Sunday, October 30, 2011

Foodtrippin' Dumaguete

I love food as much as I love travel. And that trip to Dumaguete did not disappoint. The city is dotted with small restos and pubs, hidden in corners that serve surprisingly good food. So if you are planning to visit this quaint little place anytime soon, here are a few of the best food stops that you should not miss.

  • Hayahay Treehouse and View Deck. We so loved the place that we went twice back for dinner and drinks. The ambiance is very homey with wooden chairs and tables and bamboo lamps. The location, perfect (its right across the beach - okay a seawall....) The food is even better. We've only been there for dinner so I'm not sure if they serve lunch. The resto mostly serves fresh seafood and a variety of grilled dishes - mostly Filipino. They also offer a mean line-up of alcoholic and mixed drinks too. I've you've already had dinner somewhere, not to worry. You can still drop by for some beer and order their sisig for pulutan. If you've made it to midnight, you can get their famous gourmet pizzas for a midnight snack. We weren't able to try it but everyone else was ordering it - so maybe it was quite good too. 
Must try: Chili crab, Tangigue in butter lime sauce, cold beer and of course, that glass of margarita.
How to get there: Hayahay is located a kilometer away from the Boulevard. Best way to get there is to simply hire a trike.

  • Cafe Antonio - it was not the best dinner experience ever but Cafe Antonio serves good food too. If you are into burgers and steaks - this is a good place to go. I hear they serve good coffee as well. What really stood out for me was the resto's ambiance. It was artsy, warm and homey. There are comfortable sofas at the side where you can just sit back and enjoy your coffee. The store offers free wifi too. 

How to get there: It's found at the corner of Sta Catalina and San Juan St., walking proximity from the Boulevard.

  • Scooby's - get that lutong bahay fix here at Scooby's. They can be found anywhere in the city. Food is pretty good and cheap. Tried their menudo and coleslaw and they were good. A complete meal with side dish and drinks can cost you less than 150 PhP. Their burgers with drinks can cost less than a hundred.

  • Sansrival - of course, people come to Dumaguete just for this. The cafe also serves up rice meals for lunch and dinner, and some burgers. Not really a fan of their burgers but their spaghetti was quite good. The star of the cafe however are the sylvanas, sold for 10 PhP a piece. Also tried their Dates and Walnut Dacquiose which was good - chewy, crunchy, nutty, chocolatey, soft, moist. All of these combined into a confusing kind of wonderful.
Winner. =))
Not so....
How to get there: Sansrival is found along San Jose St., walking proximity from the Boulevard and near Cafe Antonio.
  • Apo Island Resort - this is found outside of the city - in Apo Island to be exact. There are actually locals that can offer to buy and cook you lunch but if you are looking for a good meal with comfy chairs and a great view, this is the place to go. Prices are reasonable. Complete meals can cost around 180-190 PhP. Servings aren't generous but they are enough. The food, tasty. A must try however, is their breaded fish with fries. It was a thick slab of fresh fish (tuna, I think) deep fried with a very tasty coating. The order was good for two. And don't forget the cold beer. =)) How to get to Apo Island here.

How about you? Do you have any wonderful food finds to share around Dumaguete? I'd be glad to hear about it!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dumaguete Day 3: Ending the trip with a Bang. Literally.

Highlights of the trip
After our trip to Apo Island, Janjan and I were really, really tired. We rested for a while before heading out to the boulevard to witness the fireworks competition. The competition was divided into two parts, the first held on the evening of the 22nd, and the second part at the 23rd. We were heading back home tomorrow morning so this was the perfect way to end our trip.

We originally planned to have pizza dinner at Hayahay, see the fireworks at the Boulevard at 9pm and catch Franco and Moonstar 88's concert somewhere in the city after that. We were really really tired that we ended up doing just one - watching the fireworks along Rizal Boulevard.

First off, we had no idea that traffic was that bad in Dumaguete during the festival night. I thought things like these only happen in Cebu during Sinulog. Naive me. There were barely any tricycles going to Hayahay (if there were, they were very, very, very overloaded). Hungry, we decided to compromise and have the planned pizza dinner in (guess where?) Pizza Hut. Hehe. It was just along the boulevard and it was the closest resto that we could find.

