When I sat down to write this, I already had the rough draft penned in my head, and I was so eager to start typing. Until my dog (who likes to always be in the same room as I am) farted and now I’m sitting in a daze as I try not to inhale too much of it, and the words have run out. Thanks, Rox. Now I’m struggling to think about Dumaguete and what I knew about it before we went. (But first, let me get an air freshener.) And I guess, that was how I have always thought of Dumaguete, in that I haven’t given it much thought at all. The only thing I literally knew about this place was that people speak bisaya and that this is where Silliman University is located because a friend got her diploma there.
When I booked this ticket during the Philippine Airlines seat sale (I got it for around Php 2,000 which is roughly US$40), I was planning to make this trip to Dumaguete my annual solo trip. I had no idea that this small city in Negros Oriental would end up on my growing list of ‘places I will most definitely go back to’. It was a pleasant surprise, even to myself, that it made it there when our first brush with the Dumaguete brand of hospitality was from El Dorado Beach Resort (spoiler alert: not a great experience). We also didn’t realize that it was possible to experience culture shock within your own culture, but that was exactly what we experienced when we decided to explore the city via their public transportation. I haven’t boarded a jeep that was filled to the brim to the extent that they had seats between the actual seats, and a bus filled with foreigners speaking fluently in bisaya. While the city center looked like your ordinary provincial area, we learned not to judge the city from isolated experiences, because as quiet and unassuming as it was, it was bursting with great restaurants and people that are teeming with warmth.
Having just said all that, Panda Ice Cream Haus as our first stop might not have been the best choice. While researching on places to try out, tons of blogs have listed Panda Fried Ice Cream as something you should not miss while you’re in Dumaguete. When we found our way to the store, we ordered their famous ice cream in all their available flavors. Gin and I are far from being food connoisseurs ourselves, and it might just be our taste buds talking, but we found that there really wasn’t anything special about it. If you’ve tried buying dirty ice cream (also known as Sorbetes for my non-Pinoy friends reading this, it’s not actually dirty hehe) and have it served inside a pandesal (putting this link for my friends all over the world 😀 ) – that’s exactly how it tasted like (except its hot pandesal which is slightly better). I also think that the reason we didn’t like it as much as other people do was that we bought so many, but if you really want to try it, the best flavor I would suggest you go for is their Mocha ice cream. I wouldn’t mind having that for breakfast. 😉
The popularity of the ice cream place may also be due to its location as it is within the vicinity of Silliman University. The university has been established since the early 1900s and is actually open to outsiders as long as you provide and leave your ID at the gates. We didn’t really have anyone to tour us around the university and felt like it would be pointless to explore it, so we walked around the streets in search of their famed anthropological museum. However, we didn’t realize that they were unfortunately closed on Mondays. And it was a Monday when we went. It was a bummer as the establishment it was housed on even had an interesting architecture, where it looked like a mix of Eastern and Western style, and wouldn’t stick out in either place. (Does that even make sense?)
Right in front of the Anthropological Museum was Mooon Cafe. It’s been highly raved about on TripAdvisor, so we decided to have lunch there. The prices were very affordable that Gin and I ordered everything we wanted to try. We had their shrimp gambas as the appetizer, and when it first arrived at our table, we both got wide-eyed upon tasting it. It was bursting with flavor and was swimming in its garlic sauce. We both agreed it would taste so good with rice, that we didn’t dig in and waited for the rest of our meal arrive. We also got an order of Mexican Baby Back Ribs and Rib-eye Steak to share between the two of us. Instead of immediately tasting both main course meals, we lathered our rice with the sauce from our gambas and already decided that it was the best part of our meal. Both main courses did deliver, but when we went back on our last day, we got three orders of gambas (one each, and one for sharing) and just rice. Haha!
It was such a heavy meal that we, again, walked around, looking for anything interesting to see. And what else is more interesting than a coffee shop with diabetes-inducing milkshakes on display in their cafe windows? I swear that I gained at least five pounds in just one long weekend in Dumaguete. We went inside The Bean Connection Cafe and ordered a milkshake each. The cafe seemed like a popular spot for students because there were a lot of people had their laptops and studying in the cafe. We got different orders, but interestingly, felt like the milkshake itself tasted the same while the supposed flavors (and toppings) are different. They also offer a lot of delicious looking treats but I just didn’t have any spare space on my tummy for more. I couldn’t even finish my milkshake!
Since we both couldn’t decide what else to do for the rest of our day, we decided to hunt for pasalubong. Sans Rival Cakes and Pastries is a popular pasalubong place in Dumaguete, and their signature Sans Rival cake and silvanas are often resold at higher prices in Manila. They have an actual restaurant attached to their pastry shop, and both establishments are located right by the sea. From the port area, we just walked along the seaside as it was hard to miss their bright blue sign. When we got to the pastry shop, the queue was INSANE. The place was packed with tourists and locals alike. There were available tables for people who want to dine in, but all of them were occupied. Hence, Gin and I just placed our orders and waited for our numbers to be called while they assemble them. I have to say that I have never tried silvanas and just bought them because my picky eater of a boyfriend raves about it. When we got back to the resort, Gin gave me a piece to try, and I was hooked! We went back before heading to the airport so I can buy more to take home. When we went back, we were lucky to get ourselves a table and decided to try out some of their other offerings. We got the Mocha Crunch Cake (which was delicious but tastes similar to a cake you can buy from Becky’s Kitchen) and Frozen Brazo de Mercedes (also delicious, and similar to something you can order from Filling Station in Makati). Going back there was so worth it!
Overall, I would liken Dumaguete with the gambas from Mooon Cafe. So unassuming and simple, but absolutely appetizing and you can’t help but go back for more. When people found out I went to Dumaguete and they haven’t been there, their first question would always be what’s interesting about it. I guess living in a country with 7,100+ islands does have its perks because we just have so many great places (and beaches) to choose from that we can’t really shine the spotlight on all of the islands. While it’s definitely a small town with a lot of potential of making it big as a touristy spot (it already is but mostly with divers and foreigners), I was torn between wishing that more people visit it to keeping this secret gem less crowded (we all saw what happened with Boracay) a lot longer. ❤