I just endured a very exhausting yet thoroughly enjoyable road trip south. It was exhausting because we had to be on the road for at least six hours and enjoyable because we got to experience the Biggest Beach Party in Mindanao! We traveled south for the sheer pleasure of witnessing the goings-on at the Sarangani Bay Festival, also known as SarBay Fest.
SarBay Fest is held in Gumasa, a beautiful stretch of white sand beach in Glan, Sarangani Province. The beach is often dubbed as the ‘Boracay of the South’ but with a more rustic and peaceful vibe. It faces the Sarangani Bay, famous for its abundance of tuna and other marine blessings.
For two days, the oft secluded beach comes alive with music, water sports, all-out parties, food, and hundreds of beach lovers from all over the country. It’s a huge beach party more than anything else but here are seven other things that define SarBay Fest:
Gumasa is at least an hour and a half from General Santos City by car. This time can get you really really bored, if not for the wonderful views of the road and the Sarangani Bay. Since the trip is long, I suggest you bring lots of food to pass around and some good music to play.
The scenic drive transforms into horror lane after sundown so it’s best to come early and, if possible, leave the next day. The highway is poorly lighted (sometimes not at all) and very possibly accident prone.
The organizers of this year’s SarBay Fest are well-organized but that did not stop people from being all over the place. There is a designated area for parking, tents, food concessions and various activities but they were clearly taken for granted. Some may call it a mess but I guess I can call it organized chaos. Without the crowds and tents all over the place, SarBay Fest would not be SarBay Fest.
The “mess” was the very first thing I noticed when we arrived at White Haven Beach Resort. Maybe I’m just disappointed because we did not find a good space to park. This meant we had to walk downhill/uphill for five minutes from the parking space to the beach and back.
Gumasa is breathtaking. Even with the multitude of locals milling around and tourists trying to learn the potentially knee-skinning art of skim-boarding, the beach looked spectacular. The white sand is littered with smooth stones which only added to its character.
The beach front looked really narrow but I know that’s only because there were literally hundreds of tents and vendors very close to shore. When we arrived, people were starting to gather along the shore, idly watching the waves and the people playing with each other.
SarBay Fest was much too crowded for my liking; it’s a local version of a Boracay party during Holy Week. However, I could not help but notice how much everyone loved being there. Everywhere I looked there were people cheering, dancing, laughing and of course, taking selfies using the latest craze: the selfiepod.
There was a Zumba Session with very enthusiastic leaders on stage. The crowd very gamely participated, some of them winning prizes like trips to Palawan, Boracay and other key Philippine destinations. I guess the prizes were a motivation but the look on their faces told me they loved every sweat-inducing move.
Wherever there’s a party, there’s food right? Even from the beach, I could smell the aroma of meat on the grill. I went looking for the source and found it in an open field strewn with booths selling everything from burgers, pizza and pasta to balut, dirty ice cream, fruit shakes and of course, Filipino-style barbecue.
I wasn’t able to take a photo of the food. My companions and I were famished so it goes without saying…
One of the many things I love about the beach is a beautiful sunset and Gumasa does not disappoint. Somewhere along the shore was a sign saying “Look Ahead for a Fabulous Sunset” and it was fabulous indeed. Even when there were grey clouds, the sun still painted the sky and sea orange. It even painted the people orange.
The sun setting into Sarangani Bay, saying bye-bye to the SarBay Fest revelers looked spectacular. It was the highlight of my day.
The huge smiles of the people around was worth the very long trip to Gumasa. It only shows that Filipinos will go the distance just to have fun and fun we did have!
My first SarBay Fest experience was fun and I know it would have been so much more if we stayed longer. But there’s always a next year, right? Here’s a photo of me, enjoying the sand while waiting for the sea to swallow the sun.
Until the next adventure, Philippine Travelers!