Dumaguete is the capital city and main port of Negros Oriental, the province that occupies the south-eastern part of Negros Island, in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines. It is sometimes called the "City of Gentle People".
A laid-back university town with a charming sea-front boulevard and a good selection of tourist-oriented services, Dumaguete is a good place to relax for anything from a few days to a few decades. There are many tourists and a large contingent of resident foreigners including quite a few retirees.
Dumaguete is a major transport hub for reaching destinations anywhere on the large island of Negros which is split into two provinces, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental. In particular, it often serves as an entry point for trips to the diving on Apo Island or dolphin chasing and whale watching near Bais City. The small island province of Siquijor, with its many beaches and legends of witches and socerers, is also often reached via Dumaguete; it is visible from the downtown seafront.
The economy is quite diverse and is doing well; a 2009 survey showed Dumaguete with the lowest incidence of poverty of all cities in the Visayas and Mindanao. The city has been a center of education for over a century, and the transport, market and administrative hub of its region for even longer. More recently tourism and hi-tech have become important; Dumaguete is among the top ten tourist destinations in the country and has quite a few call centers, business process outsourcing companies and other IT-related enterprises.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral
This article covers four towns that are administratively separate but effectively one city:
Dumaguete City proper (131,377 in 2015 census)
Bacong, south along the coast (36,500)
Valencia, on higher ground inland to the southwest (34,850)
Dumaguete, Valencia and Bacong are connected by three roads, approximately an equilateral triangle 8 km (5 miles) on a side.
Sibulan, north along the coast; the two town centers are about 12 km apart (59,500)
Dumaguete is not a large city in population but is spread out over quite a wide area. All three suburbs mentioned above have seen considerable residential development in recent years; many people live in them but come into Dumaguete to work or shop, or for restaurants and nightlife.
Valencia is located in a volcanic area, the volcanic soil is fertile, and there is plenty of rain. The area has long been known for agriculture, especially fruit and vegetable production. There is a large farmers' market in the center of Valencia, right where the jeepney from Dumaguete arrives.
The urban part of Valencia is over 200 m (660 ft) above sea level so the town is significantly cooler than Dumaguete on the coast. Partly because of this, it has several new upmarket real estate developments which attract both well-off Dumaguetinos and expatriates. Bacong and Dauin, the next coastal town south, also have a lot of upmarket housing development.
The climate is tropical with an average daily high of 30.6 C (87 F) and low of 24.8 (77); this does not vary much from month to month. Precipitation does vary considerably with a dry season January to May and wet season June to December. Average annual rainfall is 807mm (32 inches); for comparison, San Francisco and London each get about 600mm, while Manila gets about 2000mm and Hong Kong 2400.
As anywhere in the Philippines, there is some risk of both earthquakes and typhoons. However, compared to other areas in the country Dumaguete has relatively low risk of either.
The country's two largest cities, and its main hubs for international flights, are Metro Manila and Metro Cebu; from either, there are flights, ferries, and buses (which ride ferries for part of the route) to Dumaguete. Cebu is considerably closer.
Mactan-Cebu International Airport used to be far and away the more pleasant airport to arrive at with an international connection (especially if travelling by Emirates or Silkair part of Singapore airlines) but Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila has improved. Most international arrivals and domestic departures operated by Cebu Pacific now use the modern and relatively efficient Terminal 3 in Manila.
If you change planes in Manila or Cebu, allow plenty of time since the security controls to enter each terminal — before you can even join the queue to check in — sometimes cause long delays. On a busy day at Manila Airport it can take almost two hours! You will also need a paper print out of your confirmed flight itinerary.
There are also international flights to Davao, Iloilo, Kalibo (nearest airport to Boracay), or Clark Airport near Angeles; none of those cities has direct or convenient connections to Dumaguete, but those routes might suit some travellers.
Dumaguete airport terminal is small with no air-bridges. Umbrellas are provided if there is a rain shower
Cebu Pacific has flights from both Manila and Cebu, and Philippine Airlines has flights from Manila.
1 Sibulan Airport (IATA:DGT), The airport is technically in Sibulan, the next town to the north, but is not far from Dumaguete city center (3 km). Ground transportation. No public transport available. Tricycles to city center cost ₱60, vans - ₱300.
