Dumaguete and diving around Apo Island and 1 day visit in Cebu
Dumaguete as a city was quite energetic for a “small” city. It’s actually known as a university town as a huge college campus engulfs much of its centre. Upon arriving, I didn’t really notice that many tourists around, good thing I blend in seamlessly now. The main reason why tourists come to Dumaguete is to go diving around Apo Island, UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
One of the Philippines’ famous diving sites, Apo Island has one of the world’s best known community-organized marine sanctuaries. It is home to over 650 documented species of fish and estimated to have over 400 species of corals. Sadly at the time of visit, a typhoon has just passed by the island, destroying nearly half of the reefs there, making it impossible to dive around the best sites.
I stayed at Harolds’s Mansion, one of the best backpackers hostels in town and they had a pretty good deal on 3 dives a day to Apo Island. So I just went with them and had a pretty good time the next day. The reefs were still pretty cool to see and we spotted quite a few “rare” fishes and even saw a turtle! Always awesome when you see a turtle while diving.
I actually stayed about 5 days in Dumaguete while I was actually only diving for 1. I just took it easy and chilled out around the town itself. Mainly to just enjoy the place itself and to catch up on some of my blogging as I was desperately behind on updates. I kinda “punished” myself to stay in for a few days to blog. I found a nice little cafe that served other Asian food like Japanese and Koreans and just started blogging away. Interesting fact about The Philippines is that actually a lot of Korean kids come here to study English. That’s why you see a rather large amount of Korean restaurants around bigger cities. And seeing how this was a university town, the cafe quickly filled up with Korean students who hang out there and study.
The rest of time I just rode around on the bike, looking at a few sights and even made time to go the mall and catch a movie! After a while of traveling you start enjoying these little things more and more.
I also planned the rest of my trip in the Philippines and decided to check out Mindanao, despite the many warnings from people. But to get there, I needed to transit for a day in Cebu first!
One of the first stops on Spain’s conquest agenda, Cebu lays claim to everything old- including the oldest street, the oldest university and the oldest fort. As I only had 1 day to check out the place and I’ve been taking it easy for a few days in Dumaguete, I figured I should make the effort to see what Cebu has to offer. So I got myself a hostel within walking distance from the port (walked for like 40 mins….), got myself settled in, took a nap and walk to the downtown area in the afternoon.
First stop was the oldest fort, Fort San Pedro, a gently crumbling ruin, built by Miguel Legazpi in 1565. There’s an entrance fee, but I didn’t go in as I wasn’t that into forts really and there was other stuff to check out as well. But it definately looked impressive from the outside!
A bit west of the fort you can get to the Magellan’s Cross on Plaza Sugbo. An octagonal building decorated with murals containing a large wooden cross that commemorates the Portuguese conquistador Ferdinand Magellan who planted a wooden cross upon converting the original inhabitants to Christianity.
From here you continue the walk towards the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, a large and venerable church that traces its history to the founding of the convent of the Santo Niño de Cebu in 1565. And yes, I copied the explanation from somewhere else… the interior looked magnificent nonetheless for a non-christian though!
Afterwards I continued my own little tour towards Colon St, the oldest street. I had to go through exhaust fumes , beggars, prostitutes and block after block of downmarket retail madness to get there, only to be disappointed by the sight. They weren’t kidding about the oldest street, everything looked run down, dirty and just overpopulated. So no pictures. I just bought a donut somewhere, went to the mall (YAY!) to get dinner and returned to my hostel to catch my flight to Davao in Mindanao the next morning.