Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dumaguete: The City of Gentle People

MAY 1994
Right after our grueling three- month training as SmithKline Beecham medical representatives, we were immediately dispatched to our respective territory assignments. I had no expectations except to work hard, hit my monthly target and pass the probationary status

My first assignment took me to Dumaguete City, the capital of Negros Oriental in Central Visayas. My coverage area included not only the city but also the entire province of Negros Oriental. Every other week, I also visited San Carlos City which is technically a part of Negros Occidental

Dumaguete has three major tertiary hospitals, namely the Holy Child Hospital, Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital, and the Silliman Medical Center which is currently associated with St. Luke's Medical Center in Metro Manila and considered one of the best hospitals outside Metro Manila and Metro Cebu. 

Dumaguete is also among the very few cities in the country that have world class laser eye centers.

After adjusting to a new environment, complying with my job requirements and getting settled in Dumaguete City, I started getting myself acquainted with the place that was going to be my home for quite some time. 

infront of my Dumaguete digs 
my very first car
Dumaguete is known as the City of Gentle People because of its friendly, warm and mild- mannered residents. It is also known as the City of Genteel People because of its highly educated, religious and refined people whose civility bespeak of a proper upbringing

Dumaguete City back in 1994, as I remember it, was a relatively peaceful place with its distinct idyllic charm and laidback lifestyle. 

Rows upon rows of magnificent acacia trees lined up the main thoroughfares and served as canopies and umbrage from the elements.

Lazy Saturday mornings often stretched to afternoon while cooped up in bed. It was life in a perpetual slow motion


Dumaguete's rich cultural heritage and historic past that can be gleaned from its impressive turn- of- the century buildings, well- preserved antiquities and sprawling haciendas and quaint al fresco cafes contrast nicely with its youthful vibe courtesy of its students who come from all parts of the country. 

Its laidback and moderate way of life has made it the perfect place to study and to pursue intellectual inclinations


Who can ever miss out Silliman University, the oldest American- established university in Asia and a distinct landmark in the city? 

My first time to enter Silliman University was to watch the Fiddler on the Roof that was staged inside the Luce Auditorium. 


People can actually learn a thing or two from theatergoers in Dumaguete City when it comes to viewing etiquette. One has to be properly attired. When the show has started, no one can enter or exit except during intermission. 

Mobile pagers have to be turned off or put in silent mode. (yes dear, mobile phones were quite humongous during the mid- 90's hence no one ever thought of bringing one along)  Clapping was simply not being done. 

It comes during the curtain call and talking during the show is simply not being done. Talk of refinement, culture and breeding 


The city offered a lot when it comes to gustatory delights. 

From its Spanish heritage, one can easily partake of authentic Spanish food. Paella, escabeche, tapas and Spanish chorizo. 

I also remember the sinfully delicious sans rival and silvanas. 

There are times also when I would drop by the city market to partake of budbod kabog, a special kind of suman that is best paired with a steaming mug of native chocolate. 

Don Atilano’s was the place to be for the best steak in town. 

Chicken enchiladas and cheese cake too. La Cavitena’s was also one of its best known reataurants. 

Among medreps, the best- kept secret is an unpretensious bamboo and wooden structure along the highway of Tayasan, Negros Oriental that served fried chicken. But it wasn’t just any kind of chicken. 

It was native fried chicken to be dipped in native vinegar with sili and served with newly steamed rice and downed with ice- cold Coke. 

No wonder, I gained a lot of weight in my brief stay in Dumaguete City


I easily made a lot of friends with Dumaguete City- based medical representatives. We had our own group called ADDS or Association of Dumaguete Detailmen & Salesmen that aimed to foster camaraderie and cordial relations among the members. We organized our own Christmas parties and other special occasions.  

Typical scene in Holy Child Hospital


I easily bonded with the sales force and detailmen in Dumaguete but I was closest with my SB counterparts. 

The first one was Myra Cartago who aside from a keen business acumen knew how to whip up the best pastries and the best gourmet dishes. She can be quite mataray but deep inside is a super bait person

She always got the biggest sales orders and purchases from the hospitals and pharmacies.  

Myra with the Silliman University Medical Center Pharmacy Staff
No wonder, she always made the Top Ten every year during our National Sales Conferences

Me and Myra Cartago 
When Myra relocated to Cebu, Eileen Cagalawan, a vivacious and bubbly girl who always had this sunny disposition, took over. 

Fun, Fearless, Fabulous & Fashionista Female Friend
Eileen Thornton
Seemingly, on the outside, she had this carefree, devil- may- care attitude but once you get to know her, you realize that here is someone who shared my attitude towards life and work. Sensible and practical. We just hit it off. 

We shared the same passion and taste for music, the good things in life and having a positive and upbeat disposition. 

We even shared the same birthday month and year!

Sharing the same birthday 

My circle of friends in the industry included Neil Alviola whom we affectionately call as the Prince of Calo, San Jose. We often go to his place for the cool sea breeze, the kinilaw and sinugbang baboy. 

There is only  one thing that Neil hates; Do NOT ever think of taking a stolen shot of Neil. He just hates candid photos and so this is the reason why I'm using his FB profile pic. 

