had friendly staff to assist at any time. We were given our room assignments, unpacked, checked our itinerary for the day, found an ATM and set-off to experience our first Dumaguete delight at the market – Budbud Kabog (a local delicacy made of millets instead of the usual glutinous rice) served with local hot cocoa and sticky rice.


Budbud Kabog

Fabulous Rice

After our brief walkabout we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our 2 dives for the day in Dauin, about 12 kilometers from the city center. Dauin is a quiet, rustic, and low-profile destination easily accessed using the local transportation (jeepneys or tricycles) and regarded as the diving capital of Dumaguete because of its rich marine life. The abundance underwater is masked by the simplicity of the bamboo cottages, shanties and a small number of resorts along its coast.

Finding Nemo

Lion Fish

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Dinner that night was at Dumaguete Royal Suite Inn, and this was our first taste of the gastronomical feast in store for us for 3 more days! Dumaguete Royal Suite Inn is the home of the famous Dumaguete sizzling bulalo or whole beef shank, complete with a morsel of bone marrow waiting to be scooped out of the bone for those brave enough to challenge their mortality or who brought extra anti-hypertension medication. This dish is to die for and could literally be lethal for marrow-guzzling-gluts! Taken in moderation, if you can stand the temptation to order extra plates of rice and munch on the fatty joints, this dish is scrumptious with a fabulous explosion of flavors making you wish you had extra bellies to stuff.

Sizzling Bulalo

I was challenged to do a Man versus Food episode on desserts featuring a slice of leche flan (caramel flan) and a slice of tiramisu cheesecake…and I never back down on a food challenge, especially dessert! I prevailed.

Caramel Flan

Tiramisu Cheesecake

The next day started early with 3 dives scheduled around Apo Island. Fantastic dive sites with beautiful creatures like turtles, rays, groupers, bump heads, unicorn fish, barracudas, and beautifull coral formations. Unfortunately some of the sites were damaged by the recent storms but there was still plenty to see.

Sea Turtle

Giant Clam

Barrel Sponge

Lunch on the boat was another Dumaguete feast with an assortment of grilled sea food, pork, chicken and fresh fruits. I missed out on thoroughly enjoying this after feeling sick from the dive because of the strong surge at the shallow levels as I was exiting the dive.

Dinner that night was a segue to a party at Hayahay – a restaurant along the coast of Dumaguete City. We got a long table at the tree house, ate to our bellies’ bursting capacity and drank jack Daniels, beers, margarita, pina colada, and mango sling to insanity.

Celebrity Smiles

The dive the following day started late as everyone was nursing a hangover from the previous night but the sea hugged us in its cool comfort and showed more of its treasures. I got a fabulous shot of a sea horse – not bad for a newbie underwater photographer – and that made my hangover float alongside the bubbles I expelled. Lunch this time was more classy with pate, bread, salad, ham and chicken.

Lion and my Piggie

Divers in Action

Taking off!

Dinner that night was at the Blue Monkey. They served traditional Filipino dishes. After dinner we went for drinks at the Honeycomb on the Boulevard.

The last day was more relaxed. No more dives, just chilling. We all had brunch at Casablanca, again on the Boulevard, where I had tuna ceviche with oven baked potatoes – a weird combination that turned out to be quite exquisite.

Baked Potato with Ceviche

Make mine rare!


On our way back, everyone recalled how they were smitten by Dumaguete. Plans of going back are underway including the possibility of staying longer, even putting up businesses and settling down. You’ve done it again Dumaguete…we’re hooked!

7 replies
  1. Michael Falk
    Michael Falk says:

    This post has a little bit of everything, one minute I’m feasting my eyes on tiramisu cheesecake and then I’m underwater diving. Looks like you had a great time in Dumaguete, and like Jenny said, Awesome Photos!

  2. Sali Kintanar
    Sali Kintanar says:

    You take great underwater shots Elmer! And yummy surface shots too! That was a really fun and memorable trip! Will definitely be going back to Dumaguete =)

  3. WYNNA
    WYNNA says:

    Oh Elmer! you make me miss Dumaguete so much. I was supposed to be there for the 111th anniversary of my alma mater, Silliman University, but as luck would have it I was caught in a web of impt chores. tsktsk

    I had been to almost all of the places you’ve mentioned including Apo Island. I had my own share of awe and excitement under the sea but we just snorkeled. :) Did you see the table-sized pawikans too??

  4. Elmer Cruz
    Elmer Cruz says:

    Thanks Sali and WYNNA.

    Sali see you at the cleanup dive on the 22nd. I hope to shoot photos of the efforts to rid our oceans of trash.

    WYNNA, would you know if there are similar efforts in Bohol and Cebu for coastal cleanup. This happens annually in the month of September. It’s a fun celebration for divers and non-divers and there are usually big companies sponsoring the event as part of their corporate social responsibility. Maybe your resort can spearhead something next year?

  5. WYNNA
    WYNNA says:

    that’s a great idea elmer. i think we can open up to those opportunities real soon. i’ll ask around with my diver friends if we have coastal clean-ups here too.


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