When I took leave of Dumaguete I bade it goodbye with food. For all its dreadful pedicabs and horrible teachers, Dumaguete is a delicious place to be (did you possibly think I would not realize that fact?), and there was no better way to experience it for the last time in what may be a very long while than to eat the best it can offer. In spite of my figure, I happen to eat a lot, and when I was making a list of stuff I had to eat before leaving NegOr, the list unsurprisingly turned out to be long.
But each item in this Farewell Menu is worth the time, and I would recommend each one to anybody who would find themselves at this lazy foot of Mt Talinis.
On my last two weeks in Dumaguete, then, I made sure to eat for the last time, in no particular order:
1. Budbod kabog (suman made from millet), tsokolate, and puto (puti and tapol or red rice) at the Dumaguete Public Market’s Painitan
2. Humba, ginger pork, and the famous cheese bread with a glass of fresh milk at Silliman Cafeteria
3. Pritchon (lechon chunks wrapped in pitas with cucumber and leek, served with soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and sarsa), Silvanas, Red Velvet cake, and the eponymous cake at Sans Rival Bistro
4. Baye-baye (the Ilonggo version of espasol, a delicacy of Bayawan), nine pesos each, from the Dumaguete Public Market
5. Hungarian sausage and the Nutella cheesecake at Cafe Mamia
6. Anything at Rollin’ Pin (particularly the croissant and the honey tonka ice cream)
7. The sisig at Foodnet
8, Humba with coleslaw at Scooby’s (they only serve the coleslaw in the downtown branch)
9. Pospas (the Dumaguete version of Arroz caldo, containing fish), twelve pesos a steaming cup, from Silliman’ College of Nursing food vendors
10. Nilat-ang twalya (simple ox tripe soup) from the Dauin Public Market
11. Lechon de pugon (pork baked in an oven) at Neva’s Pizza
12. Callos at Sta Theresa
13. Sizzling bulalo and Choco dome cake at Royal Suite Inn
On the day before I left Dumaguete, I even got to eat two delicious local specialties when the lovely Pal family – the madam, ma’am Irma, is my editor on the MetroPost – invited me over for breakfast : spanish Chorizo bungkag (a kind of sausage served opened) and half dried danggit bulad from Bais. It was the best despedida I ever had.
(Published in two parts, with some necessary toning down, on the Dumaguete MetroPost starting on 14th December 2014. I reproduce it here uncensored, bring in the complaints! )
Things I will not miss in Dumaguete
Next week I will be leaving Dumaguete, probably for good, and it’s starting to sink in. I’ve just finished my MA thesis (explaining the irregularity of my contribution to this column), and I’m set to go back to Davao.
I’ve been in Dumaguete for over two years: enough time, really, to live a life. And the leave taking has gotten me into thinking about that life here. I have really come full circle with this place, exactly as Tim Montes described in that delightfully insightful essay of his, How to Write About Dumaguete. I began by adoring it as a workshop fellow, got involved with the thrilling escapades of someone in the fortunate crowd when I moved here as a graduate student in Silliman, came to see the place’s annoying realities, learned to abhor even the tiniest detail of it, learned to forgive it its shortcomings, and finally learned to love it again so much that I’m becoming emotional at the thought of never being able to go back.
Dumaguete never was the Neverland for my Peter Pan. On the contrary this was the place where I grew old, and fundamental to that maturity is learning to forgive the world for all its flaws – to let go of what the Buddhists call ‘craving’ and accept things for what they are.
And yet no amount of bodhi seems to liberate me from getting frustrated with some things about this place. These are annoying little things that could easily be made better but that people just leave be, not out of some esoteric urge to remind themselves of the world’s imperfection, but because they’re too lazy to make changes.
When I leave Dumaguete, then, here are the things I will be glad to leave behind:
1. The pedicab drivers. Their default attitude to life seems to be one of irritation, as if your telling them your destination is not where they want to go was an insult to their dignities. The sheer smallness of their worldviews (Lee Plaza to Amigo subdivision is too far for them!) would just be sad if public transportation didn’t rely on them. Pedicabs should be zoned.
2. The cliquishness and elitism of people. This small pond is infested with fish pretending to be big, and how territorial they can be! So called artists, student leaders, whatever title they appropriate for themselves: they unjustifiably hold ascendancy over a field, monopolize opportunities there by limiting it to their close circle of friends, and stifle the emergence of new talent. I once knew this student who was EIC of the student paper, president of at least two clubs, officer in an enumerable others, and was working on getting five awards on his graduation, and yet I cannot for the life of me find a reason why he is given so many responsibilities, he was mediocre at best. Then there’s this student who’s been in college for almost ten years just because he doesn’t want to stop being an active student – oh, I could go on forever.
3. The bad service everywhere. I don’t know what the HRM schools here are doing, employees in the services sector in Dumaguete seem to be poorly trained. Waitresses in Neva’s and 2Story just throwing the utensils on your table. The annoying photocopier along Silliman avenue who treats every costumer as a disturbance. The forever it takes to be served at C&L. That terribly unapproachable old waitress at Chantilly. Even the employees at fastfood chains like Jollibee and McDo seem to be below the standard.
4. The incongruously horrible bathrooms: that cupboard part timing as a toilet at Chowking, that hole they dug at Neva’s first floor, and that horrendous slaughterhouse-style bathroom at Connie’s that would be an ideal place to murder someone. Heck, Poppy didn’t even bother making its own bathroom. These are places in the middle of the city, but they may well be in Outhouse land.
