Anhi Ta Diri: Dumaguete
December 6-9, 2013
My nine-day trip to the Visayas and Mindanao was probably my most relaxed trip ever, number one, because I didn’t prepare much, and two, I was alone, so I didn’t have to worry about deciding for the itinerary. Okay maybe I did spend a couple of days exhausting on my readings before I convinced myself that everything will be okay even if I don’t make a solid plan. The most stressful part of this holiday was deciding on the number of days in the places I planned on going to. And I debated with myself and my conscience for weeks. In the end, here is how I did it:
- 06: Arrival in Dumaguete City
- 07: Day Trip in Apo Island through Harold’s Mansion and First Rizal Boulevard walk
- 08: Casaroro Falls in Valencia, and the Dumaguete Express at Lab-as
- 09: Departure for Siquijor
- 10: Day tour in Siquijor: 400-year old Balete Tree, Cambugahay Falls, Salagdoong Beach Resort, and Guiwanon Spring Park Resort; en route and arrival in Oslob
- 11: Whale shark snorkeling and day tour in Sumilon Island
- 12: Tumalog Falls, Kawasan Falls, and en route to Ozamis via overnight ferry
- 13: Arrival in Ozamis, Day trip to Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park, and en route and arrival i Iligan City
- 14: Tinago falls, and en route and arrival in Manila
DECEMBER 6, FRIDAY:
ARRIVAL IN DUMAGUETE CITY
My plane landed before sunset and despite the flight being late, I was able to check-in before sundown. I made reservations in of the dorm accommodations at Harold’s Mansion, and for just P250 (6USD), I have a lower bunk bed with five other roommates and shared bathroom, free Wifi, free breakfast, and bottomless coffee, and tea throughout the day. Really, no one can go wrong with backpacker hostels. Harold’s is one perfect example.
Tip: To get to Harold’s Mansion at lowest price possible, one must take the five-minute walk from the airport to the national road. Hail a tricycle and ask the driver to bring you to Harold’s. Fare is just PhP20 (.50USD) compared to the PhP100 (2.50USD) trike from the airport. The ride takes approximately 15-20 minutes, so it gives you time to make small chitchats with locals taking the same trike.
Checking in, I found a French guy on my bed (it’s not what you think, haha), and explained to him that I specifically requested for that lower bunk bed, so he had to transfer. I sort of felt guilty after that. I think I bullied him a little. But he seemed very casual after, so I guess it wasn’t that much of an issue, really.
It was Friday during my first night at Harold’s and it turned out that it was acoustic night + grill night at the rooftop, so other travelers would gather on tables for beers and oysters and share their stories from the different previous places they’ve been to. I, on the other hand, having a very low EQ, and my lack of interest in booze, was only there for the free tea and WiFi. I had one huge slice of pizza I brought from Pampanga (I don’t know how that survived the travel from Pampanga to MNL, and then the flight to DGT, but it did, safe and sound), and I asked the ladies at the kitchen if i can have it reheated. They asked for PhP20 (.50USD) and there goes my dinner.
Before hitting the sack, I went downstairs at the reception to check if Harold’s organizes tours around Dumaguete. It turned out that they were arranging a day trip to the Apo Island the next day, and a pack of travelers have already signed in. So I did, too.
DECEMBER 7, SATURDAY:
APO ISLAND DAY TOUR AND FIRST RIZAL BOULEVARD WALK
The thing with a DIY trip to the Apo Island is that it’s pretty expensive if you’re doing it alone. Plus the hassle of the travel to Dauin will eat a lot of your time; plus the waiting time, the worries of where to get food, or getting stranded in the island. The organized trip to Apo Island, on the other hand, was one massive relief.
- Do not get yourself confused with the Apo Reef in Occidental Mindoro where marine life is also teeming and abundant. It is the second largest contiguous coral reef in the world, next to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, according to the DENR. This, and Pandan Island, are on my to-go list too!
- Harold’s Mansion’s day trip to the Apo Island rate is PhP1,000 (Approximately 25USD) inclusive of land and boat transfer, lunch sandwich, guides, and the good vibes.
- Bring your underwater camera! The sight underwater is worth documenting!
Prior this trip, people I know have been raving about how beautiful Apo Island is in terms of its marine life diversity. I’ve seen photos, too. But because I only went on snorkeling that day, I only saw a few. Being a solo traveler who doesn’t know how to swim is a huge limitation when going to explorations like this. And even with my rented snorkeling set and buoyancy vest on, I still had my worries of drowning.
The guides said that there were many turtles around the first stop that we went to. Others saw at least three of them. Unfortunately, I only saw one. But it was an XL turtle munching on sea grass, so I guess that’s still a good thing. One of the rules from the guides was that tourists are not allowed to touch marine animals and corals. But one stupid (she was) girl from another group distracted the turtle from its meal so it left. She was Pinay, so there was absolutely no excuse for not knowing that what she did was stupid. Anyway…
Two more stops around the island and I found myself swimming again, and even though I was still terrified of the thought of drowning, a newly-found Korean lady friend, Pam, invited me to take a look at a different set of marine scenery. It was my first time to see volcanic bubbles (I think) surfacing from the sea floor and corals, and I thought that it was the cutest thing.
