The first time I heard about Dumaguete is actually from a vendor. He actually stayed in Manila but is going to move to Dumaguete.
He kept praising how nice the city is and I wondered how it look like.
Another reason for me to go to Dumaguete are the attractions that is available there. After I have done some research, I feel that it is a pretty nice place.
Flight to Manila is uneventful with PAL Express. When the flight attendant is doing the flight safety briefing, I can’t help to think about the Davao Airport incident. Are they really capable to do what they are supposed to do if there is an incident?
I do not know why but every time there is a turbulence, my heart will sink.
Guess I am being paranoid.
The flight land in NAIA T2 a little late; maybe 20 mins. However immigration clearance is slow and the baggage claim is even slower. I got a little worried whether can I catch my domestic flight.
I then exit the terminal and walk up to the arrival hall. Here I walk to the end of the terminal to take a white taxi to T1.
I arrived at T1, paid the fare of P92 and quickly went into T3. Quickly check-in and I am at the gate waiting to my flight to Dumaguete.
Trike drivers approach me and offer me a ride to my hotel for P100. I told him “Sorry, too expensive”. The trike driver then lower down to P70 and I just walk away. He run after me and then ask how much am I willing to pay. I answered P50. He reluctantly agreed.
The ride to my hotel One Bethany Place is very short. Maybe about 5 to 7 mins.
I tried to find a place to top up my SMART load and when I found one, the store has a brown out. So have to continue looking for one.
I finally found one. I noticed from the log book that Filipinos top up their load in very small amount like P30 or P40. I guess when I say I wanted to top up P200, the girl was surprised.
After topping up my load, I walk down and soon I saw downtown. I know I am completely disoriented now. I then ask a traffic warden the direction to Harolds Mansion. He is very kind to draw me a map and advice me to walk through Silliman University compound. I was thinking a commercial hostel in a University Campus? Based on what he draw, it looks very near but later I realise how wrong am I!
I then walk towards Rizal Boulevard.
It was a clear and hot day. Rizal Boulevard is the pride of Dumaguete I would say. In many cities or towns that is by the beach or shoreline, the local government allow people to be built properties on the beach itself. This actually deprived residents of the scenery and use of the sea. The local government of Dumaguete uses a different approach where they made it into a boulevard where residents can enjoy the sea view.
I then walk to the city center and pass by the bell tower and the church. I seek refuge inside the church from the heat.
Katya is a friend that I met in Manila. I was having dinner in one of the restaurants and she was sitting beside me. We chatted up and found out that she is staying in Negros Island. I told her about my trip to Dumaguete and she offered to bring me around.
Initially I thought she is joking but we still keep in touch. So when I told her about my trip she insist on bringing me around. Talk about Filipina’s hospitality!
After I done some shopping in one of the “China Store”, I took a trike back to the hotel for P30 which I later found that I am paying 3x the normal price.
When I reach back to the hotel, the room is ready for check in but my room is still occupied. The hotel offer me a double room for one night and will transfer me to the single room on the 2nd night.
I then ask will I be charge P650 or P750 for the first night. The staff said P750. I then told them this is unacceptable to me and I will choose to stay in the single room then.
The staff then quickly say that they can offer me P650 for the double room for the first night and will transfer my things to the single room when I am out.
The hotel give me an impression about a typical America building. They give you a homely feel and it is a little “out of style” from the buildings within the vicinity.After a while, I walk to the front desk to wait for Katya. She arrived and pick me up for lunch. She then suggested Hayahay along Rizal Boulevard. I have heard a lot about their Dumaguete Express and I can’t wait to try it.
While waiting for the food, we discuss our recent development and some social issues that Philippines is facing. We really have a good talk and while we are having our food, we spoke about some interesting tales that we both have.
Katya then brought me to take a walk in Silliman University. I was amazed how big is the University. Well, you could say in our country, we too have a big university but what I like about Silliman University is the building is unlike ours. Our University is made of pure concrete. There are no character in it where Silliman University give me a more nostalgic feel.
After the University tour, Katya then brought me to Harolds Mansion as she need to attend to some matters there.
This is the first time I went to the rooftop of Harolds Mansion. It is a pretty cool place. The rooftop is sheltered and there is a billiard table and seats for hostel guest to interact. Sometimes the hostel will organise some live band or theme party.
Do note that I am able to go up to the rooftop as Katya brought me there. Non-hostel guest are not allowed to enter the rooftop.Katya then decided to bring me to Dauin to look at the beach. I would say the beach is not that impressive. No white sand but what I like about the beach is its tranquility. It is very quiet and there is even a turtle sanctuary just right at the beach!
