Dumaguete should be on your long-weekend travel list

BY Dom

...or why Negros Oriental is an exciting destination for your ‘revenge travel’

It was, to some extent, the completion of a journey. I’ve been to the island of Negros before, but only its western side. I’ve been to the islands beside Negros too, Iloilo on the west and Cebu on the east. But I couldn’t say that I’ve seen Negros fully—until I visited Negros Oriental for the first time, that is. I was finally able to visit the province onboard the maiden flight of AirAsia to Dumaguete, or flight Z2 641, together with 179 other souls. It was, coincidentally, also my first plane ride in two years, since the Covid-19 pandemic changed the world as we know it.

As one of its first major events since the easing of pandemic restrictions and after the launch of its AirAsia Super App in the Philippines, the airline’s maiden flight to Dumaguete is a welcome one—its first new domestic route in two years. Landing at the Dumageuete-Sibulan Airport, we were welcomed by festive singing and dancing, with locals and AirAsia’s flight attendants jubilant as flight Z2 641 (an Airbus A320) was welcomed with a traditional water cannon salute.

SPLASH LANDING -- AirAsia flight Z2 641 is given the traditional water cannon salute as it landed at the Dumaguete-Sibulan Airport (Photo courtesy of AirAsia)

“The pandemic may have slowed down the opening of this route but as Allstars, we have this never stop attitude,” said AirAsia Philippines CEO Ricky Isla, who joined us on this maiden flight. “We are geared at changing the game by offering the people of Negros Oriental and nearby provinces a valuable option for flights and other services that our Super App will offer.”

That it was to a province like Negros Oriental, one that has a lot of hidden tourism gems waiting to be discovered by the curious, adventuring traveler, was also a plus. Beyond the city of Dumaguete, which in itself is already a treat even for those who have been there before because of its rich history and culture, there are a lot of other destinations worth visiting on the western side of Negros.

Silver Reef Dive Resorts (Dauin, Neg. Or.)

Located a few kilometers from the Dumaguete-Sibulan Airport, Silver Reef Dive Resorts became our home away from home for the three days we were at Negros Oriental. Apart from providing a beautiful view of the sea and the nearby island of Siquijor, Silver Reef is the definition of an eco-friendly resort. Everything in it is made from recycled or reused materials. Everything, even the toiletries inside the rather spacious rooms (some 46 in total) made from refurbished container vans are organic. Best part is, one can even enroll in scuba diving classes.

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Sunrise by the beach at Silver Reef Dive Resort

Sands and dolphins (Bais, Neg. Or.)

Perhaps one of the most popular activities among tourists who have previously been to Negros Oriental is dolphin watching. Guided by veteran diver and bird watcher Jac Señagan, we were able to view dolphins jumping and flipping and even twisting above the waters of Bais, as if aware that “revenge travelers” like us were there to marvel at one of nature’s friendliest sea mammals. According to Jac, to be able to see that many dolphins, tourists have to go to Bais very early in the morning, when there are fewer people around and when the sun isn’t quite high yet.

After a good 30 minutes of dolphin-watching, we spent some time at the Manjuyod Sandbar, where travelers can take a dip at the pristine waters of the Tañon Strait or enjoy any of the available boat activities there.

Paunay Market (Valencia, Neg. Or.)

Perhaps one of my personal favorites during this trip is a tour of the Paunay Sunday Market in Valencia, one of the municipalities near Dumaguete. Think Salcedo Market but bigger, with more stalls, more people, more options—that’s precisely the vibe at Paunay Market, which occupies the town plaza and is located near the Our Lady of the Abandoned Church (making it a perfect after mass activity for locals).

Paunay gathers 200 different local sellers, from farmers selling their produce to retired foreigners who have opened up various food businesses around Negros Oriental. I was fortunate to even meet old friends I haven’t seen in a while there, Ramon and Meryll del Prado. Since they moved to Valencia, they have been operating a stall at Paunay Market where they sell goodies from Monmer Artisan Bakes. Meryll and Ramon have been quite busy baking, whether sourdough or ube cupcakes (which were really yummy, mind you) or dulce de leche blondies. I was also able to try brewed coffee from It’s the Coffee Weekend, which is one of two coffeeshops I saw at Paunay.

Ramon and Meryll Del Prado of Monmer Artisan Bakes at their stall in Paunay Sunday Market at Valencia

Pulang Bato Falls (Malabo, Valencia)

Of course, there is no lack of nature at Negros Oriental. Apart from adventures by the sea, there are also hidden treasures inland. One of the places worth a visit for any “revenger traveler” is the Twin Falls Mountain Resort or Pulang Bato Falls at Malabo, Valencia. Apart from a majestic waterfall, it features some of the most interesting rock formations I have ever seen.

An ancient pipe organ (Bacong, Neg. Or.)

Capping this short list of destinations to visit at Negros Oriental is an old church at Bacong. Named San Agustin de Hippo, the church is home to one of the oldest pipe organs in the Philippines. This over-a-century-old pipe organ was bought in 1894 from Zaragosa, Spain. During our visit, for some unexpected reason, the church’s organist was not available to play some tunes for us. Upon the gentle prodding of our tour guide Jack, however, I tried to play a few notes on the pipe organ. It was, to say the least, an honor to have tried an instrument that is nearly 130 years old.

AirAsia now flies to Dumaguete-Sibulan four times a week, every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. You can book your flights by downloading the AirAsia Super App, available for Android, iOS, and Huawei devices.