What do I know about Dumaguete? Well, I know that its name is coined from the Cebuano word which means “to snatch”, because the city is supposed to have the power to attract and keep visitors permanently.
My limited knowledge on the city is based on what I saw during my one and only visit in 1970, which was upon the invitation of my first cousin, Thelma Bauzon (now Schmidt) who was assigned to teach in one of the schools there. She was raving about the place so, ever-energized by the travel bug, I made the trip for a few days from Cebu City, where I was still based then.
Aside from being awed by the 120-year-old Silliman University and its beautiful campus, I do remember the city teeming with tricycles, with the endless cacophony of their motors giving the city a festive atmosphere. I also remember my daily leisurely walk along the city’s beautiful seaside boulevard, while enjoying the fresh, cool sea breeze continuously blowing from all directions.
I would always cap the day with good food and great music at North Pole, the city’s most popular fun destination then. Because I was there every evening, I eventually became friends with the amiable owner, Nene Wuthrich, who made sure I was efficiently served by his staff, while he briefed me on many other interesting facts about the capital city of Negros Oriental.
Everyone I met during my visit was very friendly, ever-ready to help any visitor, probably, a reflection of their genteel upbringing in a laid-back ambience, endearing them to first-time visitors like me. No wonder the city earned the moniker which I’m using as the title of this column.
Fast forward to recent days, I met the Mayor of Dumaguete, Felipe Antonio Remollo, in Clark at a sports tourism event late last year when quarantine restrictions eased up and travel was allowed. He was named Top Sports Tourism Personality because his city has been a popular venue for regional, national, and Southeast Asian sports events, which did wonders to its economy.
As expected, he was very friendly and, because we were seated at the same table at the event, I enjoyed conversing with him in Cebuano, something I always look forward to every time I meet somebody who speaks my dialect. I promised him I’d make my second visit to his city soon.
Meantime, I just learned that the city is now a preferred retirement place because of its perfect blend of countryside lifestyle and urban amenities. A few years back, it was named by the prestigious Forbes Magazine as the world’s fifth best place to retire and was awarded by the Philippine Retirement Authority as top Retirement Area Deemed as Retiree-Friendly (RADAR), which measures compliance to standards set by the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and International Living.
It is also laudable that the local government has taken great strides in preserving its cultural heritage by retaining structures that reflect its old world charm. The old City Hall, built in 1937 by eminent architect Juan Arellano, was recently restored and is now a branch of the National Museum. The new Panilongon marker at the bayside was unveiled early this year to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Magellan-Elcano expedition, which made a brief stop in 1521.
But what I’m really excited about is Mayor Remollo’s world-class township project along the boulevard. It will be a 174-hectare development, starting with a wave protection system and wastewater treatment plant to improve the water quality of the bay, making it more suitable for recreation and aqua sports.
Touted as a “smart city”, the project will have earth-friendly building systems, futuristic information technologies, and electric-powered vehicles suited for modern master-planned communities. There will also be a mixed-use business park, a marina and esplanade, fish ports, as well as public facilities for health, housing, education, sports, and transportation. And just like the city’s retirement village positioning, it will have mid-rise residential condominiums, tourism establishments, lifestyle and retail shops, green parks, and open spaces.
The visionary mayor sees this development as a P23 billion economic zone, and will initially employ 12,000 people in the city, and those from the neighboring towns of Negros Oriental, Siquijor, and southern Cebu. Once completed, the township will catapult Dumaguete into the league of highly urbanized cities in the country.
So, will the city’s new moniker soon be “The Futuristic City of Gentle People”? I’d certainly like to be among the first to visit when that happens.
YOUR WEEKEND CHUCKLE
QUESTION: What do you call a super articulate dinosaur?
ANSWER: A Thesaurus.
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