Dauin is also the boarding point for diving in Apo Island.
After staying there for about an hour, we make our way back to Dumaguete.
Katya brought me to Sans Rival for dinner.
I have a simple meal of chicken where Katya has fish. The ambiance of the bistro is good; very relaxing. Katya ordered some cookies called Silvanas. She ordered the butter flavour and she taught me the correct way to eat it.
When the teeth sink into the cookies, it is like ice cream filling. The taste and smell of the cookies is quite aromatic. It is not very expensive either. I think it is P125 for 10 pieces.
After dinner, Katya brought me to walk along Rizal Boulevard. The sea breeze is cooling and many residents are taking a stroll at the baywalk.
We walk till almost the end of the Boulevard and turn back. Katya then send me back to the hotel.
Katya actually arranged a boat for me in Bais to do Dolphin Watching. However, the boatman rest on Saturday as they are Seventh Adventist. Friday slot was booked by other visitors. I was very disappointed and hoping a miracle will happen. I am also willing to pay a higher price in order to join the group that has book the boat.
On Wednesday night while I have no internet access, Katya inform me that the group has cancelled their booking and the slot is free! I was overjoyed and thank Katya profusely for her help and effort.
The day started when I woke up at 0330hrs. Washed up and ready to leave at 0415hrs. I waited patiently for a trike to pass by but it was dead quiet. By 0430hrs, I start to get anxious. The guard then help me to look out for a trike.
A trike finally appeared and I ride to Ceres Bus Terminal near to Robinson Mall for P10.
The trike ride is about 5 to 7 mins.
I then ask what time does the bus leave for Bais and I was told 0500hrs. However at 0450hrs, the bus start to move out. So a note to all visitors; be at the terminal at least 30mins before the scheduled bus departure. Your time may be different from the bus terminal time and the drivers follow the bus terminal time and not your time.The bus partially run along the coastline and it took about 70 mins to reach Bais for a fare of P48.
I text the boatman about my departure from Dumaguete as they have specifically mentioned I need to take the 5am bus to Bais.
There are two wharf that serve the Dolphin Watching tour. One is Canibol port and the other is Capiñahan Wharf.
Capiñahan wharf is where the Bais tourist office is located. I last read from the Internet is they are charging quite a high price for the dolphin watching and Manjuyod White Sandbar. They are like charging like P4000 or P5000 for the boat!
Canibol port is where the private operators are located. The boatman will not be there unless there is a booking.
If you are unsure of where to alight, just tell the driver to drop you off at Bais bus terminal. From where you drop off, take a trike for P50 to either port.
As the boatman I engage is a private one, so the trike driver drive me to Canibol port. As a matter of fact, Jane the guide actually waited for me around the bus terminal and manage to locate me. Frankly speaking, I am really lost when I alight from the bus as I can’t see any bus terminal at all!
Luckily Jane keep in constant contact with me and located me soon I alight.
I bought some bread for my trip before going to the port. It took about 5 mins of trike ride to reach the port.
The weather is actually pretty bad; dark clouds and the wave is pretty strong. My hope for seeing the dolphins diminishes when I see the dark clouds and choppy wave.
However Jane told me there are still chance to see it. They will try their best to spot them for me. Jane also wanted to set my expectation right that there is no guarantee that we can see the dolphins but based on their experience, there should not be any problem sighting dolphins today. I keep my fingers crossed.
Jane and the boatman which is actually her father start to look for dolphins. After 10 mins, there is still no sight of them. I start to lose hope.
Suddenly Jane pointed a direction to her father. The boat start to go on that direction and soon we saw the first dolphin and it flipped!
Soon more dolphins start to flip! I think I saw at least another 3 dolphins doing the flip. I was really overjoyed!
Well, I couldn’t ask for more but Jane told me to be patient. It may take some time for the dolphins to be playful.
We saw several pods of dolphins from afar but they soon disappear into the water.
Soon we again spotted several pods of dolphins and the boatman steer to the boat to the direction. Once we are close to them, they disappear into the water.
The boat man then try to go slow and once we spotted another pod of dolphins, he slow down the boat to reduce the engine noise. Now we can get closer to the dolphins but once we are too near, they again disappear into the water.
This happened a few times but I still manage to catch some wonderful sights of the dolphins swimming. I told Jane that it is time to go to the sandbar and I tell myself this is the best I can get.
On the way to the sandbar, the dolphins appeared suddenly pretty near to the boat. The boatman tried to steer as close as possible to the dolphins.
