Dumaguete isn’t hard to love. It’s exactly the kind of city in the Philippines that I’d love to stay in, because it has the qualities that I’m looking for: laid back, less traffic, chill nightlife, wide array of restaurants and bars. Nature is just around the corner, waiting to amaze you. The best part: everything seems to come cheap.
It was early morning when I arrived. First order of business was a day trip to Siquijor, then I went back to Dumaguete before dinner. Right on my first night, I fell in love with the vibes of the city. The spirit was light and young. Indeed, people are kind that’s why it is known as the city of gentle people.
I was surprised to see a lot of foreigners. I believe Negros Oriental is now always in the itinerary of those traveling south of Cebu. If you move around and outside Dumaguete, it is common to see a lot of expats. I’m seeing the future: Dumaguete will be the most favored city of expats in the Philippines. It’s not hard to tell. Visit to experience it!
On my first night, I stayed at Flying Fish Hostel which I booked on Traveloka. I got a private superior room. It had the basic amenities, but it was clean. The air-conditioned unit had a low bed and a private bathroom with hot and cold shower.
The design of the hostel is unique. The rooms are unpainted. The main area looks like an old house surrounded by tall trees. Service was top notch, and the members of the staff were friendly and accommodating whenever I needed help.
The location, though, was a bit far from the city center, which you can reach by riding on a tricycle. It’s much closer to the airport. I’d say, it’s probably the best hostel you’ll ever find in Dumaguete.
My friends told me that I shouldn’t miss the food and nightlife of the city, so on my first night, I went out to have fun. The best places to dine at are the Hayahay Treehouse Bar and View Deck, and Lab-as Seafood Restaurant. I think, they are owned by one establishment, as they share the same menu. People love the two restos because of good food that comes in big serving–great value for your money. The ambiance is made more relaxing by the view of the sea. It’s also a good place to drink, because the cocktails are cheap. I paid less than PHP100 or US$2 for mine. Tiki Bar along Flores Ave. is also a good place to try.
Be sure to taste the silvanas of Sans Rival Cakes and Pastries. My foodie friend, Jai, told me to dine at his favorite restaurant in Dumaguete: The Lord Byron’s Back Ribs. Because of my tight schedule, however, I wasn’t able to try it. I’ll make sure to go back to do a food trip. There were lots of restaurants to try, but I didn’t have much time to visit all of them.
The most exciting part of my visit to Negros Oriental was the dolphin watching in Bais and my time on the popular Manjuyod Sandbar dubbed as the “Maldives of the Philippines.” To get there, we hired a tricycle going to Ceres bus terminal and rode a bus bound for Manjuyod. We paid PHP55 each for a 1.5-hour trip. We got off the bus in Bais City, then took a tricycle which we hired for the tour that was arranged by Archie. You may reach him through 0936-596-6976
It is advisable to buy your food at the wet market, because the food being sold in the sandbar area is a bit expensive. We traveled for a few more minutes until we reached the small port, our reference point. From there, you can see the cottages standing on the sandbar that’s 10 minutes away.
I had high expectations, and honestly, I got disappointed at first. Online photos showed crystal clear water. At the port, the water was muddy brown. Was I at the right location? Then, as we moved closer to the sandbar, the water was becoming turquoise green. It started to give me that “wow” moment. We arrived around 10 am, and our first activity was dolphin watching.
A few months back, I hoped that one day, I’d visit this place with my special someone. It was one of the reasons why I delayed my Negros Oriental trip. I know for sure that I would enjoy dolphin watching and I want to share that moment with that person. Unfortunately, I was still single and my urge to see the dolphins could no longer wait.
The waves were high and we were just floating around for a couple of minutes without seeing any single dolphin. I didn’t lose hope. I knew they would appear. Then one by one, they jumped out of the water. Many of them were close to our boat. I couldn’t explain my happiness that time. I didn’t know what was with the dolphins. I just found them really cool and fun to watch especially in their natural habitat. It would be best to visit Bais when the water is calm.
I spent most of the day on Manjuyod Sandbar. The place is really amazing! It’s such a marvel how the vast sandbar was naturally made at the deep portion of the sea. It’s one of a kind; a wonderful creation.
I thought that the water would be gone after lunch, so I could run and play around, but our boatman said it wouldn’t happen. It would be best to check the calendar for the full moon. That’s the best time to enjoy Manjuyod Sandbar, as the water would be totally out.
Also, prior to your trip, check the weather. Make sure that it’s sunny. You’d appreciate the place more if the sun’s up. I believe, overnight stay at the cottage ranges from PHP2,500 to PHP3,000. Get in touch with the local tourism for more details.
I just have one appeal to the local government and to the tourism officers of Bais: Please clean the port area, especially the part where there are houses near the sea. The place is full of trash. Don’t let the trash reach the part of the sea where there are lots of dolphins, which will most likely happen if not given eager attention. It will surely kill them. I hope this message reach you.
Negros Oriental, particularly Dumaguete, is now one of my favorite cities in the Philippines and Bais Dolphin Watching/Manjuyod Sandbar is my favorite local destination for 2017. If you haven’t been to this part of the Philippines, you should visit it now while there are few tourists visiting. Negros island will surely not disappoint you.