Thursday, March 6, 2014

Savoring Sarangani’s Super Treats (Part 1)

Sarangani conjures up in the mind three feel-good things I like to explore: an island, a bay and a province. This piece, however, is about the newest province in SOCCSKSARGEN, not the island (which is part of the newly created Davao Occidental) nor the bay (which happens to be teeming with yellow-fin tuna!).

If Sarangani Province were a resto, I’d say it would be the apex of absurdity to snub her super treats, which this gadabout finds simply irresistible. Here’s a place that’s oozing with natural attractions—rarefied, rugged, rich and ravishing with a mesmerizing mix of indigenous, Christian and Muslim influences. 

One of Glan's white-sand beaches

Graced with glorious beaches, gracious climate and gazillions of opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, surfing, skimboarding, sunbathing and what have you, Sarangani is fast attracting a steady stream of local as well as foreign visitors. Yet there’s far more to the province than sun, sea and sand.

Beyond the coastlines of Sarangani are an interesting hodgepodge of a different nature and appeal—ancient artifacts attesting to a prehistoric civilization, raging rivers best explored via water tubing, flourishing forests where endemic species abound, captivating caves perfect for spelunking and much, much more.  
Separated by General Santos City and Sarangani Bay, the coastal province was once a part of South Cotabato prior to its creation in the early 1990s. Geographically, there are two Saranganis: the eastern coast, which include Alabel, Glan, Malapatan and Malungon, and the western coast, which cover Kiamba, Maitum and Maasim.

The view from Cliffhanger in Malungon

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If time permits me, I hie off to the province once in a while to savor the numerous treats it offers, particularly the beaches and resorts. Most of the towns I’ve visited on  a number of occasions are those on the eastern side. Many years ago, I’ve been to those on the western side, too, which makes a revisit in order.  

(pic courtesy of A-Montana Resort)
Alabel. Alabel, the seat of the provincial government, is one of those I’ve been to more than once. Despite being the hub of economic and political activities in the province, it has retained much of its bucolic charm. Incidentally, vast portions of its land area are dotted with fishponds where the renowned Sarangani milkfish are bred. 

The capital town used to be home to A-Montana Resort, a world-class destination offering serenity, solitude and solace to those craving for a break from the whirr and whirl of the daily grind. Located some twenty minutes away from GenSan, it provides an exciting escape from the hubbub of living in a highly urbanized setting. 

For weeks, I was imagining myself quietly sipping beer at the resort while watching the sun go down. Alas, I was dismayed to learn during a recent visit that it had closed shop! The guard on duty that time told me that another company had bought A-Montana and turned the whole complex into the seat of their operations. Whew, what a big blow to Alabel's tourism!

The cliffs of Malungon

Malungon. Malungon, on the other hand, holds the distinction of being the province’s lone landlocked town. Known for being Sarangani’s gateway to nearby Davao Region, the town is blessed with a mountainous terrain ideal for eco-tourism activities. A number of inland resorts dot its rugged landscape. 

One interesting stopover I like to drop by when passing by Malungon is a roadside restaurant called Cliffhanger. Perched on top of a ridge along the national highway, it serves home-made dishes for breakfast and lunch to motorists who are on their way from Davao Region to SOCCSKSARGEN and vice-versa. 

 A sugarcane plantation in Malungon

While enjoying their meals, guests can catch an uninterrupted view of Davao Gulf in the distant horizon as well as the plains and mountains of Sulop and Malalag in Davao del Sur. I always find myself mesmerized by the stunning vista down below. Watching that spectacle adds zest to my eats at Cliffhanger! 

A number of banana, mango, sugarcane and palm oil plantations abound in Malungon. No less than Congressman Manny Pacquiao owns a mango farm found somewhere in the town’s outskirts. Since it’s somewhat out of the way, I cancelled a visit there. For sure, that would be part of my itinerary during my return. 

View deck at Cliffhanger

Glan. Lastly, there’s the town of Glan, which, for me, ticks all the boxes of the perfect Mindanao escapade: palm-fringed, white-sand beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, natural lagoons for swimming, the works. Tourists yearning for an idyllic life by the sea need not go very far; they just have to head south of the island—Glan has it all! 

Gumasa, Glan's version of Boracay's famed White Beach

Its Gumasa Beach is being touted as the “Boracay of the South” sans the island’s world-class whims, noisy nightlife and throngs of tourists—for now. There are just a handful of reasonably-priced resorts spread out in an immaculately white stretch. I hate to say this but, Boracay, I’m stuck with this new found flame.

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Gumasa's awesome sands

Every May the country’s biggest beach party unfolds in Glan. Known as the Sarangani Bay Festival, it’s the province’s way of expressing gratitude to the bay for the abundant marine resources sustaining the communities around it. For more about Glan, browse my post at

This, in essence, is the Sarangani I’ve experienced so far. Tourists wanting to have more of it must go there, gad about, gratify themselves and get lost in one of Southern Philippines’ gems for a short—or perhaps a long time. So, adventure junkies, what are you waiting for? Hit the road now and savor the best of Sarangani’s treats! :D