In the gentle university town of Dumaguete City, apart from the hypnotic backdrop of the Visayan sea and Siquijor Island, there is a long-brimming scene that keeps pulling back artists and art lovers like. More than a gateway to the Apo Island diving spot and dolphin-watching near Bais, it has become a vibrant art and culture center that has been nurturing creative minds for decades and a secret hideaway for those looking to hone their craft. Cebu Pacific, the country’s leading airline, lets travelers awaken their artistic side and discover Dumaguete’s year-long profusion of art happenings as it flies to the city twice daily from Manila, and daily from Cebu.
In Dumaguete, plays and performances often take place at Silliman University Main Campuss Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium, which is touted as the Cultural Center of Southern Philippines.
A university town of youthful artistic vibe
For award-winning writer and Silliman University professor Ian Rosales Casocot, one of the reasons why art and culture continue to thrive in Dumaguete is the young population that makes up majority of its dwellers. “(Dumaguete) is a university town, hence it always has a population that skews towards the youth — but young people are in the city as transients, so they treat the city as a canvass, or a medium, for their burgeoning need for expression. Most of that comes out as artistic,” he says.
Multidisciplinary artist and creative entrepreneur Razcel Jan Luiz Salvarita echoed this sentiment, saying that “the strong presence of academic institutions has influenced the artistic vibe of Dumaguete as a cultural and creative hub for local and international artists. The nurturing land and environment of the island have attracted kindred souls to live and share their visions.”
The presence of Silliman University has organically turned Dumaguete into a hub for writers, musicians, visual artists, and performers. It has become a melting-pot of artists which breathed life to the town, filling it with quaint cafes and bohemian bars that are more than just places for good food and drinks but also as rendezvous points for artists and performers. One of the well-known alcoves of creative types is El Amigo along Silliman Avenue, which houses an art gallery and a pizza joint owned by visual artist Babbu Wenceslao.
All throughout the year, the University hosts series of events that highlight music and literature, visual arts, theater and dance. One of which is the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop held every May, which serves as an annual get-t together of literary behemoths and their young counterparts, that has so far produced a formidable list of alumni including Man Asian Literary Prize awardee Miguel Syjuco. Dumaguete is also home to the Elements Singing Songwriting Camp, which brings together amateur singer-songwriters who are coached by musical icons headed by Maestro Ryan Cayabyab.
In Dumaguete, late afternoons are best spent strolling along the picturesque Rizal Boulevard, then heading to the numerous cafés, bars and restaurants that line the street.
Confluence of urban and suburban sensibilities
“Dumaguete is a small city, but it has all the luxuries and conceits of big city living. So we have a population that is actually quite cosmopolitan, but tempered with a small town ease,” adds Casocot. While the city offers the conveniences of semi-cosmopolitan living, it is Dumaguete’s small-town charm that continues to appeal to artistic types.
Local artists in Dumaguete offer “art walks” or multi-venue art exhibitions wherein participants are taken on a unique tour of art exhibitions and restaurant cafes such as The Bean Connection, KRI, Pop’s Place, Hayahay, Captain Ribbers, and El Amigo, forming a strong community bond between artists and their patrons.
Musical, theater and other cultural performances are also often held at the Silliman University’s Claire Isabel McGill Luce Auditorium, dubbed as the Cultural Center of Southern Philippines. The university’s Cultural Affairs Committee has an exciting lineup of shows annually, featuring its brightest and most talented stars.
Upcoming programs include Kisaw: The Evolution of Philippine Music and Dance, a showcase of traditional music and dances in the Philippines that pays tribute to Silliman long dance tradition. To be held in February, the show will be helmed by homegrown talents, the Silliman University Dance Troupe and Orkestra Sin Arco (Orchestra Without Bows).
In March, students will unite with members of the faculty, staff and alumni for the Silliman Performs. A tribute to the best and most popular Broadway musicals, the annual musical revue will feature iconic songs and dances from Chicago, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Misérables, West Side Story and other great plays.
A beauty that inspires
For those asking why they should choose Dumaguete as their artistic nook, Casocot shares his own personal reason. “I’ve lived in Dumaguete forever, so sometimes I do get stir-crazy, and I sometimes question myself why I’ve chosen to stay,” he shared. “But when I find myself quite by accident walking the length of the Rizal Boulevard, the seaside promenade that is the heart of the city, and then I see the immaculately structured walkway, the grassy knolls, the skirmish of the pine trees and the palm trees, and the magnificent sight of the bluest Visayan Sea, I become breathless, and I remember why I chose to stay. The boulevard is beautiful, and the Silliman campus beside it is the best complement to its beauty.”
Immerse yourself in the richness of arts and culture in Dumaguete and book via Cebu Pacific at www.cebupacificair.com.