Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Paradox of Dumaguete

Bacong is a town just north of DumagueteI knew that Dumaguete City had a population of around 100,000, and I had heard it described as a "sleepy college town", owing to the large number of colleges and universities within the city limits. Such a description brought to mind images of a tranquil, seaside town, which made it all the more shocking to see street after street literally packed with hustling and bustling Filipinos and loud, pollution-producing pedi-cabs (one of which we were riding). As we approached the center of downtown Dumaguete it looked as if the number of Filipinos and vehicles per square foot was increasing exponentially. I was anxious about departing from the rather secure confines of the pedi-cab and entering into the sea of activity. However, we were on our way to make a few purchases at the Lee Super Plaza, which is a large multi-level department store and apparently a very important social center as well for DumagueteƱos (i.e residents of Dumaguete). As my Filipina companion and I made our way through the ever-present crowd toward the entrance of the store I was approached by a young child who quickly assumed a begging position. This was not something I was expecting, even though I had read about the prolific nature of such children in Manila. I was taken off guard and gently shook my head. As my friend and I made our way through the security checkpoint outside of Lee Super Plaza I asked her about the incident. Apparently, there is a city ordinance in Dumaguete against this particular activity. She then told me that some of these kids are actually "hired" by adults to be professional beggars. Regardless, it was hard to walk away from a child who was reaching out, especially if he really did need money for food.

Again, my assumptions about Dumaguete had been challenged. Perhaps I wanted to believe that this place would be unaffected by the rampant poverty and economic decay so prevalent in the rest of the country. After all, Dumaguete is a popular retirement destination for many Americans and Europeans and boasts one of the most technologically-advanced infrastructures in the region. However, while I did see examples of relative affluence, it was quite obvious that the typical DumagueteƱo must rail against the same social, political and economic cancers that envelop the rest of the country. Amazingly, but perhaps not so surprisingly, there were very few signs that these people were depressed or otherwise hopeless. I even experienced some incredible expressions of generosity and hospitality that the richest American is likely not capable of showing. And it was all done without the slightest hint of an ulterior motive. Sure, there are swindlers and con-artists in Dumaguete, but I sensed an overriding humility that is notably lacking in the American culture....drowned out ages ago by a tidal wave of self-righteousness. We have much to learn, or re-learn, as the case may be.

The people of this great little college town in the central Philippines do not possess much of value, but in so many ways they are more wealthy than us.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came from Dumaguete City and graduated from Silliman University. I am so humbled of what you have posted about the City. I am now living here in Canada and your blog made me so proud that I am part of the city you just described. It is named as the City of Gentle people. I am glad you were able to experience it yourself. Thank you very much.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Corey said...

My wife also graduated from Silliman. I still carry many great memories of my time in Dumaguete, though it was now 4 years ago. We plan to go back once time and finances permit :)

Sunday, June 07, 2009 6:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love your post....i went to high school in dumaguete city...and i love the place fact my plan is to retire in dumaguete......i`ve been working here in u.s.a. since 1984 but my heart still telling me to go back to my own country.....when time comes..

Monday, May 23, 2011 1:25:00 AM  
Anonymous louise said...

I was born and bred in Dumaguete. Silliman was my school for 14 years. But I'm Canadian now. It's true. It's sad to see these street-children but they have to learn to work. Their parents begged money and they now do the same. Dumaguete hasn't changed much and I look forward to seeing her beauty again this summer. You should have visited Dumaguete during school breaks; it becomes a ghost town. Barely any people.

Much love to you and your wife


Wednesday, June 01, 2011 12:03:00 AM  

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