|My friends at the Boulevard (datestamp is wrong, friend didn't reset her GoPro)|
On the last week of June, my dorm mates and I went on a vacation trip to Negros Oriental. I'm aware of the news the past two days that there will be an unceasing rain for the latter half of the year. June is the start of the wet season, so this made our trip a highly unlikely one. But we all hailed from different provinces and we haven't seen each other for years, so screw the weather.
My friends arranged the iterinary for the trip which we didn't fulfill because of certain circumstances that I'm going to share later.
How to get to Dumaguete City from Cebu
From Cebu City Sound Bound Terminal, we took a direct travel to Dumaguete by Ceres aircon bus (P205). This ride goes through the Fast craft terminal of Liloan, Cebu (there are 2 Liloans in Cebu, one in the North and another in the South). You will have to pay separately for the barge fare of P70. The whole ride took us about 4.5 hours.
Negros Island is endowed with nature's gifts, making it a tourist hub. You only have to look at a local map (encompassing both Oriental and Occidental) and all the dots would point out as being tourist spots. It's a very beautiful place. And it certainly will be unlike no other islands in all of Philippines for it's one of the only 3 provinces that were originally part of Pangea according to an American professor who studied the Philippine geography for about 13 years as of 2009. The other two provinces are Palawan (group of islands) and Zamboanga.
Geological Insight:Pangea was where the dinosaurs lived. It's for this reason that the Malampaya project in Palawan has struck oil. The study entails that if you wish to dig some oil in the Philippines, you won't find any unless you dig in those 3 provinces. That scientist sure was saving time and resources for his fellow Americans. On the other hand, if China's aim is to bring home some oil, then she's barking at the wrong tree with Spratly Islands.
I can't remember the name of the scientist nor his university affiliation.
Anyway, here are some advice if you want to have a satisfying trip to Negros Oriental:
Don't go on vacation on a rainy season.Since most tourist destinations involve water, there are places that are closed to the public to avoid possibilities of landslide. The paths to various falls are also rocky and slippery. Moreover, a downcast sky won't make your trip appear good on pictures.
Eat the province's specialty.There are lots of restaurants along the baywalk of Dumaguete (called the Boulevard). As long as you're not on a tight budget, eat seafoods. Don't miss out on fresh crabs or if you've got more money, lobsters. If you don't, the rest of the food that you're going to eat are the kind which you could buy at your own locality. This is a vacation to a foreign place, embrace their food for this rare moment.
As we're on a tight budget, we only ate what I consider are our comfort foods at home. But I had to laugh when my friend ordered Law-ay for soup. To be pessimistic, this law-ay is like the poorest people's soup (or only viand, not to count ginamos and hipon) which is called Utan in Cebu. It goes by the name of Laswa among the Ilocanos in Northern Luzon. To be optimistic, it's like a comfort food that would never leave one's table among Cebuanos. I could compare it to Korean's treatment of Kimchi.
If there's any consolation with this semi-malarkey, our sole Tagalog friend had never tasted such a dish. It's good to see that she experienced my comfort food. Besides, I ordered a glass of Carlo Rossi red wine which I didn't like.
Well, that was the first day. On our last day, we had fun at Sans Rival Bistro with their spanish and italian dishes. We even made fun with Paella Negra (Squid Ink Rice Dish).
Buy Silvanas for pasalubong.Negros is famous for this delicacy. Buy boxes at Sans Rival. Their silvanas is like no other.
If you're not from Visayas, take a plane.My friends took a plane from their respective provinces and stopped over Cebu to meet with their other friends (who didn't join us in the trip). From Cebu City, we took a bus that will head straight to Dumaguete via Santander.
We had that route since my friends already made a reservation at an inn in Dumaguete.
Now, since we're not familiar with the place, we dropped at the Boulevard which was a ways off our inn street (but walkable). The tricycle driver whom we unfortunately happened to take a ride on hoodwinked us into paying 150% more of the fare that each one of us was supposed to pay. Tricycle fare starts at P8. He told us that our destination is way too far from where we stopped so we had to pay P20 each. This made us angry after, when we finally reached our inn. As a group who used to study at a University with an area of 450 hectares, that too far of a place will break us no sweat. Besides, the fare's supposed to be P8.
