|Negros Oriental Provincial Capitol|
|Cebu South Bus Terminal|
| Best backdrop for a selfie|
Instinct told me that something fishy was going on when our queue didn’t budge for almost thirty minutes. I was right! To our chagrin, several Ceres buses plying the Cebu-Dumaguete route were temporarily grounded by LTO officials allegedly due to some problems with the operator’s franchise. Geez, whatta perfect timing, LTO! Didn’t you people notice the infraction days ago? Why only now? I thought.
Patience is the least among my virtues but, surprisingly, I managed to shrug my shoulders, charging the incident to experience. Although the minutes ticked at snail’s pace, I was able to keep my cool despite the heat and noise around me. Just when my patience was wearing thin, two Dumaguete-bound buses finally came one after the other after almost four hours of making us wait! I hopped into the second one.
By noon, the bus’ engine roared to life and headed towards our destination. En route to the south of Cebu, we were slowed down for almost two hours by heavy traffic in Carcar City all the way to Argao. So, what was normally a four hour trip from downtown Cebu to the port of Bato in the town of Santander, which is the take-off point for vessels bound for Negros Oriental, stretched to nearly six hours!
|Sunset over Tañon Strait|
|Negros Island and Tañon Strait|
|A fast ferry cruising Tañon Strait|
Reaching Bato, our bus grounded to a halt for several minutes, allowing passengers to respond to the call of nature and grab something to eat before embarking on a short cruise aboard the roro (roll-on, roll-off) barge bound for the port of Tampi in San Jose, Negros Oriental. While waiting for the others, I grabbed the opportunity to snap at the fabulous sunset that was beginning to fade into the Visayan horizon.
Before 7:00 in the evening, the barge carrying our bus left Bato and cruised for about half an hour over the placid waters of Tañon Strait. Night had fallen when we reached Tampi where the bus disembarked and travelled for another half hour to downtown Dumaguete. When I reached Hotel Essencia (http://www.hotel-essencia.com), where I was billeted, every part of me from the shoulders down was aching.
|Nice accommodations at Hotel Essencia|
So, what’s with Negros Occidental’s bustling capital that left me dumbfounded? Let me start with the name which sounds weird to me. I had qualms about going there before given that. Call me silly but, you see, the name “Dumaguete” originated from dagit, the Visayan word for “snatch”! Geez, it must be crawling with snatchers, thieves or worse, kidnappers! Is this how they define “gentle people” now? I once thought. LOL!
Legend has it that the old settlement in the island was prone to persistent invasions of Moro pirates who either grabbed things or kidnapped people to become slaves. When the Spanish conquistadors came to Negros, they gave different names to the settlement. In the course of time, the word dumaguet evolved, which became the basis for what the bustling capital of Negros Oriental is called now.
What dumbfounding attractions await first-time visitors in Dumaguete? There are a lot actually. Too bad, I can count by the fingers the ones I’ve explored. Good thing, the ones I saw all appealed to my historical, religious and cultural curiosity, making my first ever visit a memorable one. Hitting the road to the unitown remains one of the most exhilarating detours I’ve ever made in my entire nomadic life!
|Mt. Talinis a.k.a Cuernos de Negros|
|Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria|
It only took me roughly thirty six hours to explore Dumaguete’s tourist belt because the sites are adjacent to one another. I think that’s dumbfounding in itself; it left me more hours for sleep which I’m in short supply of lately! I suppose that would give other sleep-deprived tourists enough time to choose between snoozing and scouring the rest of Negros Oriental, and perhaps the nearby island of Siquijor.
|Monument of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartre|
|Silliman University as seen from Rizal Boulevard|
|Dr. David Hibbard's monument|
Long before I went there, the 113-year old university had intrigued me. Why did the American missionaries decide to put up a prestigious school in some faraway town in the Visayas? Why not in Manila, Cebu, or Zamboanga? Also, I got curious about SU after hearing tales from some friends who’ve burned the midnight oil in its sprawling campus so I wanted to discover for myself what makes it tick.
Other popular landmarks I found interesting included Silliman Hall, the oldest building in the campus and the entire city; Katipunan Hall, originally a mission hospital that now serves as an administrative building for various academic departments; the Amphitheater, a sunken, open-air theatre that reminded me of the one I saw in U.P. Diliman; and the Silliman University Church.
Undoubtedly, the Silliman escapade was the crowning glory of my sojourn to the City of Gentle People. Not only did I get to roam around the university but I also found the answer to my question: Dr. Hibbard, who founded SU and became its first president, chose to put up the school in Dumaguete because he fell in love with the town’s beauty and its people’s gentility.
|St. Paul University|
Where have all the people gone? Since it was summer and a long weekend at that, most of the members of the academic community were probably at home or out on a vacay elsewhere, leaving the streets of Dumaguete to visiting vagabonds like me. Just imagine how helter-skelter everything could have been in the city by the bay had there been classes while I was exploring it! I supposed it would be chaos! :-D