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Mabuhaykers Log: Magical Negros Oriental

On the 2nd week of December, we flew in to Dumaguete for 2 shows. On the 8th, we had a concert at the Luce Auditorium at Silliman University, followed by a Christmas tree lighting event at the plaza the next day. As with most of my work trips, so long as time permits, it doubled as a QuicKation, or so I’ve come to call them.

Day 1

Silliman University Necklace

As soon as we arrived at the airport, a nice girl I’ve come to know as Mica welcomed us with necklaces

Filipino Breakfast of longanisa, egg, and fried rice

Casa Rubin’s Paprika Chorizo breakfast

We were on a red eye flight, so breakfast was the 1st order of business when we arrived. While Casa Rubin prepared our rooms for early check-in, we ordered food at their restaurant Cocina Teria. They had 2 variants of their homemade chorizo, and I opted for the paprika. It was very tasty, and its flavorful oil made the rice hard to resist. I slept through lunch, so I forgave myself the indulgence (besides, who counts calories on a vacation? Right??) No one had coffee, because everyone wanted to sleep a little before starting to work.

The afternoon and night proceeded as most show days do, from sound check after lunch, stage adjustment, hair and makeup, snacks, to the show, and post-concert reception with the producers. Past midnight, we were all more than ready to call it a night. Celine and I had made arrangements for an early morning hike to Casaroro Falls the following morning.

Day 2

Casaroro Falls

For reasons I can’t explain, most people we talked to about Casaroro Falls discouraged us from going. From saying it was extremely dangerous since the earthquake, to “hindi kayo aabot sa waterfalls (verbatim from the teenage girl at registration), it was a bizarre mystery. We ignored them and made plans with our ever-reliable Ate Mae, so we took off on a van at 7:30 am. It was roughly 30 minutes from our hotel to the jump-off in Valencia, and then – the funny part? It took us only 11 minutes from jump off to the waterfall. I timed it. Lesson? Don’t ever let anyone convince you that you can’t do something.

Stairway into the rainforest

350+ steps down to Casaroro Falls

Casaroro Falls Stairs

Last few steps

Boulders and Water Cascades

Lush rainforest of Casaroro, Valencia

Green waters of Casaroro Waterfalls

You have to navigate through slippery boulders, but it’s nothing you can’t manage with caution and good footwear

Casaroro Falls from afar

1st glimpse of Casaroro Falls – love that white strip all the way to its reflection

M to the heart: Mabuhaykers

Conquered by Mabuhaykers!

Swimming in the basin of Casaroro Falls

The water was the perfect temp for swimming

It was an easy walk through initially paved trails, across cascades, over and around boulders. Precaution must be taken as with any hike, especially with slippery rocks. It’s far from dangerous, as we’d been warned, not when you take your time and weigh every step. Having overshot the level of difficulty, and it took us a lot less time to hike than we had allotted for, we were able to swim and chill for longer. We had the place to ourselves, so it was a nice, private retreat.

Admiring Casaroro Falls

Candid shot of us admiring the falls, taken by our tour guide, Anthony

Trying to climb Casaroro Falls

Always climbing ?

Jungle Girl

Misty lens makes this look like a dream

Canyoneering Fun

Until next time, Casaroro Falls!

Tribute to the National Artist for Music, Ryan Cayabyab

By 10:30, we were back at the hotel. We bustled in the showers to make it to Silliman University for a surprise tribute to our boss and recently conferred National Artist for Music, Ryan Cayabyab.

Man of Music, a Tribute to Ryan Cayabyab

Silliman University surprised Mr. C with a tribute on December 9

Tribute to National Artist for Music 2018

So glad the RCS family was there for this heart-warming event

That night, we performed for the Christmas tree lighting ceremonies in front of the historic City Hall. We sang a different repertoire from the previous night, something more mainstream and familiar. It was SO MUCH FUN. Over post-show dinner at the Mayor’s house, he approximated about 5000 in attendance ?

Day 3

Manjuyod Sandbar

While 3 others had gone back to Manila, the rest of us stayed for some island hopping. I’d been to the Manjuyod sandbar in 2009, but it seemed so much more fun this time around. In recent years, this has been dubbed as the “Maldives of the Philippines,” but I find that so silly. It’s just THE PHILIPPINES. Our islands are the best in the world, and have no need for such comparisons.

Approaching Majuyod sandbar by boat

The iconic houses on stilts of the Manjuyod sandbar

The boat ride that was supposed to take 45 minutes turned into nearly 2 hours because of the choppy waters. Luckily, we later learned, the tourism office had gotten us a bigger boat to make us feel safer.



Jumping on Manjuyod sandbar

Jumping for joy as we caught the last patch of dry sand to play on

Family bonding activity

Lolo Love – Handstands with Mr. C

After lunch, the tide had risen considerably, enough for the boat men to take us to a spot nearby for some snorkeling. The marine life seemed undisturbed with lots of colorful corals and curious animals. Extra care had to be taken to keep ourselves floating horizontally to avoid hitting the underwater homes, and to keep safe from urchins.

Taking the boat to the coral reefs

Wonder Twins ready to go snorkeling. Even our masks look the same and we bought them separately!

Pulang Bato, Valencia

Our itinerary suggested we went home after that, but we passed by some interesting signs that we couldn’t help explore. Luckily, our companions still had the energy for it (Celine and I can be tireless in this regard).