Frequent sailings from Manila, Cebu City, Tagbilaran, Siquijor and Dapitan are offered with Cebu having the most options and trips.
1 Dumaguete Port. All the direct-to-Dumaguete ferries arrive and depart here, though other ferries run from southern parts of Cebu Island to Sibulan. Most of the traffic is ferries, though there are some small-to-midsize freighters and container ships. There are no cruise ships and few private small cruising vessels.
A comfortable way to reach Dumaguete is on one of the better ferries. However, this is considerably more expensive than other ferry or mixed bus/ferry options. Also, they are for passengers only; you cannot bring a vehicle.
Ocean Jet. Fast hydrofoil ferries to and from Cebu via Tagbilaran on Bohol. From Dumaguete, departs 07:30 (arrives 11:10) and 14:20 (arrives 19:20) Tourist Class: ₱900, Business Class: ₱1,200.
2Go. Relatively luxurious and larger than most other ferries, more along the lines of a cruise ship. They have one Manila-Dumaguete departure a week leaving on Saturday afternoon and arriving early Sunday evening, at rates from ₱1,600 up. They also have four Manila-Cebu runs a week and a Manila-Bacolod route. edit
Ro-Ro's are also available; these are slower and cheaper ferries where cars can roll on and roll off.
2. Ceres, a major bus line serving Cebu and Negros islands. Their buses are a conspicuously bright yellow. The Ceres line has direct buses from the south bus station in Cebu City to Dumaguete; they go down to the south end of Cebu Island, across to Negros Island via a short ferry ride that lands in Sibulan, then on to Dumaguete. Cost for the bus as of June 2016 was ₱215, paid to the conductor. There is a separate ₱70 charge for the ferry; someone comes round to collect it. Total travel time is often around five to six hours but may be considerably longer if traffic is bad or there is a delay waiting for the ferry.
From Cebu, the Dumaguete buses are scheduled at 06:00, 7:30, 10:00, 11:30, 13:00, 14:30, 16:00, and 18:00. The first bus for Cebu from Dumaguete leaves at 03:15 and the last at 14:00; there are many trips in between, scheduled every hour or two. Scheduling is not at all strict; a bus will leave early if it is full, sometimes more than an hour early.
There are Ceres buses to and from Bacolod, capital of the western province of Negros Occidental (which shares the island of Negros with Negros Oriental whose capital is Dumaguete).
Bacolod to Dumaguete: first trip at 02:00 and last trip at 19:00
Dumaguete to Bacolod: first trip at 02:30 last trip at 19:30.
There are many trips a day. Fare for a non-air-conditioned bus is ₱300 each way. and for the air-conditioned bus is ₱377. Travel time is 6/7 hours.
Ceres also now have a bus from the Cubao district of Quezon City (which is part of Metro Manila) to Dumaguete. It goes via Iloilo and Bacolod, and uses several ferries.
If you want to see more of the southern parts of Cebu Island, you can travel south from Cebu City on your own, then reach Dumaguete with smaller hops from there. All these ferries are ro-ros (Rollon-Rolloff) so bringing a vehicle is possible,
Take a bus to the San Sebastian (Bato) area of Samboan, then take a 20-30 minute ferry ride to Sibulan, 20 minutes away from the centre of Dumaguete. Ferries leave from Sibulan 05:00-17:00. To get this bus you must play the game chasing against time; seats are limited and if you don't get a chance to be an early bird in booking a ticket, you'll probably end up sleeping in the bus terminal waiting for the next day's departures.
Ro-ro from 3 Samboan, on Cebu Island to 4 Looc, Sibulan operated by Lite Shipping Corporation at 16:00, 19:00, 20:30 & 22:00 with journeys to Cebu Island at 05:00, 08:30, 11:30 & 13:00 with an 80min journey time. Return vehicle fare (for a Multicab) of ₱1080 includes driver and one passenger with additional passengers at ₱70 each.
Dumaguete has few taxis and almost none of the jeepneys you'll see in other cities in the Philippines. There are some jeepneys going to nearby towns but, unlike other cities, there are no jeepneys with general-purpose downtown routes. Most in-town transit is by motorcycle/sidecar rigs called pedicabs.