The place was full so I walked up to a couple eating and asked it we could share their table. The lovely couple said yes and we were comfortably seated in minutes. We ordered pizza and some soda.

It was almost 9pm when we finished dinner so we went straight to the Boulevard (which was right across the street - convenient right?) for the competition. Lucky us found ourselves a vacant seat for two with a great view.

Want to hear something funny? We had one of the best seats but I slept through almost half of the show, right at the Boulevard, probably with my head rocking back and forth. Hahaha. To Rex, if you're reading this, picture me in a jeep from Marine Station bound for Mandaue - it's as embarrassing as that.

The one and only picture, before I dozed off...
Anyways, there were 9 contestants for that night (or I think there were, hehehe). We wanted to see Franco's concert but we had no idea where it was held. Tired, we just decided to go back to the hotel to rest. Flight to Cebu is at 7:30 tomorrow and we still had no idea where the airport was.

Over-all, Dumaguete was full of surprises. Negros Oriental has a lot to offer visitors and right here in the city is one of the best places to start. We barely saw half of the sights and the activities. We'll definitely be back for more.

P.S. Pardon the lack of pictures. We were so so tired after Apo. But take my word for it, Dumaguete IS WONDERFUL. =)

Dumaguete Day 3: Apo Island

At Apo Island, living the dream......Okay, you might think I'm over reacting but I've dreamed of going to Apo Island for so, so long - it was what I was looking forward to the most for this trip.

Day 3 of our Dumaguete trip. I made sure that I woke up extra early to finish my daily load of articles, had breakfast early and went out of the hotel early. Destination: Apo Island. Finally.

So we hailed a trike to take us to the Ceres terminal and boarded a bus bound for Bayawan (20 PhP). We needed to get off at Malatapay market but we had no idea where that was. So again, we asked the driver for help. This time, manong driver was THE forgetful type. Good thing Janjan was wide awake to see the sign on the road. If not, we would have found ourselves in God-knows-where.

LOOK OUT for this road sign
So after getting off the bus, we walked our way to the Malatapay port. It's a fairly short walk. The port is at the other end of the road. You won't miss it. When we got there, there was not a single passenger around so we were left to renting the boat on our own. There are no public boats here so you need to charter one: 2,000 PhP for 2-4 passengers and 3,000 for 5-8. We paid the rental fee in full right at the visitor's station and got on board a small boat.

This time, I did not read a single thing about this in any travel blog. Renting a small boat will get you SOAKED. We came so unprepared. We were speeding towards the island with waves literally splashing on our faces. It was so terrible, it was hilarious. After that 60 minute ride, well marinated with salt water, we ready to be barbecued. Hehe.

Was I complaining? I was in Apo Island silly! I have nothing to complain about. We were  welcomed by an old lady in uniform who led us straight to their visitor's center to pay the entrance fee. Residents of the province pay only 25 PhP while other Pinoy visitors, 100 PhP. There's also a 50 PhP fee for those who want to go snorkeling. Divers need to pay a separate fee as well. As much as I wanted to lie about living in Dumaguete to get the discount, I could not. This small fee will help maintain the sanctuary so I wanted to give as much as I could.

Apo Island is actually one of the very first successful marine sanctuaries established in the Philippines. The project was headed by Siliman University in the early 1980's. The undertaking was not only focused on protecting the island's marine resources but also on teaching the locals how they can play a role in the conservation efforts. Several years later, the sanctuary was officially turned over to the community where they have been guarding and running it ever since. Siliman's hard work paid off. The Apo Island Sanctuary is now used as a model sanctuary, not just in the Philippines but all throughout the world. Impressive, eh?

The Marine Sancturay Beachfront
Anyways, after paying, we found a local who was renting snorkels and fins (we forgot ours at the hotel) and got 2 pairs of mask and snorkel (100 PhP each) and a pair of fins for me (100 PhP). We headed straight to the marine sanctuary first and left our belongings in the fish warden's station. I was so, so, so excited...... we went the wrong way. Typical Ethel.