At around 4PM, we headed back to the mainland and back to Harold’s. Apo Island was a nice experience, although I couldn’t help but compare it to my snorkeling experience in Coron, Palawan. I think Coron has more beautiful and colorful snorkeling sites, possibly even more diverse, not to mention the number of lagoons and freshwater lake, and white sand beaches in the nearby islands. But still, Apo Island was nice, and definitely worth experiencing.
That evening was the eve of an important celebration so I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner. I went to Sans Rival Cakes and Pastries Restaurant and ordered something decent. And even though I was alone, I realized that Dumaguete does offer a lively boulevard that somehow compensates a great evening vibe for a solo traveler.
DECEMBER 8, SUNDAY:
CASARORO FALLS IN VALENCIA AND THE DUMAGUETE EXPRESS AT LAB-AS
The night before, I checked the log at Harold’s reception to see if there are others planning to go to a different tour in Dumaguete. But there was none. So the next day, I decided to follow my own DIY tour to Casaroro Falls in Valencia, some 45 minutes (exclusive of waiting time) away from the city. Finally, to practice my traveling instincts. So after a few advice from the kind ladies at the reception, I left at around 9AM for the “killer falls”.
- To get to Casaroro Falls, one must go to the multicab terminal going to Valencia, the one by Robinson’s mall. Fare is PhP10 (.25USD) from Harold’s, and then another PhP30 (.75USD, I really cant remember, but it’s definitely less than a dollar) from Dumaguete City to Valencia. Take that route, and then from the Valencia stop, habal-habal drivers will be offering you rides going to the falls. I think I remember barganing at PhP120 (3USD) for a back and forth ride.
- The hike going to the falls could take you around 30-45 minutes one way, depending on your pace. There are no stores at Casaroro Falls, so it is advisable that you bring some water and food with you. Just be mindful of taking your trash with you when you return.
- There is another branch of Harold’s Mansion some five minutes away from Casaroro Falls. The place is relaxing and very peaceful, ideal for those who have extra days to spend and prefer the simpler atmosphere. The accommodation is much cheaper, too!
- The path going to the falls is a little dangerous and far from the “entrance”. So if you’re traveling alone, and a little of a beginner like myself, I suggest you wait for others to go with, or look for a guide going in. The trail is a little tricky and the huge boulders of rocks are scary. Also, wear proper and comfortable hiking footwear. Flip-flops might do but the hike might break them.
- Locals call Casaroro Falls the killer falls because apparently, it has claimed many lives. That’s why people are not allowed to swim in its waters. And true enough, the waterfalls looked really deadly. That log at the falls serves as warning that indicates, this is the boundary between your life and death. Also, exercise caution especially when stepping on loose boulders.
The number of tourists was thin because it was a Monday, so I had no one to hike with to the falls. It was one of my biggest regrets during this trip. It was only halfway the trail when realized how terrifying it was, and kept thinking about James Franco in 127 hours (2010). I could have been the Filipino version of that had the boulders started collapsing one after another.
At the end of the trail, I bumped into a couple having a picnic. The guy warned me about getting too close to the water drop, but really, I did know about that already. Being extra cautious about my steps, I assembled my Nokia 808 Pureview for a selfie at the waterfalls. The result turned out to be a magnificent 8MP shot.
A couple of hours later, I found myself hiking back. Ten minutes later, I bumped into a group of four whom I found out to be from Manila, and made a joke about their hike being just one fourth of the total hike. One of them complemented my hiking solo and though that I was a pro. I laughed at her because I wasn’t, really.
Back at downtown Valencia, I thought that the town was very neat and peaceful. The people seemed organized, and even the routing for the public transportation was pretty impressive compared to Laguna and Manila. Then after a short nap during my commute, I realized I was back in the city.
Dumagueteños are nice people. They would help anyone with a smile, and they are very accommodating. I asked a couple of locals the way to the Boulevard, and even though there was a slight of language barrier, they did their best to give me the directions. Feet exhausted, I walked to see how the boulevard looked like during sundown, and like one of my friends described it, the stroke of the sun during sunset at the Rizal Boulevard has this specific vibrance that a usual camera can’t capture. So instead, I did my best to capture the people who made it vibrant in terms of movements, and I think that’s where much of the character of Dumaguete City lies.
Finally, to cap my day off, I went to Lab-as Seafood Restaurant to reward myself of the deprived lunch during the day. Lab-as is a sister restaurant to Hayahay, one of the famous gimmick places in the city. And because it was relatively early for a gimmick night, there was no one else around.
I heard of Lab-as from Xandra Rocha’s TV program on Solar TV, Something to Chew On. Let’s just say that her program is one of the reasons why I wanted to go to Dumaguete. I ordered the same thing, the Dumaguete Express, which I think it was one of the best foods that I had during this trip. Seafood, minus the fish because I don’t like fish, plus tomatoes, some ginger, squash and other greens in creamy coconut milk, sprinkled with a lot of lechong kawali was one of their best sellers. It was the perfect birthday treat for a solo traveler.