Neil, don't worry, YOU are gorgeous! 

And there was Joevir Laroga, the most gwapo and most fashionable among the medical reps, was often compared to the movie actor Patrick Guzman. He was the trendsetter without even trying to. He was the guy to go to if you want to ask which tie looks best when paired with a particular pair of long sleeves  

Martin Atayde, the Spanish mestizo from Bacolod City was the cool dude who was always the voice of reason

The prim & proper & very reserved Esmee Eullaran was a member of the gang as well. 

Esmee was the demure baby of the group
Who can forget the very trendy Mitch from Manila? 

She had this unconventional type of beauty that proved to be very attractive to the opposite sex. 

I bumped into her a couple of years back in the lovely island paradise of Panglao, Bohol where she has a villa by the beach

Mesmerizing Mitch Just Knew How 
Although the gorgeous trendsetter Kris Navales, a stunning and super sexy Ilongga was not a medrep, she was romantically linked to Joevir so that made her a member of the gang

 Fashionable Kris & Vivacious Eileen
I also remember Myla”Jinkee” Policios who was one of the very first to really make me feel welcome when I was new in the city.

Then there were Mark Solomon and Fernando “Ding” Torres, Weng Lagera, Edwin Eullaran, Kenneth, Teddy, Randy Duro, Barnard Belleza, Mae-an Falcis the sweetest Ilongga I've ever met, and a lot more

Myra Cartago & Rowena "Weng" Lagera always called each other as "Mama". Weng indeed was the sweet and charming Manilena who had a ready smile for every one and who knew how to put people at ease

with Mico & Carlisle & medrep friends in Boracay

On a sad note, I was shocked upon learning of the sudden demise of a dear dear friend Dr. Ambrosio Miguel "Ami" Madamba. His untimely death on February 15, 2009 was met with disbelief by both friends and acquaintances. 

He was a well- respected and well- loved pediatrician not only of Dumaguete City but also in the entire province of Negros Oriental. 

He was very close to us and never declined invitations to special occasions. He even surprised me and Eileen with a birthday cake when we turned a year older back in February 1996. He was one of us and never required special attention. 

Very self- effacing and very private. He is sorely missed by everyone

Sleep tight Dr. Ami

That's Dr. Madamba (with eyeglasses) during my joint birthday bash with Eileen
The good old days with Dr. Madamba 
the boyish- looking Dr. Bong Rosario was another close friend

Dumaguete City has an exciting nighlife. 

After work and when dusk settles in, the place to go to was Lighthaus CafĂ© overlooking the Boulevard. 
Hanging out at Lighhaus Cafe with Patrick Lee

The guy in stripes is Andre Velasco, another medrep who was part of of the group  
The best music, great ambience, lots of cool people around and of course, the very friendly club owner Patrick Lee made it one of our favorite hangouts. 

Then there was Honeycomb whose star attractions were the Yajnat Band and the sultry lounge singer named Annalyn


I miss everything but if I were to be asked for that something that I am excited to see again, it would have to be the Boulevard

It's actually named Rizal Boulevard in honor of Dr. Jose P. Rizal but everyone calls it Boulevard

When in Dumaguete City, one cannot simply miss this 780-meter strip of wide beachfront promenade. 

It runs almost entirely along the city’s commercial district and provides quite a refreshing and calming view when dining or having a drink at one of the many restaurants or bars lining the street. 

Rizal Boulevard is a a 780- meter stretch of beachfront promenade that offers a magnificent view of the ocean especially for those who are dining or unwinding at one of the restaurants and bars that line the whole area.

It is perfect for an early morning stroll or for a jog. I cannot even describe how the whole panoramic view dramatically changes when the sun is about to set. 

During evenings, it’s the perfect place for a romantic walk amidst the tall and imposing acacia trees that have strings of lights festooned on its massive and crooked branches. 

outside the Lighthouse Bar by the Boulevard


I also miss those beautiful socio- cultural activities and celebrations in Dumaguete City. For instance, the Santacruzan in Dumaguete, always a star-studded affair that is highly- anticipated during summer. 

It became even more special for me because I was invited to be part of the event . The Santacruzan in May is celebrated in such a unique way that it is not merely a parade of beautiful sagalas and dashing escorts, but a re-enactment of religious and historical events. 

I made a lot of friends there. I thought it would be forever but my Dumaguete assignment would prove to be a brief two- year interlude only.


On December 1996, my boss told me that I was to be assigned in Cebu City. It came without a warning. I thought I could handle it well. I knew it was one of our occupational hazards. That of being uprooted from a present assignment or to be reshuffled and to be banished to God knows where

It was with a heavy heart that I packed up everything, said goodbye and before I drove off, I took one last look at the place that I had learned to love and just like that, I zoomed away and Dumaguete with all its memories slowly became a blur and then, I was gone 

So what else do I miss about Dumaguete City? Everything and anything that is about Dumaguete

It has been 16 years since I left Dumaguete City. 

The years may have dimmed a bit of the memories but the feelings and my yearning for the place and its wonderful people would always be there

Dumaguete City and its people would always be remembered with fondness 

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