JULY 16, 2008
(STAR) YOUTH SPEAK By Monique Buensalido - The summer months bring out the beach bum in all of us. The glare of the sun against the concrete road seems too harsh. Our feet chafe against our closed shoes. Our skin suddenly looks strangely pale, and way too covered up. Whether we get two luxurious months away from school or a long weekend break from work, we need our fix of sand between our toes, icy fruit shakes giving us brain freeze, coconut oil slathered on our backs, and waves of salt water lapping against us.

Aside from my friends’ and my hankering for the beach, summer also unearthed our sense of adventure. That’s why our wanderlust led us to Dumaguete. Sure, everyone else was headed for Boracay, but somehow, the staple beach experience (wading through the water, getting henna tattoos, holding on for dear life on the banana boat, and dancing) already seemed too familiar, a little too cosmopolitan. Our trip to Dumaguete reintroduced us to the beauty of nature, taught us how to move a little bit slower, and encouraged us to do things we had never done before:

1. Eat tempura on the side of the road

After a leisurely walking tour of the famous Siliman University, we stopped at the side of the road for some “tempura.” We may have our fish balls in Manila, but in Dumaguete, the tempura (which is really like an elongated squid or fish ball) stands spring up along side streets and corners. You can dip your sauce in one of five jars of different sauces labelled 1 to 5, each with an increasing level of spiciness. Being the sissy for spices that I am, I stuck to Level 1 and found it tangy enough and delicious.

2. Swim in a stream

Forest Camp was definitely a soothing sight for my tired, city-dweller eyes. After constant exposure to the countless billboards and high-rise buildings of the metro, I absolutely loved taking in the sight of Forest Camp’s lush green surroundings. Walking around this gorgeous property, we discovered beautiful landscaping, treehouses quietly tucked in the corners, a hanging bridge hinting at adventure, and a natural river of fresh water streaming down from nearby Mount Talinis. Located in the town of Valencia, Forest Camp is a 2.3-hectare outdoor oasis of nature, where people can stay and rest in their cottages or simply frolic in the outdoors — and frolic we did. To wade in a gushing stream of fresh water, to let myself get carried off by the current, and to enjoy nature’s back massage from a small (yet powerful) waterfall was definitely a different and wonderful experience. No bright blue pool of chlorinated water will ever feel as refreshing.

3. Try Buko Halo

After all the frolicking, we had to try Forest Camp’s specialities for lunch, and our dessert was definitely the biggest hit. A twist to the classic halo-halo, the Buko Halo is a big yummy coconut with your favorite halo-halo components inside, topped with an icy scoop of strawberry ice cream. It’s absolutely delicious, and perfect for a hot day in the sun.

4. Chase dol-phins

The most famous residents of Bais (a city about an hour’s drive from Dumaguete) are its dolphins. No matter how many times you’ve seen dolphins on TV or on charm bracelets, nothing beats the thrill of seeing their fins slice swiftly through the water or watching them swim gracefully beside the boat you’re on. My friends and I traveled to Bais and boarded a boat along with some local guides, determined to catch a glimpse of these lovely creatures. When they finally appeared, gracefully racing beside our boat and even jumping out of the water, we lost all composure. We whipped out cameras, shrieked excitedly, and waved frantically to the dolphins. We fell victim to their adorable wiles. What made them even more mesmerizing was that they were in their natural habitat, not in a manmade pool or behind glass.

5. Play on the sand bar

After watching the dolphins swim, it was our turn to play in the sea. We headed for the sand bar, a long stretch of sand in the middle of the ocean. But when we arrived, there was no sand yet, only cottages standing in the sea. No matter — we unloaded our things and our lunch at the cottage we had rented, strapped on our life vests and floated around the ocean gleefully. Two hours later, the water had gone down and our feet were already grazing the sand. After a couple more hours, the sand bar had finally emerged. We had witnessed the gradual transformation from deep blue sea to the sandy sanctuary right in the middle. We rewarded ourselves by relaxing on the sand, and of course, taking crazy pictures.

6. Wait a little bit longer

When we arrived in Dumaguete, we immediately felt the shift from fast-paced Manila — time seemed to tick a little bit slower. Locals smiled languidly and walked unhurriedly, but we never felt it more than in the restaurants. Waiters nodded mindlessly and moved at a leisurely pace as we impatiently asked them where our orders were. We learned to adjust, though; once we shook off our Manila time, we started to absorb everything better — the gorgeous interiors of their quaint coffee shop Café Antonio (I love their several coffee-inspired paintings), the exceptionally delicious sauce served with the chicken of City Burger, and the delicate details in the store and the goods of Sans Rival. All these establishments have something unique to offer, and they are all definitely worth the wait.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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