Follow the signs. Plenty of them on the island

There is actually an entrance-exit trail along the shore to keep visitors from steeping on the corals. It was so beautiful and surreal. The visibility was perfect. The corals were huge. But beware, there are a lot of fire corals around (those that sting - very badly) so if you can't tell which from which, try not to touch anything. We swam through the entire length (entrance to exit ) of the sanctuary and rested for a while before getting lunch. It was way past 12 noon and we were famished. 

We decided to have lunch at the Apo Island Resort. I originally wanted to stay here overnight but it was a choice between this or the festival fireworks competition. We chose the fireworks competition. So to get a feel of the resort, we just opted to have lunch there instead. Food choices were fairly simple. Janjan had the buttered chicken (190 PhP) while I had the curry (180 PhP). It took quite a while for them to serve our food - which the staff politely told us beforehand. We really didn't mind and ordered a few bottles of San Mig light while waiting.

The resort is nestled within a small cove and is very private. It's very simple too. Just a few rooms, a resto and that's about it. The people there were quite warm as well, which I loved. 

Apo Island Resort's Beach Front
An island essential =))

The Infamous Rock
Thirty minutes later, the food was finally here. It was quite simple but very tasty. We had the longest lunch ever. We talked, people watched, drank cold beer, talked some more and before we knew it, it was 2pm. So we bade goodbye to their courteous waitresses and went on to find ourselves some turtles. We shall come back someday, perhaps with the Energy Ball. I'm sure she'll love it here.

For lunch: curry, buttered chicken and a huge slab of breaded tuna with potatoes
These agile reptiles are very commonly sighted just a couple of meters away from where the boats dock from Malatapay. Its at the opposite side of the sanctuary. 

A few meters from here: Turtle Haven!
I really did not expect to see any of them around but lo and behold. I saw two! We actually have one captive back in our marine station but it's completely different seeing them in the wild. After seeing him, I never really looked at anything else. He was hypnotizing.

Turtles actually come to this part of the island to feed on algae so its very important to preserve whatever flora is found on the site . Take the algae away and the turtles will be gone as well. But I guess, the locals already know that. They've been guarding the sanctuary for decades.

It was already 3:30 pm so we decided to head back to Malatapay before the waves get rough. This time, we opted NOT to change into dry clothes. Hehehe. Not to worry. There's a place where you can wash up and change in the Malatapay port. But just make sure you arrive ahead of the other visitors or else, you'll run out of rinsing water -which is exactly what happened to us. Anyways, I am used to this at work so we just opted to rinse back at the hotel.

salty. partly wet. tired. happy
We boarded a bus back to the city, dropped by Robinsons to get some final pasalubongs and went back to the hotel for that much needed bath. So was it worth it? With the boat ride from hell, the expensive 2,000 Peso boat, the water shortage at the port. IT MOST DEFINITELY WAS.

A little souvenir to remember you by..

Dumaguete Day 2: Disappointments and Unexpected Finds

After our trip to the Twin Lakes and the Buglasan Night Fair, Janjan and I were badly in need of a bath. So we went back to the hotel to shower and change before dinner. I was excited for dinner again. This time, we planned to have it at Cafe Antonio. It's a local resto that I've read a good deal about online. It had pretty good reviews so I was excited to try the food myself. 

Cafe Antonio is found at the corner of San Juan and Sta Catalina St. It just a few steps away from Sansrival and from the Boulevard. Again, we got there by trike and went inside. First off, I loved the ambiance. It was stylish and very homey. The ceiling fans, the artworks and the warm color of the walls added that extra touch. That night, there were only two guys serving the resto with only two customers inside. We opted to dine al fresco and took a table outside. 

Cafe Antonio from the outside

However, the waiters seemed to be so preoccupied with something that they totally forgot all about us. They gave the us the menu but never returned to take our orders. Haha. So we decided to go inside instead and found a table near the cashier (just so they could see us more clearly). Finally, a guy came up to take our orders. Janjan got the Baby Back Ribs with Coke while I had the Penne Carbonara and a Blue Crush. 

