Philippines island hides best-kept secret

Photo by Dianne M. Collins: A busy day on a busy street in Dumaguete city. In addition to great dives, hikes and other adventures, this university town offers ample chance to sample local lifestyle.

Philippines island hides best-kept secret

This story was originally published in Stripes Guam, Apirl 19, 2009 edition.

by: Dianne M. Collins
Stripes Guam
published: August 07, 2012
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When I tell people what I do for a living, most respond with “you have the best job in the world!” Granted, there are more desirable jobs such as the chocolate taster for the exclusive chocolate company “Godiva” but being a Travel Consultant in Micronesia, is pretty amazing too.

Traveling the region experiencing remote places scuba diving, sampling new and different foods, taking land excursions and having one adventure after another leads me to some the most incredible destinations in the world.

My latest trip took me to the Atlantis Resort, on the outskirts of Dumaguete in the Philippines. This is a place where you are sure to experience extraordinary macro scuba diving. You’ll also catch a glimpse into local lifestyle, have the pleasure of meeting the friendliest people and ride in very unique forms of transportation.

Dumaguete is a university town just 45 minutes by plane from Manila and located on the island of Negros Oriental. Its boardwalk Rizal Boulevard has faux antique gas lamps and a grassy median strip making this large city seem very small town. It’s a unique place to spend time and relax. You will find everything from internet café’s, restaurants, bakeries, small shops, live music nightly and even its own disco nightclub.

The Malatapay market is held Wednesdays. You can see local farmers, fisherman and merchants gather to buy and sell. The small crowded street is lined with overflowing fresh vegetables stands, spices, coffee, grains, clothing, kitchen wares, purses, jewelry, rugs and assorted fresh fish. Chickens, pigs, goats and cattle are brought to be auctioned off in the center of the market.

The transportation in this area is unusual. A so-called tricycle, a scooter modified with a sidecar, third wheel, covered top, two front windows and brightly painted exterior gives new meaning to the word taxi.

If you are looking for an underwater treasure hunt, Dumaguete is the place to dive. Once underwater, you may be confused by seeing the barren sand flats, wondering where your guide is taking you. Then they begin showing you new creatures, digging in the sand, pointing to small twigs that end up being ornate ghost pipe fish, sea horses, a mimic octopus and more.

By the end of the dive, you have seen 10 or more new things, an hour has passed by and your zest of diving is instantly relit leaving you excited for the next dive. Look forward to dive briefings with details of marine life specific to the site and interactive big-screen marine life presentations up to four times per week in a restaurant.

The Atlantis Resort is known for its highly educated dive team. Divemasters Marco Inocencio, Lemuel Acuzar and Manuel Pontillas are first class at teaching divers a new way of looking at the underwater.

“The best part of my job is that I get to spend a lot of time underwater and get paid for it,” says Inocencio. “My background in marine biology gives me an advantage over other dive masters, but I think the real secret to being a good dive master is to actually enjoy being one.”

Dumaguete and The Atlantis Resort have many things to offer the scuba diver, snorkeler, hiker, families or the individual that needs to get-a-way and relax. Your vacation will be filled with memories of incredible diving, great food and watching sunsets at the beach side restaurant while the three resident dogs wrestle in the sand. What could get better than that?