The sight of dolphins gracefully swimming in the water really overwhelmed me. This is the best scene I see today and I manage to catch them on video! Both Jane and me shouted with joy.
After the final display of these intelligent mammals, we bid farewell to them.
When we reach the sandbar, it is high tide and the water is pretty deep.
Jane was surprised by my decision as I was told that the Bais tour usually at least take half a day. I look at my watch, it is not even 1000hrs.
When we reach the pier, I made the remaining payment. I was very happy about this trip. I actually wanted to give Jane a hug for giving me this wonderful experience.
Some may think why I am so grateful about Jane. This is business after all.
Firstly as I have mentioned earlier, the boatman at Capiñahan Wharf is getting greedy but Jane is charging me a price that I find it reasonable. Please do not ask me how much they charge me.
Secondly, some boatman will just go through motion and “try” to spot some dolphins for you. If they can’t find them then they will just tell you “Sorry, no dolphins today”.
Some boatman has complained to Jane that she is spoiling the market. They are charging a rate lower and making them look expensive. However Jane argued that they are ripping off the tourist and this will drive tourist away and is not sustainable.
Jane told me that this is especially true when the low season arrive. Jane still have more bookings than other boatman especially compared to those in Capiñahan Wharf.
Jane is one of the few Filipinas that I see that really know how to think sensibly. She knows what is sustainable tourism and making a honest living. In short, she is very down to earth.
She also believed fighting for the rights of indigenous people and she is in some committee that fight for their rights.
Jane told me something about her family and her trip to Manila that I find it interesting.
The dolphin watching in Bais with Jane is many more times better than the one in Panglao Island. Way much better.
One thing that upset me about the trip is the trash we found in the sea. The trash is in the middle of the sea between Bais and Cebu Island. I believed no one is claiming responsibility of the trash.
If Bais wants to continue to attract the dolphins to stay, they had better do something about the trash. Keeping the sea clean is everyone’s responsibility and not the government only.Jane, if you are reading this, I really wanted to thank you for the unforgettable experience. Till now I am constantly looking at the videos and pictures I have taken. Though the dolphins are not as playful as usual (maybe they have too much San Miguel last night) but the trip to me is memorable enough.
For those who are interested, you can contact Jane at Ozhang2005@yahoo.com or +639202538099. Remember that they do not operate on Saturday no matter how much money you pay. Of course you can start with a million peso to tempt her. (Just kidding).
I took a trike back to the main road for P50 and took a bus back to Dumaguete city.
The bus passed by my hotel and I signal the bus driver to stop.
It is 1115hrs then. The hotel has already transferred my stuff to the single room.
The single room is smaller than the double room but it is still of reasonable size and cleanliness.
I am actually surprised by the invitation as I intend as spend the remaining days alone. Katya has already brought me around Dumaguete for a day and I am already grateful about it so I did not expect anything more.
I quickly washed up and I was thinking I can’t go empty-handed.
I walk to the nearest public market and bought some mangoes and banana. The mangoes were very nice and the banana is also big and yellow!
I bought fruits because I really do not know what to buy!
It was a seafood lunch and this is the first time I saw slipper crab. Too bad I did not manage to take a good picture of it because….. I was busy eating!
Well, time flies and before I know it, it is already like 1700hrs. Katya drove me back to the hotel and she has some matters to attend to.
I took a rest and decide to venture into Robinson Mall.
I tried to flag a trike to bring me there but no trike driver is willing to bring me there and I wonder why.
Finally one driver stop and I told him where I wanted to go. Before he reject me, I told him I will pay him P15 to bring me there. He agreed.
The journey took about 15 mins.
Robinson Mall in Dumaguete reminds me of the Robinson Mall in Puerto Princesa. The design looks similar and even the stores inside looks similar!
I then get a trike to try to bring me back to the hotel but no trike wanted to bring me there! Luckily there is someone who goes in the same direction as me and the trike driver agreed to take me there for P10.
After I alight at the hotel, I walk to the place I know I can find Katya.
Katya decided to go to Harolds Mansion as they are having an Oyster and Acoustic Night.
We went up to the rooftop and saw a small crowd there. The singer is pretty good but Filipinos usually are good singers. Katya then brought a big plate of oyster to me and she said she has to leave!I just stayed there and chat with the other guest for a while before I leave as I have to wake up early tomorrow.
I left Harolds before Katya come back.
Woke up at 0545hrs. Washed up and I walk to Harolds Mansion. The walk isn’t that bad, maybe about 10mins. Hey, I save P10!
My dive at Apo Island is today. We are supposed to gather at Harolds Mansion at 0700hrs but I reached there around 0620hrs. The dive staff gather my gear and I made the payment of P2800 for 2 dives.