Baby Back Ribs
Penne Carbonara
Blue crush and Advil (contra PMS)
The ribs and the pasta were okay. I loved the pesto sauce at the side of the Penne Carbonara though. The pasta was also cooked just right. The Blue Crush tasted like calamansi juice with blue syrup (just as the waiter said it was, hehe...)

Anyways, right after eating, we requested for the check and placed it at the table for the waiter. However, I think they forgot all about us again. These guys were talking and laughing just a few feet from us. After waving my hand twice without a single response, Janjan finally went to the counter to give the money and the check back to them himself. Thankfully, it did not take them too long to give the change back. 

It was a little disappointing, but heck, the night was young and there was cold beer waiting for us somewhere. So to end the day right, we went back to Hayahay for some drinks and to finally get a taste of their sisig (which everyone else was ordering the night before). Again, I loved the place. Cold beer, good food and warm people.

Hayahay's pork sisig. Delicioso!
The best way to end the night at quaint Dumaguete.... 
We lost track of time, just sitting at the top of the viewing deck, sipping cold beer (no margaritas for tonight, thank you), people watching and planning when we could return to explore more of the province. A wonderful end to day 2.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dumaguete Day 2: Buglasan Festival 2011

After our trip to Lake Balinsasayao, we hopped on an EasyRide to take us back to the city. It was already 4pm and we totally missed the street parade. But, I was not sulking. My spirits were still on a high from the previous adventure. But still, all that paddling made us really hungry so we went straight back to Sansrival to try another one of their cakes. This time, the target: the Dates and Walnut Dacqouise. I've read a good deal about it in many blogs and I couldn't wait to try it myself.

I ordered this and an iced cappuccino while Janjan had pasta and a soda in a plastic cup (hehe). This time around, the food were all very, very good. The pasta was cooked just right and had a hint of sourness to it. The dacquoise was not like any cake I've tasted. It was crunchy and soft and chewy. A wonderful kind of confusing. I'm not a food expert but this was good.

After that quick snack, we decided to go to the Boulevard again and just sit, chill and people watch. This time, there were more people around and the place felt very festive. Food stalls, Balloons. Kids. Picnics. I loved it. It's very common to see Americans and Europeans here. And most of them feel very right at home too.

It was almost night time so we decided to head off to Sidlakang Village to experience more of the festivities. The Sidlakang Negros Village is  Negros Oriental's one-stop tourism center. This "village" showcases some of the popular products of the province - with a separate pavilion for each of the municipalities and is where the Tourism office is also located.

We hailed a trike to the village. It was crazy and festive and so very, very colorful. We were greeted with a whole lot of people and THIS:

My fave booth, of course. =))

They relocated Mt. Kanlaon to Dumaguete just for this!
There's ALWAYS time to fool around. hehe...
Okay. Enough of the camwhoring. Kudos to Negros Oriental for pulling off such an impressive fair! Tired and hungry, Janjan and I hailed a trike and decided to get something special for dinner. Where to? See the next post and see for yourself.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dumaguete Day 2: At Lake Balinsasayao

Day 2 of our Dumaguete trip. The first thing on our itinerary was to visit the Twin Lakes in the morning, get back to Dumaguete in time for the Buglasan Street Dance and dine at Cafe Antonio during the evening. And since we were extremely pleased with the food and the customer service in Hayahay, we planned to go back to the resto for some drinks to cap off the night.

BUT, since I felt a bit groggy from last night's margarita, I was not able to work on my articles. I ended up writing early in the morning instead. So instead of the planned 7am trip to the lake, we went out of the hotel at around 11am. Preeeety late. 

Anyways, we decided to have early lunch so we won't have any problems later. We strolled the city streets again and found this food joint called Scooby's. They sell pretty good homemade food and burgers. I ordered menudo, rice and coleslaw while Janjan had a double burger. Scooby's, I think is a very popular food joint in the city. Surprisingly, there are more Scooby chains in Dumaguete than there are Jollibee's.

