Before Christmas, I got to spend time with family in my father’s old hometown, Dumaguete in Negros Oriental, in the southern central part of the Philippines. It was a welcome departure from Manila life, which can often be quite hectic and overwhelming. The city of Dumaguete boasts a relatively small population by comparison and is famed for its beaches, world-class diving spots, old Spanish churches, and good American food. I had a fantastic time touring around seeing my father’s old home (the ancestral home) and my father’s alma mater, Siliman University. Siliman is an interesting piece of Philippine history. The
Thomasites, American volunteer teachers and the predecssors to the Peace Corps volunteers, founded the university in 1901. As such, Siliman boasts many traits similar to American universities. It has been a destination for many American educators and missionaries. Some have lived their lives as administrators, teachers and retirees here. Likewise, it is distinguished by a high number of Fulbright grants from the Philippines to the United States.
The whole of the Visayas has changed dramatically since the time my father lived in Dumaguete. With the influx of money from call centers, tourism, and OFWs (Overseas Foreign Workers) there are many new faces. People from all over come to what was once a very small town. In local tourist destinations, I saw visitors from the U.S., Canada, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, Japan, China, Iran, Saudia Arabia, the U.K., France, and Germany. It has become a hotspot for tourists and venture capitalists.
As a result, Dumaguete is far more cosmopolitan in recent years. Large country clubs, golfing spots, dolphin watching, and diving spots beach resorts bring a lot of fun activities and opportunites for eco-tourism. When thinking about the differences between the Dumaguete that my father remembers and the Dumaguete I experienced, I can’t help but think about one of my favorite Brad Paisley songs: “Welcome to the Future.” The song itself is a reflection of the changes between generations and people over time, the progression from one state to another. What was once a small town is now a hopping tourist spot with big malls, fancy hotels, and fun restaurants. Dumaguetanos have money in their pockets and places to spend it. As a result, the Duamguete I know and love has a different face from the Duamguete my father knows. And yet, amidst all this, the heart of Dumaguete, the world famous hospitality of its people and the dedication to life by the sea has remained constant.
Paul Fontelo '13