I have requested for 3 dives but as I am leaving the next day at 0900hrs, I reserved my 3rd dive if my surface from the 3rd dive can be 18 hours before my flight. If I manage to get the 3rd dive, I will just need to top up additional P500.
Harolds Mansion dive package offer the most value and also the cheapest. Imagine P3300 for 3 dives with gear, dive master and food!
The boat is located at Dauin which is about 20 to 30 mins ride.
Harolds dive boat has just went under a major renovation and retrofit for the last 2 months. It is very obvious that the boat looks new. It even has a toilet bowl on the boat!It has 2 decks where the upper deck is smaller. I estimate the boat capacity is about 30. I am actually very impressed by it. It is even better than the boat from Thresher Shark Dive in Malapascua.
Soon the rest of the divers arrived. There are about 16 of us where some of them only snorkel and there are 4 Scuba Discovery Divers.
We quickly board the boat at the boatman start the engine.
The wave is not strong at this time and it seems that it will be a good dive then.
We suit up and I am the first one to jump. Our dive master has 3 persons in his group which includes me. The other two divers are a Japanese couple, Dashi & Kazuna.
As I am the only one who has an underwater camera, I offer to take pictures of them which they really appreciate it.
The dive went smoothly most of the time but something went wrong for me for the last 6 mins.
I was struggling with the current and the dive master is further and further away from me. The Japanese couple is also ahead of me. We are supposed to maintain our depth at 5m but I am losing my buoyancy control.
I constantly look at my gauge and it doesn’t look well.
Finally I gave up and decided to surface. I found that I am alone but I can see the dive boat. I am about 50m from the dive boat but the wave is strong now.
The wave is pushing me away from the boat. My initial attempt to swim back to the boat failed.
I then flip over and back paddle with all my might. After some serious effort, I reach the boat. I was relieved.
The dive master asked me what’s wrong. I was alright for the most of the dive. I just told him I find it hard to swim against the current.
I am surprised that my bottom time is 41mins!
You may ask why the dive master did not help me. To me, a dive master can only do so much and he cannot concentrate his attention on one person only. There is only one person responsible of your safety during diving; that is the diver himself.
The diver must access the situation and made decision in the water like is he going to surface or not and dive within your means.
I went back to the boat exhausted but it is still a good dive. Unfortunately we did not manage to catch any sight of sea turtle.
When I was resting on the boat, Kazuna came up to me to apologize. I was taken aback. I was wondering what is she doing?
Kazuna apologised that because of her, the group got held up and are not able to begin the dive quickly as she as problem descending.
I was very surprised by her actions but Kazuna really exhibit the well-known politeness of a Japanese.
I told her it is alright as long as everybody is safe. In diving, safety is paramount and nothing can supersede it.
The weather is turning very bad now. The waves are strong and the boat is swaying badly. It is cold too! One snorkeler even felt sea sick.
I saw a lady still in the water. She is Linn from Norway. She is swimming leisurely in the water where everybody look in shock on why is this mad woman still in the water!
It was later that we found out that such wave is common in her country and these are considered small wave. She has seen worse and she is a damn good swimmer which I will tell you why later.
After some rest, the boat move on to the next dive site; Cogon.
Cogon is located at the other side of the island. The weather here is much better and the wave much calmer.
We suit up and get into the water.
This is actually a drift diving; meaning we do not need to paddle too hard. We will make use of the current to bring us to our pick up point.
We went up the boat and time to have our lunch.
I am feeling a bit chatty and I start to talk to some of the passengers on the boat.
The chicken sandwich which I ordered taste alright.
After lunch, the dive master came to me to tell me I may need to miss my 3rd dive as by the time they surface, it is less than 18 hours from my flight. I said ok, safety always comes first though I must admit I am disappointed.
The boat went to the 3rd dive site and the divers went down. Kazuna stayed on the boat where her hubby Daisha went down.
The rest of us went down to snorkel but the wave suddenly become strong. All of us return to the boat and the boat set off the pick up the divers.
I can see Kazuna worried face. All the crew try to spot the divers but still no sight of them.
The boat then move to another location but still nothing.
I start to recall a dive incident in Palau in 1994 where 6 divers including 5 Japanese divers perished because none of the rescue boat can spot them because they have no visual object that will help the rescuers to easily spot them.
We then spot a dive sausage but with no divers.
The boat do not go near to the dive sausage because this means that there are divers within the vicinity. Going near to the dive sausage will instead endanger their lives.
Soon the divers surfaced near to the dive sausage. The boat raced to the location to pick them up.
