Our visit to Dumaguete was part of a plan to select the best place for upcoming retirement in the Philippines. We ended up building a house in a small town on Panay Island, but we still consider Dumaguete a top Philippine retirement location and in fact since our visit Dumaguete is an increasingly popular retirement destination for foreigners. Note that our Dumaguete visit on which this article is based was in 2005 so don’t assume that all remains the same as it was in 2005.
Dumaguete is more genteel than any Philippine city I have visited. Most Philippine cities aim just to survive; being pretty is not high on the list. Instead of the usual polluted, industrial water front, Dumaguete has a long, lovely, waterfront promenade with cast iron street lamps and benches to rest on. Huge Acacia trees line the strip of parkland separating the promenade from Rizal Boulevard. The Boulevard has some nice hotels, cafes, and bars where one can while away the hours gazing at the ocean.
The community has other assets. The Silliman University campus is almost Ivy League-beautiful. The Provincial Capitol and adjacent Freedom Park are also beautiful and well maintained. Generally there are sidewalks and far less trash than is usual in the Philippines. The water and sewer works, while not up to Western standards, are better than most.
I found the people more reserved than in Cebu City, probably just because it’s a more rural place. However I was grocery shopping in Lee Plaza, Dumaguete, in the soup section. Three young teenage girls were also shopping there — maybe they were 16. The three of them approached me and said, very sweetly and very sincerely, that I was very cute, very handsome. They did not seem to have any agenda — except maybe they were on the way to eye doctor. Anyway, they did this bold thing in a very shy way. I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day.
Before coming to the Philippines, we lived in Upstate New York. Horace Silliman was from Cohoes, New York, part of the Albany area. Silliman University in Dumaguete was a relativity small part of Silliman’s philanthropy, but is perhaps is the most enduring part. His major project, Silliman Memorial Church was demolished in 1998 by the city to which he devoted so much of his life. More information at http://www.lostlandmarks.org/silliman.html
The Silliman University web site: http://www.su.edu.ph/
I tended to hang around the “Why Not” restaurant, bar, Internet cafe, travel agency, real estate agency. Seemed mostly Germans and other Europeans there. Some start drinking after breakfast and are pretty glassy-eyed by lunch. Thai dishes at Why Not were the best food of our three month trip, and we dined at dozens of restaurants.
Moving to the center of town from the waterfront, Dumaguete becomes more like the usual Philippine city; choked with tricycles and other traffic.
We stayed at the South Seas resort north of downtown — not perfect, but was on ocean, pool, quiet and nicely landscaped but still with fairly easy access to downtown. We paid about $23 USD per night for an AC cottage.
Compared to Cebu City, Bacolod and Iloilo, Dumaguete real estate prices are much lower. Comparatively they are a good deal. For Filipinos who need to earn a living, there are many more employment and business opportunities in the bigger cities, but the the foreign retiree need not consider that. For them, Dumaguete has a lot to offer. Further, many foreigners come to pretty Dumaguete to build their dream homes. Things happen and these places end up on the market at good prices. In Cebu City there would be plenty of Filipino buyers, but in Dumaguete the market for expensive properties is mainly foreigners.
Many of the smaller communities near Dumaguete are also pretty with many good beach and diving opportunities. There’s also opportunities for hiking and mountaineering.
Friends who live in Dumaguete give good reports on the medical care here, especially for a smaller Philippine city. Nurses graduating from Silliman University are top-scorers on nursing board exams.
There are some beautiful small towns near to Dumaguete. Live near the beach in Dauin or in the mountains in beautiful Valencia.
Forest Camp is a private park in the hills of Valencia, a very pretty small mountain town outside of Dumaguete. Forest Camp is a good place for a picnic. They also have overnight accommodations.