Here you’ll find one of the best places for beachfront living on a budget. Dumaguete is among the cheapest places in the world to live, according to the Retire Overseas Index. The climate is hot and humid. (Dumaguete is protected against most of typhoons in the Philippines.) – Forbes.com
While we were looking for our perfect retirement destination we found out about Dumaguete being 5th on Forbes list of best places to retire in the world. For us our perfect retirement would ideally be in the Philippines (because of family) and would’ve have lots of good restaurants, a good province feel but with good infrastructure (roads, health care, and education), and have access to natural beauty right at our doorstep. Dumaguete and the Negros region seems to have all that and more.
As a Transportation Hub
Being 2 hours away from Siquijor, 2 hours from Apo Island, 30 minutes from gorgeous lakes, and 4 hours to Cebu and a quick flight to Manila it seemed like an ideal location. We hate the hustle and bustle of Manila with it’s traffic, overpopulation, terrible weather, and frantic pace. Before we even landed we got in a conversation with a girl about the same age as us who moved to Dumaguete with her boyfriend for many of the same reasons we listed above.
Once you get out of the airport terminal and hop into a tricycle your 5-10 minute ride into town will demonstrate the relaxed vibe of Dumaguete. We were told of the high expat community and quickly saw many European, Canadian and American retirees walking around. We were struck by how much further our money could get us especially compared to Manila.
120 peso tricycle ride from the airport into town (5-10 minutes) and we could see the potential of us actually being here. We looked at several hotels and the value that you get here was incredible. We ended up getting a clean room with air conditioning for 700 php and could have easily found cheaper but were happy to settle in for the day.
Whenever we rode a tricycle there never seemed to be any sense of urgency by the driver. There was always a relaxed demeanor and even when navigating through “traffic” at intersections there seemed to be a courtesy that we haven’t experienced in other parts of the Philippines.
As a Food Hub
We only had a day here before our ferry ride to Siquijor and a few hours after our trip from Siquijor. We decided to eat. Too be honest there’s not a ton to do in Dumaguete but there’s a lot to eat. Being a college town it was easy to find great eats at student prices. After checking in to our hotel we ended up going to Sylvannas for their famous Sans Rival and cake. An espresso was only 25-35 php and the most expensive cup of coffee was priced at a whooping 65 php. Of course already having dessert so now we needed to find lunch. We walked couple blocks away from the ocean front Rizal boulevard and found ourselves at Food Net. Seeing tons of people and lots of cheap food choices we decided to have a go. There were tons of options on the street we were on. This place was super busy and had a line cafeteria style we ended up eating about 4-5 dishes for less than 200 pesos including buko juice for the both of us.
After lunch we went to the fruit market behind the town’s main cathedral and bought some cheap mangosteen. In Manila the fruit was more than double the price per kilo than what we are finding at the market here.
As a birding hub
With some snacks we were ready to see something and found ourselves at the Siliman Zoo also know as CENTROP (Center for Tropical Studies). This visit was a special treat for us. We knew that they had some birds endemic to the Philippines. While we realize most of you aren’t bird nerds it’s hard for us to contain our excitement for the birds that we’re able to share to you. The Negros region has tons for those into wildlife, the CENTROP was a great introduction to what’s out there and a great glimpse to the biodiversity of the Philippines.
When I initially saw reviews about this place online I wasn’t sure about visiting it. A lot of people seem to be misinformed about what is happening here. Due to lack of funding and no support, infrastructure isn’t as good as it could be (we found out this was because of corruption). Of course this is a problem in the Philippines with a lot of places. We were happy that we asked for a guide as one of the caretakers Lou Jean took us around. The stories about what was happening to this nonprofit organization in the sanctuary are incredible and incredibly sad. Lots of money that should’ve been donated got into the pockets of corrupt people. While we were at the observation deck for the rear spotted dear which is only found in the Philippines, he explained the center’s situation.
We moved to the section where the birds were. We got really excited and got to see a Visayan Hornbill and we were definitely surprised by the beauty of the Negros bleeding heart pigeon. Currently there aren’t any of these bleeding heart pigeons out in the wild but Lou Jean was able to successfully breed these birds in captivity. Even though he only received an elementary school education he’s been working at the center for 16 years and has been very successful in his breeding program and in taking care of these animals. Scientists, researchers, and students go to him for advice on some of these birds. This is something he is very proud of.
The center is now being taken care of by Siliman University’s Biology department with Lou Jean as the primary day-to-day caretaker. They’re in desperate need of donations and help. They’re open to having volunteers help feed the animals and do other tasks. Kuya Lou Jean spends nearly 7 days a week here maintaining the grounds cleaning after the animals and feeding them each day. We wish we had more time here but we came in late and were only able to spend just over an hour with him and the animals. One of the other highlights was being able to hand feed one of the spotted dear. Other animals at the center include a python, crocodile, warty pigs, and fruit bats.
At the end of our tour we were surprised to find out how much biodiversity there is in the Philippines. It’s one of the world’s 18 mega-biodiverse countries and is a leader in number of endemic (found only in one place) plant species and wildlife. There are over 100 birds along that are endemicto the Philippines including a few that we saw at the center. Having been to East Africa, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and other parts of the world we we’re happy to hear about the unique biodiversity of our own back yard!
Being rainy season we sometimes think about the potential of a typhoon coming through and sweeping us up but fortunately due to it’s geographical location typhoons aren’t a huge issue in the area. Rain however still comes down as we had it during our trip the next few days while in Siquijor.
Even though there isn’t a ton to do in the city of Dumaguete, it’s a great gateway to the rest of the Negros Province. We may have found a good balance of life here and are seriously considering “retiring” earlier than later. It’s close enough to cover our basic needs yet it’s easy enough to be out of the city and feel the provincial lifestyle we crave. There are mountains in middle of the island, beaches as close to half an hour away, endemic birds, a hip scene being a college town, and a great place for foodies.
Fruit market 40-50 mangosteen,
In town 8 php per person per trip
Upper- 1200 and above. Went to a couple of hotels before just picking one and saw two boutique hotels and the rooms were around 1500 quite large with nice interiors and included breakfast