Saturday, February 24, 2007

University Town

This week unexpectedly brought me back to Dumaguete, and although the visit will be all too brief, I couldn't have come at a more fortuitous time.

It seems that the city and its people are abuzz with uncharacteristic zest and energy. At first glance, it looks merely as if it's the onset of an early summer with activities rising to a fever pitch before the scheduled long vacation. But closer examination reveals that, no, it's more than that.

I must confess: my head is positively spinning. In one part of the city is the 2nd International Rondalla Festival, which has brought in 450 delegates, both from the Philippines and from the rest of the world. In another, there is the East Asian Forum of Nursing Scholars. And in another: a series of lectures and films to mark Silliman's College of Mass Communications' anniversary. And in another: Foundation University's annual Digital Dumaguete Expo. And yet in another: a dual athletic meet between Silliman and UP.

Is the city, perhaps, trying to make up for all the past few months of cultural lethargy in just one week?

Seriously: this week distills to its essence what makes Dumaguete great. Dumaguete is a university town, we like to say, and now we're getting a concentrated dose of what it means to be one. A university town, after all, is not about beaches and boulevards (although these are nice things, too): it's about the intellectual, cultural, and competitive activities happening within a cozy and intimate setting of a small community.

And this, too, is what makes Dumaguete unique. Because no other city in the Philippines can quite offer the same activities with the same small-town ambience that Dumaguete can.

But then, what happens after this week? Hopefully this spike of activities is not an isolated event but a spark that can set in motion many others like it. Not all activities need to be of this magnitude and panache, but a steady momentum of gatherings like this goes a long, long way in establishing Dumaguete's unique and differentiated identity to the world.