Visiting the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines” isn’t complete unless you get to experience how its most sought-after commodity is being traded. And the best place to catch where the action is...where else but none other than the General Santos Fish Fort Complex in the village of Tambler, facing Sarangani Bay.
I’ve been there twice a few years back but never got the chance to catch a glimpse of how the fish trading was done. For this recent sojourn, I made sure I’d get to explore the fish port anew, going there as early as 6:30 in the morning after learning that I’d get to see the prized catch at that hour.
|GenSan pays homage to its most popular produce through the annual Tuna Festival|
|Entrance to the GenSan fish port|
GenSan’s fish port maintains a high standard of safety and cleanliness in compliance with international requirements for export-quality tuna. Tourists are welcome inside the complex provided they wear the prescribed safety gear. It’s best to go there in pants and boots; shorts and slippers are a no-no.
|Bringing in the day's fresh catch|
|GenSan's precious commodity|
I relished every moment of my stay at the facility, taking pictures of anything I fancied. So did the other visitors who were there that day. People working at the fish port are used to having tourists around so they don’t mind being shot. Some even gamely flashed their smiles with their catch.
|One of GenSan's must-see and must-try food strips|
Diners get to choose which seafood they’d like to be cooked. Those who prefer meat need not despair since the stalls there have bulalo (beef shank soup), pork barbecue, grilled liempo (pork belly) and other meat dishes. But when you’re in Tuna Country, it’s best to forgo the meat and go for the seafood.
After visiting one of Congressman Manny Pacquiao’s mansions in the vicinity, I went to Tiongson Arcade where I ended up feasting on kinilaw na malasugue (blue marlin ceviche), sinigang na hipon (shrimp in sour soup) and ensaladang lato (seaweed salad). Geez, I was sweating all the time I was eating!
|A participating float during the annual Tuna Festival|
From what I’ve gathered, he has two mansions, one of which is in the village of Lagao where he grew up. I visited Pacquiao’s Mansion 1 because I was able to find its exact location through Google® Maps. Sitting on a one-hectare property, the stately residence is just a few blocks away from where I had dinner.
En route to Mansion 1, I hesitated at first about
proceeding since I might be mistaken for a private eye, a stalker or a
paparazzo, with camera, tripod and all. Still, I forged ahead. Arriving at the
mansion, I was surprised to learn that Pacquiao allows his fans to go inside
for a look-see and picture taking.
|Pacman's Mansion No. 1|
Little did I know it would also offer an unexpected encounter with the boxing icon. We caught up with Pacquiao—he wasn’t as famous that time as he is now—live in the flesh, up close and personal at that while he was busy preparing for his bout against David Diaz for the World Boxing Council’s lightweight division.
|Manny Pacquiao during one of his practices|
For years, Manny Pacquiao ruled the international boxing arena until Timothy Bradley toppled him during a highly controversial fight a few years ago. Many boxing experts and aficionados believe he should have won that bout. Later on, he also lost to Juan Manuel Marquez during their fourth rematch.
|The People's Champ|
Pacquiao prepared for his fight against Rios
in this three-storey boxing and fitness gym
All told, my vicarious “encounter” with PacMan in his home count as the most memorable episode of my recent sojourn to GenSan. Now, as he faces one of his biggest challenges, that is, fighting the country’s publicans, I can only wish him all the best. Fear not, Manny, you’ll rise above this one. :D