DUMAGUETE CITY – It has been a long time since I lived in Dumaguete, first as a high school student and later, as a col lege student and graduate of Silliman University. I had come from war-torn Jolo, Sulu, escaping a civil war that had turned my former home into a virtual ghost town. There were earlier skirmishes between the military and the rebels. Parts of the town were razed to the ground. Martial Law’s declaration in 1972 was met with deep resentment and more violence. When there was word that the MNLF, led by former UP Professor Nur Misuari, would invade the town, my parents shipped me and my sister off to Dumaguete for safety while they remained there, working with the government.
Dumaguete offered us a new life, new friends and a new language! We had to shift from Tausug to Cebuano in a flash as classes were about to start in Silliman. But we were kids and we adapted as well as we could.
It was in Dumaguete that I found a new freedom and sense of security. Those were happy and carefree days. We would catch falling leaves from centuries-old Acacia Trees, pull sugarcane or “tubo” off large trucks as they cruised through the Rizal Boulevard, swim in the sea and ate Mansanitas from a nearby tree for a sugar fix. Life was simple but we were happy. One summer, my cousins and I sold old, used bottles to earn some money. And this was before we even understood the term “recyclable.” We just thought we could earn some money on the side. And we did, dividing our “profit” among ourselves.
I have made interesting journeys along the way, both happy and frustrating ones. We lived in Manila, moved to Los Angeles, California in the United States, migrated to Toronto, Ontario in Canada and returned to Manila. Through it all, there is always something special that draws me back to Dumaguete. Perhaps it’s the combination of the Silliman Spirit and the happy memories. Perhaps it’s the sight of old Acacia Trees, pristine beaches and old Spanishstyle (Mediterranean) houses. But Dumaguete will always be special to me.
Recently, I visited Dumaguete. The city still shows some semblance of the quiet, charming city I knew as a child but with a stark difference. A lot of new businesses have sprung up, traffic has become a bane especially along busy commercial streets and the noise! Singers in show bands sing loudly well into the evening. I’m sure the people there are not deaf or hard of hearing and the volume could be turned a few decibels lower. But I guess people just love to hear loud, blaring music. The Rizal Boulevard I once knew with the occasional horse-drawn “karitela” gently galloping across the street now resembles any other city’s scene with clubs and resto bars. Old residences have now become commercial places. Progress has come and with it, the issues of pollution (air, noise and land pollution, to mention a few). What I would wish as a home-grown Dumaguetena is if we could replace the “pedicabs” with more efficient public transportation like mini vans such as FX taxi cabs that could take more people who live closer to each other. This will lessen traffic and would also be more efficient in the long run. Mini vans are also more visually appealing to tourists and locals alike. Dumaguete is an emerging, progressive city and can benefit from the fundamentals of having a more efficient public transportation for its residents.
For the environmentally conscious, there will always be bikes or walking to reduce our carbon footprint. But for those who live far from the city’s center and don’t drive, then mini vans or FX cabs would be much more efficient and would substantially reduce traffic. It would also elevate Dumaguete to a higher rank of cities in the Philippines. There might still be some resistance especially from those used to ride in “pedicabs” but if we consider the good of the entire city, we would be better off with a more efficient public transportation system.
This is my wish list for now. It’s a short list but hopefully, a doable one. Everyone would be proud to have a mix of the old and the new – charming old houses and the modern conveniences of the new – in a gem of a city like Dumaguete. AGNES SHARI TANALIMAN
(By Agnes Shari Tan-Aliman – author is former national information officer of the United Nations Systems Phils; former chief of publications of National Power Corporation Dilliman, worked in US and Canada in advertising, journalism and banking. Former editor of Weekly Sillimanian and Arinday Journalism awardee.)