By Iphraim Cabristante
Seven hundred meters.
That’s approximately how long Rizal Boulevard is in Dumaguete City. Although it is not as long as Roxas Boulevard in Manila, every centimeter of this strip of road and beach won’t disappoint. Whether you may be a local, or a student, or a tourist, this attraction surely has almost everything you want to spend a fruitful weekend or a hopeful sunrise morning.
But aside from the rich culture, entertainment, and leisure that it offers, Rizal Boulevard’s history is also just as colorful. Named after Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal, this 700-meter strip is said to be once a favorite hangout place of the national hero himself. During his stopover in Dumaguete City on his way to exile in Dapitan, he made a brief visit here and often strolled around the area. It is but interesting to note how Rizal himself was able to find bliss and satisfaction in just a brief stroll in Dumaguete’s lush beach before spending four years of punishment for a crime that the Spaniards then framed him of doing.
The beautiful lineup of Spanish-style lamp posts throughout the strip welcomes you once you arrive in Dumaguete by boat, especially if you arrive here by night. From the airport, it only takes a short 15-minute ride to get here. Not too far away, the century-old Silliman Hall and the east quadrangle of Silliman University also give you a sense of prestige despite the city’s provincial feel. To add to the amazing pattern of lights, the plethora of acacia trees scattered throughout the boulevard gives you the cool breeze whenever you stroll and watch the rolling waves. All throughout the day, Rizal Boulevard is filled with people, both tourists and locals. In the morning, it is a favorite jogging, cycling, and exercising spot, and in the evening, especially on weekends, it is filled with music, chatter, and pure entertainment, while the aromas of different foods served in the long line of restaurants will surely make you go hungry.
Tourists will also find a haven in Rizal Boulevard, since numerous hotels and restaurants run along its strip. And whether you’re a foreign or local visitor, your taste buds will absolutely come to life because of the varied cuisines restaurants serve here. Italian, Austrian, Chinese, American, Spanish, Japanese, Mexican, Korean, French, and Filipino dishes are served here, making Rizal Boulevard a melting pot of cultures and giving tourists a wide array of foods to choose from and enjoy.
But one thing that makes Rizal Boulevard unique from all others is the awesome street food that everyone craves for whenever coming to Dumaguete City. In the area just right across the Silliman Hall is a group of street food carts together serving purely Filipino finger foods such as tempura, fish balls, kikiam, and the exotic balut, where you can choose between a 16-day and an 18-day (where a chick can already be seen) egg. Adding to the nice ambiance and fun chitchat with friends as you nibble the delicious street food are singers who, along with their homemade guitars and God-given talent, sing their hearts out to your favorite love songs. And if you’re an avid music lover, restaurants nearby also have bands that play dance, mellow, and funk music from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Walking down memory lane can indeed become literal as you stroll along the boulevard, especially during weekend nights.
When you grow tired from all the strolling and the chitchat, or if you want to relieve yourself of the stress and pressure that come along with work and study, there are community masseuses ready to soothe you at a very affordable price, making it much more affordable than going to a massage parlor. Since its recent start, the massage services at the boulevard have also become an attraction among tourists and locals alike who want to shun the stress away.
Most people love to convene here during late afternoons to early evenings at one of the sidewalk cafes, bars, or restaurants. It is also the perfect place to experience sunrise and sunset either while sipping a refreshing drink or just sitting and staring out into the horizon or gazing at the majestic beauty of neighboring island provinces Cebu and Siquijor. No wonder that the boulevard is also a favorite place for professional and amateur photographers who want to capture the comfort that the strip of road and beach offers to Dumagueteños and foreigners alike.
A perfect time to visit is in October, when Negros Oriental celebrates the Buglasan Festival. Seas of people gather together in the boulevard to watch the beautiful fireworks displays set during the final days of the celebration.
If only the nooks, crannies, and lamp posts of the Rizal Boulevard could talk, they surely would have thousands of stories to tell. These thousands of stories have made this 700-meter boulevard one of Dumaguete City’s best loved places. And again, a visit to Rizal Boulevard will never disappoint you.