Coconut tree-lined field

Coconut-tree lined fields on the ride back to Valencia

Mt. Talinis is a semi-active volcano, and is responsible for these beautiful red rocks in Valencia. The waterfalls and hot springs have been temporarily privatized to help the government restore it from a recent calamity. I love the collaboration, but these have also made it so the place seems more commercial, touristy, and less natural. But, I repeat, I appreciate that they are being cared for.

We could tell that the others weren’t in the mood to jump into the crowded waterfalls, so we opted for the quieter hot springs down the road. There were 2 tiers: a hotter one with a more concentrated sulfur content, and a lower, more temperate one. The 1st warned of clothing discoloration, and the 2nd was empty, so we went for that.

Terracota Red Rocks

Pulang Bato Falls

Sulfuric and Therapeutic Hot Springs in Valencia

Pulang Bato Hot Springs

Volcanic hot springs

My kaftan matched the red rocks

Subida Souvenir Shop

We saw signs for more waterfalls along the way, but the boys seemed exhausted. Our guide, Jenna, brought us to this local crafts shop called Subida. It was a haven for knick knacks and novelty items.

Wooden toy "gun"

Toy “lastik” gun – reminiscent of childhood, but with craftsmanship ? Even comes with targets

Woven bag with pompom

I could not let go of this bag, so I bought it hehe #LoveLocal

Local handicrafts at Subida

The black-ish ones are sculptures made entirely of recycled plastics

Christmas House

Before dinner that evening, the owner of the Christmas House invited Mr. C over for a look. The same time we were there, a local news network was filming it for a feature.

Christmas House in Dumagete featured on TV

A carriage / lantern at the Christmas House

Royal Suites Inn

They had pre-ordered food for us by the time we arrived, so in a matter of minutes, we were served pako salad, sizzling bulalo, sisig, kinilaw, fried chicken, and garlic rice. Everything was exceptionally good, so much so that our long-held champion for best RCS meal (in Candy’s Cagayan de Oro) was finally topped in this place. All the dishes weren’t too salty or rich, but were the type you just couldn’t get enough of. That may have sounded like a lot of food, but we wiped it out, with room for dessert. Their best seller, a chocolate dome, wasn’t available, so we had tiramisu cheesecake, white chocolate cake, and leche flan for sharing. The 2nd was my favorite.

Sizzling bone marrow at Royal Suites Inn

The sizzling bulalo at Royal Suites Inn

Food coma commenced without preamble, and we took it the extra mile by heading to Royal Garden Spa for massages after. I loved my thermal treatment, and together with everything else, gave me the best sleep of the entire month. ?

Day 4

We went to Apo Island to swim with the sea turtles! The boat ride was also choppy, and the waves were bigger and splashed us all… which accounted for my phone to stop working. ? So I have no photos from Apo, but how could I forget swimming alongside such beautiful creatures anyway?

Painit / Merienda

Back in Dumaguete, Jenna took us to the public market for some suman, mangga, and tsokolate. Typically breakfast fare, it is food to “warm the stomach,” thus the term painit. The server was funny and friendly, and they went out of their way to buy mangoes even if they had run out by the time we arrived. With all the “gourmet” and specialty suman there are now, I’d forgotten how good it is just with brown sugar.

Suman, mangga, tsokolate

Merienda sa painitan sa palengke was suman at mangga. Photo taken by my friend VJ


After freshening up, we went for dinner at Lab-as, one of the best restaurants in town. I remember being taken here on previous trips, but the food that night was unlike any in my memory. They served us black pepper and chili crabs, fish lumpia, salmon sashimi, tempura, kinilaw, steamed maya-maya, Dumaguete Express, and some I forgot to take note of. Everything was fresh and perfectly seasoned, but my clear favorites were the tempura and black pepper crabs. The sauce on the latter, I can eat with anything!

Lab-As Restaurant in Dumaguete serves delicious seafood

Black Pepper Crabs, Tempura, Kinilaw, Fish Lumpia among the many dishes at Lab-As

Last dinner in Dumaguete

With Mayor Ipe Remollo and our Ate Mae at Lab-as

Day 5

A quick search showed us that sunrise would be at 5:45 the next day, so Celine and I got up to catch it at the bay, directly facing east. I thought the town would just be waking up at the time, and I suppose in some ways it was; but there was also a good number of people already walking along the bay. The elderly were stretching, some younger ones were jogging, and a mix of men and women were doing Zumba of sorts. Loved the vibe and could totally imagine joining a community like that.

Beautiful canal

Passed by this lovely canal while walking to the bay for sunrise

Dumaguete Bay Sunrise

Sunrise at the Bay

Breakfast at Sans Rival

Breakfast at Sans Rival was more chorizo, suman, mangga, and native hot chocolate

The boys met up with us at around 7:00 am for breakfast at Sans Rival. Then we all hopped into a trike to head back to the hotel.

Happy vacationers

In a trike back to the hotel, even our driver was smiling!

Philippines Airlines honors Ryan Cayabyab

Our sponsor, Philippine Airlines, acknowledging Mr. C before we flew back to Manila

This was one of my favorite workations in my 11 years with the RCS. So grateful I got to squeeze that into the year.

I’ll probably edit this for details later on, and will add a short video, but isn’t it obvious I’m trying to post this before the new year? ?

One last day, and ready for 2019!

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