So right after lunch, we hailed a trike which took us to the Ceres bus terminal. We got on a bus heading for San Jose (20 PhP). We had no idea where to get off so we asked the driver to drop us off at the crossing point to Twin Lakes. The Twin Lakes National Park is actually found in the municipality of Sibulan. Its just a 25-minute ride so please, please DO NOT fall asleep. Sometimes, the driver can totally forget about you so its best that you keep your eyes wide awake. There's a huge sign at the left side of the road that will tell you where to get off, just in case.

Luckily, manong driver is not the forgetful type and he dropped us right in front of the sign. There are several motorcycles parked at the side of the road. An old man greeted us and offered his services. I've read a lot of travel blogs saying that a ride to and from the lake can cost around 300 PhP per head. Some say they have managed to haggle it to 250PhP. So we tried our luck. To our surprise, we were met with a totally different price: 400 PhP for a round trip. I was shocked! I haggled for a bit but to no avail. It would be senseless to turn away and go back home. So we agreed to the rate and I hopped on the motorcycle, grumbling.

The ride was long and it was scary. Janjan and I had to ride on two different bikes so I was even more scared. But slowly, the views got more and more beautiful and manong driver got more and more friendly. Before I knew it, I was totally enjoying the ride. It turned out that my old trike driver was a well respected guy in the area. People called him Master (yes, seriously). One time, we stopped by a store to buy some gasoline and people were extra polite to the old guy. He was more like Yoda. Master of the rough roads, he was. (Haha, sorry. Couldn't help it).

Forty five minutes later, we were at the park entrance. We paid the 10 Peso entrance fee and drove on towards the lake. There's actually a shallow pool of water right beside the the entrance area which looked pretty neat too. Sadly, I forgot to take a photo of it.

The road ended at the park's restaurant. Since we were already done eating, we proceeded on to the trail that led us down to the first lake, Lake Balinsasayao. After a few minutes of walking, we were greeted with this:

Girls and guys, meet Balinsasayo. Breathtaking, eh?
The park offers a range of activities. You can swim (only when there's a lifeguard around), go trekking to Lake Danao, rent a boat (250 PhP, with a guide) or a kayak (100 PhP/ hour). We decided to get the last option. It was much cheaper and way more fun.  

So we paddled all around and across the entire lake. It was scary and peaceful at the same time. Surreal. I felt small and so fragile. But most of all, I felt a huge sense of gratitude. This was all incredible handiwork. It was getting quite hot so we paddled all across the lake where the viewing deck was located. We tied our boat to a tree (very, very tightly - on paranoid mode ) and made our way up the trail. Once at the top, we finally got our first glance of the shy twin brother, Lake Danao. He was smaller, but just as beautiful and majestic. The best thing to do at the viewing deck? Camwhoring. =)).

After taking in all the sights, and sounds and smells, we went down and followed a short trail to see Lake Danao himself. He looked even more beautiful up close. There was this huge log that fell right at the side of the lake which added more to its mystery. 

Lake Danao. He has a completely different feel.
After a few shots, we decided to head back up and start rowing back to the main station. We were gone for almost an hour and I was afraid that it'll start to rain. I DID NOT want to get stuck in the middle of the lake rowing a small kayak. We got back, paid 100 PhP for the kayak and went back up to the resto. Master was not there. The attendant told me he went out to buy gas. Fine by me. This gave us enough time to take more pictures.

Grateful to see this in my lifetime
A few minutes later, Master arrived and we were back on the road. This time, I felt more at ease. I did not mind the 400 Peso trike ride anymore. I'm glad to have helped. This was a pretty dangerous road and well, every single penny was worth it. If I was ready to spend a Thousand Pesos on a mechanical roller coaster ride in Singapore, why not a few hundreds for the real thing, right?

Master wanted to buy me marang at some store along the road. A local fruit which I told him I loved. He said these babies are sold for 5 Pesos a piece here. Crazy and cheap! But unfortunately, they ran out. We finally reached the highway, paid him 800 for the ride, said a million thank you's and hopped on an Easy Ride back to the city. The experience was surreal. Not just because of the lake but of the ride and the people we met along the way. It was not the destination indeed, it was the terrifying, butt-aching journey.

To Master, you'll probably never read this but you made the trip extra special. Thank you for the stories and for bringing me back in one piece. Master of the Rough Roads, you truly are. =))