Oh my gosh, how long ago was this trip?! Late June 2013, that’s how long ago! Still, this deserves a place in this blog because this was the first out-of-Cebu trip I did with my family (minus the bro who was in Singapore already at this time). This trip was very spontaneous too, which makes it more special. Okay, so let’s dive in, let me see if I still remember the minute details.
Spontaneity is great!
Dumaguete City is part of Negros, that island west of Cebu. I initially thought of taking a trip to this part of the Philippines with a friend. Since we were both office workers, we only had weekends free and so we decided to go to Dumaguete seeing as it is relatively nearby. Unfortunately, my friend became unavailable and I kind of just placed Dumaguete on the back burner. One Friday night however, the wanderlust struck so strong that I was restless and was getting increasingly annoyed that I cannot go off somewhere that instant. So I thought, hey why not go to Dumaguete? On my own if I have to!
I was in the living room packing my backpack, attracting the attention of my family who have not yet gotten totally used to my wanderlust at this point. Conscious of their questioning looks, I asked on a lark, “Hey guys, wanna go to Dumaguete with me tomorrow?” To my surprise, mama, papa and my younger sis quickly and enthusiastically agreed! Wow, suddenly I was saddled with the responsibility of touring 3 people and I have not planned anything… Okay, challenge accepted! hehe
Come Saturday morning, we woke up at the crack of dawn and got to the South Bus Terminal at 6AM. Armed with a cup of yummy taho each, which we purchased from a peddler at the terminal, we took an air-conditioned bus to the port at Liloan, Santander (not to be confused with the Liloan to the north of Cebu). It took 3 hours to get there and thankfully the bus made two stops on the way for passengers to buy some food or use the toilet. The bus fare that time was P160.00, but I’m not sure how much it is now.
Upon arrival, we quickly bought tickets for the boat that will take us to Dumaguete City. The port was clean when we got there and the sea in the area was actually clear, unlike the sludgy waters you often see at most ports. We ate breakfast at the port; there is a carenderia/canteen fortunately. Then the ferry that will take us to Sibulan port in Dumaguete finally arrived and the fare that time just cost us P62.00 per person, sweet! Travel time is around 30 minutes in fair weather.
According to the haphazard Google search I did the night before, Harolds Mansion was a great backpackers’ lodge in the city. So from the port we hired a tricycle (aka Philippine tuktuk) to get to the city center where this accommodation is located. The mansion is just walking distance from the boulevard by the way. We got their Family Room plus 1 extra mattress since the room only accommodates 3 people but there were 4 of us. All in all, we paid P1,300 for that room for the night we were there. That works out to P325.00 per person, awesome!
The room is air-conditioned and has an en-suite toilet (which is great because I’m not really a fan of shared CRs because you know, doing number 2 while strangers are waiting for you to finish should not be a thing :D). It was a bit cramped for the 4 of us to be honest, but hey we spent all the daylight outside and just needed a comfortable place to sleep, so overall Harolds Mansion is a great deal. Then there was that free breakfast! It was a very simple buffet of bread, tea/coffee/sikwate, fruits and budbud – but better than nothing, right. For anyone looking for more substantial breakfast, just look through their menu.
Adventure Time to the Balinsasayao Twin Lakes!
Lake Balinsasayao and its ‘smaller twin’ Lake Danao are actually crater lakes on the volcanic complex that is Cuernos de Negros. Let me say that again, crater freakin’ lakes! How awesome is nature! I simply find it fascinating that such beautiful tranquil bodies of water sit on top of a volcano. That boiling magma is beneath there folks and it can come gushing out any time, who knows… Imagine the scary spectacle once that happens.
Thankfully, the Twin Lakes were serene (and continue to be so today) when we visited. Since June is rainy season in the Philippines, it was basically off-peak season so there was no other tourist when we got there. It was drizzling a bit that time but it wasn’t so overcast and gloomy. We hired one of the paddle boats there, which was handled by a husband and wife, so we could explore both lakes. Boat hire is around P250.00 per hour but try haggling that down. There’s also a registration fee of around P85.00 per person.
The time we spent at the Twin Lakes was just perfect.
Getting there requires you to get to the Twin Lakes junction. We did that by hiring a tricycle from Harolds to the junction, which from there you can either trek it all the way to the lakes (requires hours of long uphill walk best for trekking enthusiasts) or ride a habal-habal (public motorcycle). We chose the latter option and had to hire 2 habal-habals for 600 each. I rode with my mom and my sister rode with my dad. The driver they got turned out to be a minor @_@ and inexperienced. Dad told me later that there were so many moments he wanted to take over the driving haha.
But I guess it isn’t all that funny because the road to the lakes, at least when we went there, was unpaved and very uneven. Add the wetness from the rain and the loose stones and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Fortunately nothing untoward happened to us, but I felt this was worth sharing for everyone’s awareness.
Chillin’ at the Dumaguete Boulevard
After we got down from the Twin Lakes, we returned to the city center to explore the boulevard. It was a nice place to hang out and we had some quality family time there bonding over tempura and getting serenaded by some random guitarist. When it got darker, we found cheap dinner at Chowking and managed to call brother and make him jealous. >:D After that, we returned for a bit to the boulevard. The lights there was nice and has plenty of potential to be romantic 🙂 The rain was starting to pour though so we called it a night.
Forest Camp the Next Day!
Sunday morning found us checking out of Harolds early. We caught a trike to the terminal with multicabs bound for Valencia. We then rode a multicab to Valencia market (paid P12.00 each), bought some lunch at the market, then took a trike to Forest Camp (P10.00 each).
Forest Camp was also a beautiful place to be, although definitely not as raw and natural as the Twin Lakes. It is basically a sort of resort for the lack of a better word. Entrance fee is P80.00 and the place has cottages and tables for rent, and several pools. But get this, they diverted part of the river that’s just beside the property. So the pools are actually filled with natural flowing water from the river. I’m not sure if that description is making sense, basta! It was a nice and relaxing place and the water is cold and refreshing.
Once we got tired of exploring the place and swimming, we ate the lunch we bought from the market. Forest Camp graciously lent us some plates and spoons and forks for a small charge. Overall, we had a fun time there and even if it was drizzling, the lack of people made the whole place so relaxing for me.
Going Back Home
At around 2PM, we left Forest Camp. It was raining really hard by this time, but thankfully I asked the trike driver (who took us to the camp from the market) to come back for us in the afternoon. Got his number too to be sure we have transportation out of there because the place is remote. He arrived and we made our way back to Sibulan Port for P150.00.
We got on the 3PM ferry bound for Cebu; fare was still P62.00. Here’s a helpful blogger’s photo of the ferry schedules by the way. At Santander port, we took a bus bound for South Bus Terminal for around P170.00. Again, travel time is around 3 hours. And that’s it, we got back home tired, but truly happy we got to experience Dumaguete.
All in all, this part of the Philippines is beautiful and I’m so happy I listened to my wanderlust that time. Got to bond with my family too and realised that, apparently, my travel addiction is in the genes! Was fun seeing my 51 y.o. mama and 55 y.o. papa become backpackers for the weekend lol.
Oh and I might have fibbed a bit when I made that title up there; Dumaguete has so many things to offer that a weekend is truly not enough to get to know the place. However, a weekend spent in this part of the Philippines is way better than not visiting it at all, so definitely include it in your travel plans! ^_^
Total damage per person including food, other trike fares and miscellaneous purchases = P1,800.00