Walk and eat your way through the charming seaside city of Dumaguete
WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY LAWRENCE MISTADES
A quick Google search for
Dumaguete will yield a ton of information on the little city. From notable diving and heritage sites to nicknames the city has earned, this “Googleable” gem of a destination is no secret to the Internet savvy. What this quick search won’t tell you is how easily navigable and how deliciously enjoyable this burgeoning foodie destination really is.
Since the city is only a good 34 square meters in land area, popular sites are just a quick stroll or tricycle ride from one another. The public market, city center and baywalk, among other landmarks, are all nicely laid out in fairly walkable distances. Best of all, fantastic Dumagueteño fare is just waiting to be savored between each stroll.
If you’re looking for a nice snack early in the morning, have a tortabun. Made with fermented coconut nectar, this toasty type of pandesal is an aromatic tribute to the original. The bread is baked in a makeshift oven of coconut shells and is immediately noticeable along the road outside the city where they’re regularly made and sold. They’re also available within the city but locals will always recommend the freshly made ones sold along the road to Dauin and Zamboanguita port.
Even after you’ve had your fill of torta, mornings won’t be complete without a visit to Dumaguete’spublic market for a good old painitanbreakfast. As far as Philippine public markets go, this city’s palengkeis absolutely immaculate. Everything is organized into neatly arranged rows and segregated by categories thatmake perfect sense. You won’t seeany misplaced products dirtying the space of meats or fresh produce here. To my delight, this market devoted a whole area to kakaninor rice-based cakes, which I absolutely love. Called the painitan, meaning “a place to warm up” in English, these market stalls sell puto(freshly steamed rice cakes), budbodkabog(sticky rice in coconut) and tsokolate(hot cocoa). Strategically placed at the market’s busy outer edge, market-goers flock this area for a quick break from the morning’s hustle and bustle. For a cooler slice of dessert in the market, try Bading’shalo-halo. Their simple concoction of shaved ice and condensed milk with mixed fruits and sweets is insanely popular during the summer.
For some excellent street food that’s just as safe as any sit-down restaurant, hit the Rizal Boulevard baywalk at around 3 PM for the daily tempurahan. This daily Dumagueteño phenomenon has been a hit for almost 17 years and is run by street food vendors who have banded together for a stronger presence and better profit. Unitedunder food safety regulation andbusiness permits, the Tempura-BalutVendors Association of DumagueteCity puts other vendors to shame with their systematic operations and steady stream of customers. The tempura served here is a far cry from the Japanese staple—it’s actually deep-fried fish and has a unique flavor. It is served with vinegar and your choice of sweet or spicy sauce. Each tempura goes for just P5 per stick and gives you a lot of bang for your buck. The tempurahanis open from 3 PM until there’s no more food or customers to go around which can go as late as 3 to 5 AM. The baywalk is the perfect setting and is what Manila’s baywalk could have been if it were better taken care of. The vendors are really friendly and will pull up chairs for even the largest groups. There’s also a random guy going around with a guitar, seranading customers while they enjoy the delicious fish sticks and balut. I don’t think he’s in any way affiliated with the vendors but he seems like a permanent fixture.