To my surprised, the divers spotted two sea turtles!
What rotten luck of mine!
The boat then begin the return journey to Dauin.
Before we disembark the boat, I am surprised that some Filipinas requested me to take a picture with them! I was quite overwhelmed I would say. This is the first time that is happening to me!
Overall the dive trip is good. The staff is professional and helpful. The dive master also take a moderate approach on the divers meaning it did not interfere too much during our dive but still keep a close watch on us.
Our dive master even spotted a sea octopus for us!
However, I have some concerns on how Harolds run the dive.
There is no verification of each diver’s dive certification. All we need to do is to write down our certification. All these are based on trust. However, I would prefer the dive center to verify the certification of the diver.
There is a 11-year-old boy with an Advanced Adventure certification which I find it quite unbelievable but I may be wrong.
If anything happen to a diver, the dive center will be question did the dive center actually verify the certification does the diver has.
If it does not, then the dive center will be at fault and will be penalised.
Secondly is the way they transport the diver. We are with the advance party but I am fortunate to sit at the front.
There are about 4 divers at the back of the truck with the gear and air tanks.
I do not know are the air tanks secured during movement. I have read enough of news in my own country that workers was hurt badly when they are transported in the same way. The equipment behind the truck fell into them and they are hurt real bad.
The third is the most serious.
After our first dive, Linn who came as a snorkeler was left behind at the first dive site when the boat proceed to the second dive site.
Fortunately for her, she is a good swimmer and she actually swam from the first dive site to the second! I was amazed by her skill! Most importantly is that she kept calm.
This means that the captain did not do a head count before the boat leave for the second dive site. (They did do a headcount after the second dive).
When I was diving with TSD in Malapascua, before we move the boat, the crew will do a roll count loudly to make sure everyone is around.
I am not trying to tell all of you to avoid Harolds Dive Center. It is because they are the one who can provide a reasonable rate to dive in Apo Island that I do not want them to get into any trouble. I hope they continue to operate and provide such affordable dive and so it is important that they have a good safety record.
When we reach back to the dive center, it is already 1600hrs. At the dive center, some divers exchange email addresses to keep in touch and exchange photos.
After getting my dive log endorsed, I make my way back to the hotel.
Tired and exhausted, I took a rest. I then get a text from Katya that I am invited to a birthday party. Though I am keen to go to see how Filipinos celebrate their birthdays, I am very hesitant to go because I am dressed in shorts and t-shirt only which I feel it is inappropriate. Furthermore I have no gift for the host!
In the end I return back to Harolds Mansion rooftop for some music while waiting for Katya.
In the hostel, I just chat up with some of the guest and before I leave, the owner of Harolds Mansion wanted to have a chat with me.
I actually feedback some of my concerns about the dive trip and he did not become defensive. I do hope he is really receptive to my comments.
The owner of Harolds is a nice guy to talk to. He is friendly and try to accommodate the guest request as much as possible.
After a nice chat with him, I made my way back to the hotel and pack my bag for tomorrow’s departure.
I left the hotel at around 0655hrs. After waiting for some time without any luck for a trike, the guard hail a trike for me. He told me the fare is P30 to the airport.
The ride is like only 7 mins and I was at the airport early but the staff is already checking in the passenger. I was lucky to be there early because I was told that the flight has been overbook. I wonder what will happen to those passengers who come later.
I took a white taxi from the arrival hall to Malate and the fare is P160. I check-in into Victoria Courts Standard room which cost me P945 for 6 hours.
The room is located at the second level and you need to walk up the flight of stairs. The room is really sleazy and really put you in the mood of…… you know what.
I check out at 1730hrs and made my way to the airport. My check-in luggage weight is 30.5Kg and hand carry is 6kg.
NAIA T3 do have some improvement now. Now they even have a breast-feeding room and a new smoking room near to gate 109.
The flight is a little late but I still manage to be back in one piece.
Overall, I have tremendously enjoyed this trip. I would say that this is the best solo trip so far.
Dumaguete city gave me a unique feel. The city is like a boutique city with many small watering hole in many unexpected places.
A hip hop place just behind a fuel station? Ibiza, this place look really cool!The Boulevard where residents can enjoy a good night out is not capitalize by the local government for financial gains but reserved for the residents.
Though the traffic is pretty bad here but as long as you are not along the main road, the traffic is still bearable.
Katya has also chosen a good accommodation for me. Though it is a little pricier but it is really good value for money as it is clean and it made me feel homely.
I would like to thank Katya here. You really made my trip special.
Dumaguete, you really surprised me.