5. The nightmare that is dorming in Silliman. My first ever stay in Dumaguete was in Carson Hall (I was billeted there when I was fellow to Silliman’s workshop). I was horrified to see that the toilet cubicles in the common bathrooms had doors made of cheap steel and were too low for privacy, and the toilets were non-flush. When I first moved here I dormed at Kross Kat, where again the cubicles provided no privacy, the toilets had no toilet seats, and somebody would wash dishes in the shower area so you risked stepping on grains of rice and chicken bones while you bathed and the cleaners don’t clean regularly enough to make that a frequent problem. If you don’t make it before the (pointless) curfew you have to sleep in the street (I ended up doing so twice), and if you don’t have plans during breaks you either find a hotel or again sleep in the street. Worse, they stuff their unremarkable brand of Christianity down your throat. And you pay for all that mind you.
6. The restaurants that charge for water. Nope, forget ‘service’ water, they just want money, even if they have to charge one peso per glass. Hoy Lugaw, that carinderia along Piapi, and many others. Why don’t they just include the expenses for water in their menu pricing.
7. This whole ‘literary capital’ pitch. There are hardly any more writers in Dumaguete, and there certainly is very little chance you can be a writer just here, the publication venues are almost inexistent (thank God for MetroPost!). Needless to say there are hardly any readers – sure, a few Nabokov or Wallace fans here and there, but it’s nowhere near Reykjavik, and you’re never going to be read unless you’re a foreign bestseller. When I was billeted in Carson hall the dorm manager small-talked me and revealed she had no idea what the Silliman Writers Workshop was. Forget sir Sawi Aquino’s ‘Dumas Goethe’ (hardly any Monte Cristo or Werther readers here), a writer friend in Cebu inadvertently gave the better literary nickname for this place: Duma-ghetto.
8. The open sewerage at Amigo subdivision. If in the British countryside you find water voles frolicking in pristine mountain streams, in Amigo mangy rats subsist on the gray, malodorous stuff that flows by the roadside. If you’re unlucky you get to see them as road-kill. Rat paste anyone?
9. The fact that driving a motorcycle while drunk is normal. Yes it’s cute and funny – look at that wobbly motorcycle! – until your mother or your babycakes gets run over by an idiot on a Norkis inebriated by Kulafu along Escaño.
10. The laziness they call ‘being laid back’. No it’s not cute, particularly when it’s getting in the way of being professional. Procrastination isn’t an art here, it’s a tradition. I’ve had students submit requirements weeks after the deadline (and they were shocked to fail, bless them). And it’s made worse by that culture of mediocrity that produces bad service – not only are people slow here, they often end up producing substandard output. This invariably causes that culture of elitist cliquishness: the few people who work normally think they’re geniuses.
In Buddhism one reflects on repulsive things to let go of craving for desirable ones: think of a disembowelled corpse, for instance, to stop your lust. Thinking of all those bad things makes it somehow easier to say goodbye to Dumaguete. But my attachments next week!
(My Masters thesis for Creative Writing, entitled ‘Davao Filipino and its Literary Possibilities,’ passed with minor revisions. The following are the acknowledgements in the thesis)
The author would first of all like to acknowledge the indispensable contribution of his mother, who has always given and continues to give support, moral and financial, to all his endeavors, including this thesis. Nothing would be possible for this author without her.
The author would also like to express the deepest gratitude to his thesis adviser, Prof. Philip Van Peel, for giving not only crucial but also very creative advice, without which this author would not have survived the making of this thesis, or at the very least he would not have enjoyed it as much as he has.
He would like to thank and commend Joseph Anthony Harold Dubouzet, who made the illustration attached with the stories. Harry has become this author’s official illustrator. Kagaling mo talaga, Harry. He would also like to thank his two main ‘consultants’ on the authenticity of the languages he used in some of the stories: Karlo Carin, who gave input on the otaku language of ‘Cause Play,’and Christian Cabagnot, who gave input in the Gayspeak of ‘Gigi,’ as well as on the authenticity of the language in other stories. Kagaling niyo din talaga, mga bay.
He would like to thank the writers who have played crucial roles in the development of the advocacy of this thesis: Don Pagusara, who first showed this author the possibilities of Filipino language contact; John Iremil Teodoro, who in Iyas 2011 pointed out the uniqueness of my own mother tongue; Ricardo de Ungria, who first encouraged this author to write and publish in Davao Filipino; and Leoncio Deriada, for providing the theoretical backbone behind the advocacy.
He would also like to thank the three writers in Dumaguete who have influenced the writing of some of the pieces in this collection, and of other literary pieces, the three writers who have served as this author’s literary community in Dumaguete: Michael Aaron Gomez, Chuckie Manio, and Arkay Timonera.
He would like to recognize the contribution of Dr Andrea Soluta, who encouraged him to pursue this thesis. She also deserves recognition, along with other members of this thesis’ panel (Dr. Reynaldo Rivera, Dr Leoncio Deriada, and Prof. Warlito Caturay), for the very productive feedback they gave to the writing of this thesis. The thesis writer was fortunate to have had a panel with experts in such a diverse array of fields. Additionally he would like to thank ma’am Dulce Deriada, who made Dr Deriada’s availability for consultation easier.
He would also like to thank Silliman University’s Department of English and Literature for allowing him to become a Graduate Teaching Fellow and thereby helping him financially with his graduate studies.
He would like to thank The Rollin’ Pin for providing good food during the defenses of this thesis, and for providing discounts.
And most importantly, the author would like to thank you, reader, for taking time to read this thesis. This author wrote the works in this collection first and foremost to entertain you. He is hoping that you will enjoy them thoroughly.
Two of the pieces in this collection, ‘Pagbalik’ and ‘Pag-Asa ng Drug Pusher sa Davao,’ were published in 2010 and 2013 respectively, the former in Ateneo de Davao’s student literary folio Banaag Diwa, the latter in Dagmay, literary journal of the Davao Writers Guild.