Mention "General Santos" and two things come to mind - Tuna and Manny Pacquiao. These two has been the iconic association to this huge city down south that serves as the gateway to SoCCSKSarGen.
Formerly known as Dadiangas, the city was later renamed to General Santos to honor General Paulino Santos, a military man from Tarlac who pioneered the settlement when he led the first group of migrants to the area in 1939. The city developed tremendously from thereon becoming the region's center for commerce with a strong agro and fishing industry as its backbone. In fact, the city is the largest producer of sashimi-grade tuna in the country earning the monicker as the "Tuna Capital of the Philippines".
The city is a bustling community that is at par with Manila, Cebu, and Davao. It has its own mix of old and new businesses that give it both the urban and provincial vibe. We walked around to look for pocket destinations that will give us that unique GenSan fill.
Plaza Heneral Santos and the GenSan City Hall
At the heart of General Santos City is a sprawling park honoring the man that pioneered the settlement in the region – General Paulino Santos. Born in Camiling, Tarlac, General Santos led the first batch of migrants to the Lagao area of Koronadal where he helped establish the first batch of communities in 1939. These colonies would help drum roll the development in the area that gave birth to the present-day General Santos City.
The centerpiece of the park is a valiant gold statue of General Santos and a historical marker that outlines his contribution in the birth of the city. This monument also serves as his final resting place together with his wife.
Looming on the background is the city’s center of governance – the General Santos City Hall. The government complex houses the various offices that provide basic services to the people of General Santos City.
If we Metro Manila has EDSA and Cebu has Colon Street, General Santos City has Pioneer Avenue as its main artery in the city. This main thoroughfare cuts across the city from the Plaza Heneral Santos down to beachfront area facing Saranggani Bay.
Walking along its sidewalks, it will give you a glimpse and feel of the old General Santos because of some of the old and iconic stores that line the streets. And don’t forget to get a ride on a motorela that ply the roads of the city.
Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage Parish
A few meters from Plaza Heneral Santos is the center of the Catholic faith of General Santos City – the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage Parish. The quaint and simple façade and belfry of the church is dwarfed by the multi-story buildings in its area.
The simple vibe of the church transcends within the interior of the sanctuary. The altar is void of any grand design and its only highlight is the crucifix at the center of the altar. Despite the strict security at the time of our visit, you can feel the peace and serenity of the sanctuary.
General Santos Fish Port
A trip to General Santos will not be complete if you do not visit the General Santos Fish Port. The fishport boasts itself with modern facilities that are at par with international standards. Its daily yield of 750 metric tons of fish is the 2nd largest total fish catch in the country, next only to Navotas.
The best time to visit the facility is in the early morning when fishing vessels unload their catch. Make sure that you wear pants and socks because the facility follows strict protocol on the dress code. You need to wear boots within the premises of the docking and processing area.
General Santos is the largest producer of sashimi-grade tuna and it was interesting to observe the whole process of classifying tuna at the fish port. The process begins when the tuna harvest are off-loaded and lined up for weighing. After the fish is weighed, its meat is then checked for quality. It is then classified whether it is for export, local consumption, or canning. I was lucky that I also got the opportunity how some of the harvests are cleaned and packaged for consumption.
The view of Saranggani Bay with tens of docked fishing boats and the organized chaos of the morning grind of the fishport will definitely get your adrenaline pumping. You can feel the intensity of the action as you admire the tremendous work put in by each worker. As the buzz slowly dies down in the late morning, you can see the smiles flooding the area - another day's done and tomorrow is definitely going to be another exciting one.
Getting there: You can take a blue trike to Tambler from Kimbol. Fare is at Php20 at travel time is 30 minutes. Just inform the trike driver that you are headed to the General Santos Fish Port.
Queen Tuna Park
Immortalizing its monicker, the city developed a beach spot within the city and aptly called it the Queen Tuna Park. The public park is a cheap and easy escape from the heat by some of its locals. Family and friends can enjoy a lazy afternoon or a quick dip in its waters.
The beach spot is an easy find with its tuna design gates along P. Acharon Boulevard. If you intend to stay a while, there are picnic huts and tables for rent in the area.
Pacman Wildcard Gym
General Santos is Manny Pacquiao country. The world reknowned boxer considers the city as his hometown. He is considered a hero in GenSan that his mansions and the gym that he works out in and owns are tourism attractions. Previously, you can walk in to these attractions and just pay fees however Manny Pacquiao's foundation have streamlined their tourism initiatives. The fees collected are channeled to the scholars of the foundation.
We did manage to visit the Pacman Wildcard Gym beside SM GenSan where we got a peek of the gym where Pacman works out and prepares for his fight. You cannot deny his influence in the gym with huge pictures of the boxer-turned-senator.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
The heneral in Santos was a major turning point for the city that was once known as Dadiangas. His unwavering trust to heed the call to lead the first settlers spurred the development in the region creating a bustling metropolis. The city, through time, has earned its own corner in economics and soon in the tourism front being the gateway to SoCCSKSarGen.
General Santos have pocket of destinations that gives you the raw beauty of the city. Its economic development in itself is an attraction worth exploring. It is at the forefront of its tourism offer. But there is another tourism draw that General Santos can bank on and it goes beyond what we get to see and feel. Something that would literally warm your tummy. Let's talk about GenSan as a foodie hub on my next travel blog.
Getting There: Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air have regular daily flights to General Santos City. You can take a jeep or a cab to SM City General Santos where you can take a van to Glan in Saranggani. Tricycle is the way to go around Glan.
Sample Travel Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Cotabato City / Cotabato City Tour
> The Grand Mosque (Habal-Habal Contact: Mohammad Edsa - 0935 9063067)
> People’s Palace
> Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral
> PC Hill and Tantawan Park
> Old Cotabato City Hall
> Cotabato City Plaza
Day 2: Asik-Asik Falls, Alamada, Cotabato (Click here for my trip details. Contact person for habal-habal arrangements
from Midsayap: Jun Camap – 0919 4558958)
Day 3: Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat Road Trip in the morning enroute to Lake Sebu. (Click here for my trip details.)
> White Mosque (Datu Odin Sinsuat)
> Margues Blue Lagoon (Datu Odin Sinsuat)
> Pink Mosque (Datu Saudi Amapatuan)
> Sultan Kudarat Provincial Capitol (Isulan)
Lake Sebu Walk
> Lake S’bu
> T’Boli Museum
> Lake Sebu Town Center
Day 4: Lake Sebu Tour (Click here for my trip details. Contact person for Lake Sebu Tour: Ronald Maguan – 0997 2482160).
Travel to Glan in the afternoon.
Day 5: Glan Tour (Click here for my trip details.)
> Lago Beach
> Sta. Catalina de Alexandria Church
> Glan Municipal Hall
> Taban Beach
> Gumasa Beach
Travel to General Santos City in the afternoon
Day 6: General Santos City Tour
> General Santos Fish Port
> Queen Tuna Park
> Pioneer Street
> Plaza Heneral Santos
> Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage
Day 7: Early morning departure to Manila
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.