Ever wondered where that juicy piece of tuna on your sashimi is from? Most likely, it’s from the Philippines, particularly from General Santos City. Known as the Tuna Capital of the Philippines, this city in southern Philippines is the largest producer of sashimi-grade tuna in the country. And did I mention that General Santos City is home to the Fighting Congressman Manny Pacquiao and Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire of world boxing fame?
General Santos City (aka GenSan, Dadiangas or simply, GSC) is a highly-urbanized city in the SOCCSKSARGEN Region in Mindanao. It is considered the shopping capital of the region, being the commercial hub and busiest city close to Sarangani Bay. Much like Davao City, General Santos City is an independent city although it is essentially part of the Province of South Cotabato.
General Santos City has its own international airport. It is the largest and second busiest in Mindanao, next to Davao International Airport. The airport serves regular flights to and from Manila, Iloilo, Cebu, Puerto Princesa, Laoag and Cagayan de Oro through domestic airlines Cebu Pacific Air, PAL Express, and Philippine Airlines. If you’re coming from any of the cities mentioned, it is best to fly in.
Another option is to fly in to Davao City and travel 3 hours by land to General Santos City. Though this is not the best way into the city, the drive is scenic and you’ll pass through several interesting locales. There are inter-city buses plying the Davao-GenSan route on a regular basis.
Tricycles are the best and cheapest method of getting around in General Santos City. These small vehicles are able to take you almost anywhere in the city. If you’d prefer a more comfortable ride, there are air-conditioned taxis available in the city center.
Buses, vans and jeepneys provide transportation within the city and to nearby municipalities and provinces. If you’re traveling from General Santos City to other parts of Mindanao, you can find buses of various routes at the Bulaong Terminal.
There are also several car rental agencies in the city for those who opt for a more personalized form of transportation within the city and its outlying towns.
Things to Do
- Eat! Take advantage of the cheap seafood and have your fill of the world’s best tuna at local prices. There are numerous restaurants all over General Santos City that offer fresh-from-the-catch tuna and other seafood items. All you have to do is ask a local or go to the nearest mall. Nearby Polomolok is a pineapple country, being home to Dole Philippines’ plantations. So don’t forget to eat as much pineapples as you possibly can!
- Participate in the city’s festivals. General Santos City celebrates at least four festivals annually: Kalilangan Festival, Tuna Festival, Yaman Gensan and Paskuhan sa Gensan. If your reason for coming is still tuna-related, best come on late-August for the Tuna Fest. This is when the best and most innovative tuna dishes are showcased.
- Shop. As already mentioned, General Santos City is the shopping destination of the region. With at least 7 large shopping centers including a fairly new SM City, the shopping opportunities are almost limitless. But don’t limit yourself to stores you’ll normally see at home, seek out the stalls/stores selling local handicrafts and other produce.
- Sight-see. The downtown area of General Santos City is an interesting maze that’s worthy of exploring. It’s a hodge-podge of old and new structures that make the city feel both modern and rustic. When you get tired of walking around, stop by Plaza Heneral Santos adjacent to the city hall. The park has shady spots perfect for relaxation and people watching. You can also visit the Fish Port Complex though you’d need a permit to take photos and have to wear pants to enter the area where the giant tunas are.
- Have an adventure. Mt. Matutum, an active volcano is close to the city. If you’re looking for the thrill of actually climbing a volcano that just might spew some lava, this could be the expedition for you. Or you can just fly over waterfalls in Lake Sebu, about 2 hours from General Santos City. The Lake Sebu Seven Falls Zipline is an eco-adventure that’s one for the books.
- Go to the beach. The city is faces the Sarangani Bay and while the GenSan coast is mostly used for commercial fishing, there are nearby resorts in Alabel and Maasim that feature stunning vistas of the bay and some excellent spots for swimming. You can also make the two-hour trip to Gumasa, a long strip of white sand beach where the annual Sarangani Bay Festival is held.
General Santos City has come a long way from being a simple fishing town in a span of a few decades. It is now a throbbing city with all the amenities for modern living. And with the perks of fresh food from the sea and farms, you’d surely love spending a few days (or weeks) in it. So visit and have some GenSan Fun!