A "pedicab" motorcycle/sidecar rig
The standard transport option is a three-wheeled contraption called a pedicab. In parts of the Philippines a "pedicab" is human-powered but in Dumaguete it is a motorcycle, typically 200 cc and Japanese, with a sidecar. These do have a windshield and a roof so there is some protection from the elements, but they are neither quiet nor very comfortable. The sidecar has seating for four, two facing forward and two back, but it is designed for Filipinos and four Westerners will not usually fit unless one rides pillion behind the operator.
Pedicabs are generally ₱8 per person for trips within the downtown area. These are shared vehicles; expect to ride along with whoever happens to be going the same way, and to take the odd detour as the driver diverts to deliver other passengers to their destinations. When travelling to further-out destinations (airport, etc.), or if you want the machine to yourself, expect to pay more and negotiate, probably before you get in. Prices can go up to over ₱100 for a journey to a suburb, especially late at night when the driver cannot expect to find a return fare.
There are various terminals for jeepneys to nearby towns or suburbs; these are cheap and interesting, but often quite crowded. Sit up front with the driver if you can; this is more comfortable and has a better view. Most jeepneys give a discount for students or seniors.
Dumaguete is a university town; there are four universities plus various colleges, and about a quarter of the population are students. Foremost of the city's educational institutions is Silliman University, the oldest American university in Asia and the first Protestant college to be founded in this predominantly Roman Catholic country.
The main street running north-south through the campus is Hibbard Avenue, named for the missionary couple who founded it in 1901, originally as a high school. The street that borders the campus on the south is Silliman Avenue, named after the New England industrialist who financed the project.
There are also some golf courses:
1 Bravo Golf Course (Dumaguete Golf Course), San Antonio Barangay. Beautifully kept 18-hole course with plenty of shade trees and Zebu cattle has a view of the sea and an air-conditioned club room. Quarterly green fees are ₱15,000 while 'walk-ins' pay ₱750 for 9 holes, ₱1,250 for 18 holes M-Th rising to ₱1,000 & ₱1,500 at weekends. Caddy fees are ₱175 or ₱275, golf cart rental ₱400 or ₱650, an umbrella girl ₱120 or ₱180 and golf set rental ₱650 or ₱650 for 9 or 18 holes respectively.
There is a hotel on-site with rooms from ₱2250. The restaurant has a large, brick pizza oven and some other Italian dishes on the menu. edit
2 Ang Tay Golf Course, East Rovira Dr, A 9-hole course close to downtown, before the airport. edit
West of downtown in Valencia there are several highland resorts. These are located in a forested area and mainly oriented to outdoor activities.
Traffic can be distinctly hectic; there are no traffic lights or stop signs anywhere in the town, and you rarely see policemen directing traffic. Most of the oddities of Asian driving are seen in Dumaguete: running without lights at night is common, motorcycles fairly often do interesting things like going down the wrong side of the road or ignoring one-way traffic signs, and so on. On the positive side, the traffic is not remarkably fast, there are few traffic jams and, compared to some other Asian cities, Dumaguete has fewer drivers who seem obviously insane to western observers.
As in any tropical area, there is risk of sunburn; it is quite important for newly arrived visitors to exercise caution.
Health risks in Dumaguete are not large but, as for most travel, it is worth checking with your doctor and possibly getting some vaccines before setting out. The area is tropical, so see also tropical diseases.
A few vaccines may be of particular concern:
The city has many stray dogs and cats, and some rats, so rabies vaccine may be a good idea.
As of early 2016, a vaccine for the mosquito-borne disease dengue fever is just coming on the market. Dengue is widespread in the Philippines and Dumaguete has some mosquitoes (though not many), so this may be a wise precaution.
Dumaguete is not one of the parts of the Philippines where malaria is a risk. In fact the entire Visayas region is malaria-free.
The city has many health services — doctors, dentists, pharmacies, optometrists — and, as elsewhere in the Philippines and indeed most of Asia, these services are often much cheaper than in higher-income countries. There are exceptions when imported products, such as dental implants or certain drugs, are required for the treatment.
Internet service is generally very good; Dumaguete is one of the hubs of the fiber optic network that connects the country. Most hotels and many restaurants offer free Wi-Fi; connection speed is fine for text and most graphics but music or video streaming is often jerky due to high latencies.
Cell phone connections are fast and reliable anywhere in the city.