As a city that boasts,
City of Gentle Peoplethe tricycle driver's way of welcoming tourists is a huge disappointment. I know it's not fair to judge a whole group of people based on one's actions but it was not the only time a tricycle driver tried to take from us. The next day, as we tried to head to our first tourist destination, all the drivers at Valencia Market tried to make us pay more when there's a huge bulletin board behind us showing the exact fares to different places.
If these people want to boost their tourism, they should not try to fool people even in the slighest. It does not help that there's presence of NPAs in some places of the province. It will not do any good if people get infuriated with the locals on their very first day in the province. The locals' behavior is so unlike the hospitality in Cebu.
Tricycle drivers not only tried to make us pay the ride whole (you say pakyaw), they tried to make us pay more than what is appropriate.
As to why I suggest to take a plane? Sibulan airport lies in the heart of tourist spots in west of Dumaguete. You won't have to go through the grueling process of finding a decent ride there.
The Bisaya people (people who hailed from Visayas) are naturally vocal people, so don't get offended easily with their comments.Or rather, expect to get offended so easily with their observations about you.
While we were still at our inn, I warned my friends how we Bisaya tend to speak out what we have in mind, no matter how hurtful. Tagalogs are naturally silent people. Normally, they keep their thoughts to themselves. It's for that reason that some of my korean tutees' parents in the past would rather hire Tagalog people than Bisaya.
Despite my fair warning, our Tagalog friend got offended along the way that she cried in her sleep for it.
Just to digress, as my mother hailed from Buenavista, Camotes Islands, Cebu ,I took from her the trait of getting pissed so easily and being straightforward. If you go there and you happen to commit a mistake, expect to get reprimanded on the spot by a local.
Alot more days in your trip.If you really want to travel, you have to anticipate that you're going to spend half of the day in one place. We thought we're just going to jump from one place to the next, but instead we got stuck in one. You would enjoy having a 5-day vacation. The first day being the rest day on arrival and the last day in preparation for departure. The 3 days in between will be your real trip.
Research more about your destination.Because we're all so cranky with the maltreatment of the trike drivers at Valencia Market, we just decided right then and there to stop at the nearest tourist spot. So each one of us had to pay only P10 for the fare. That led us to Forest Camp in Valencia where we got stuck... because we didn't do our research. That and the fact that no one talks about it on the internet as far as we can tell. I'm going to talk about my experience there in another post.
If you're the adventurous type, don't expect for your friends to enjoy what you normally enjoy.I was about to say that when you go on an adventure trip, go with adventurous people who have gears. But I only went along with my closest of friends who happen to be not the adventurous type. Also, it was supposed to be a vacation trip, not an adventure. I think, I almost put my friends' lives in danger.
Try to blend in. Don't be too conspicuous.As a tourist, you're very easy to spot and therefore, gullible in the eyes of the locals. No matter where we went, unless it's a tourist hub, people seem to be trying too hard to take from us. On a hindsight, they're no near as bad as Manila's Laslas [Slash], Laglag-Barya [Coin-Drop], Salisi [Uneye] gangs.
Unless you speak bisaya or you don't look foreign, blending in would be too hard. Well, you could get away with really knowing what you're shit is about in visiting the island.
Head straight to a Tour Office before you head out on a trip.Why did I put this thing last? That's because I will be offensive. You won't get much information from the locals. Trust me when I say that the information you find on the internet is way more helpful than a local's opinion (with some exceptions). Of course, the officers at the tour office know better. The receptionist/manager of a hotel or inn is helpful too. But most locals aren't educated and they're ignorant of a lot of things. Sometimes, one can't help but think that they aren't civilized.
That first tricycle driver tricked us into paying P20 and even tried to lock us in a contract for the next day at a staggering amount. Didn't he even realize that we could just ask around for info that very day?
If you're going on vacation there, for optimal experience, wait until summer of next year. Anyhow, if you're going to insist for the remaining months of the year, then have a safe trip. Don't forget the usuals: camera (probably waterproof), sunscreen lotion, a bottle of water, snack bars, etc. And no, I won't tell you about packing lightly, to each his own. On the other hand, to pack very very lightly, you better bring sports attire (e.g. Climacool by Adidas, Dryfit by Nike, HeatTech by Uniqlo).