Sunday, June 1, 2014

Glad to be in Glan…Again!

“Sometimes it's not about the destination, but the journey itself.” So goes a cliché that I guess fits to a tee my thoughts about a recent sojourn to one of my favorite hideaways in Mindanao—the pristine beach town of Glan in Sarangani Province, which is fast becoming a journey’s end among weekend warriors. 

Much of my time these past several years had been spent traveling to faraway destinations both popular and off-the-beaten-path in Luzon and the Visayas, often neglecting numerous largely unexplored havens found right here in the country’s second largest island. But I’ve had a change of heart—and course—lately. 

Gumasa Beach
While I still escape to other islands every now and then, I’m now finding more time to embark on road trips to many of Mindanao’s exciting tourism hot spots. In those sojourns, one thing has become clear to me—the best adventures I’ve had were those spent with family and friends in those fascinating places. 

Nowhere is this truer than my recent sojourn to the beach town where I had the rare chance of bonding with Arvin, one of my best buddies who had been with me through thick and thin. The weekend in Glan spent with him, his family and some of our friends made me appreciate more the close ties we’ve forged in this lifetime.

Time and again, I’ve proven that spending moments with family and friends—people who gladden and make us feel good about ourselves—has spillover effects into other aspects of our lives. Take my Glan escapade, for instance. That little change of landscape did wonders to raise my levels of gladness, personally and professionally.

A few days prior to our trip to the beach town, I was in the doldrums, feeling so drained from evading the bullets of the daily grind to the point of forgetting the little victories I’ve had. That escapade changed it all. In the company of my best buddy, that weekend wandering in Glan gave me so much gladness!

That it all happened at the quint-essential beach paradise that’s being dubbed as the “Boracay of the South” made all the difference. The uncanny union of the sun, sea and sky, the soothing sounds of the waves, the convivial conversations we’ve had, the fabulous food trips we took—all these conspired to snuff out my tensions!

Lucky me, I made it to Glan twice in a row this year. It was something that I least expected though. But when Arvin, who hails from General Santos (GenSan) City, suddenly came home for a month-long vacay from his stint abroad, it was his choice for a weekend get-together with family, some close friends and their kids.

Secretive as he is, my friend kept his surprise homecoming under wraps—only Cyndee, his wife, knew about it!—so much so that  we had diffiulty finding a resort that could accommodate twelve people for an overnight stay! Good thing, we still ended up in two different but adjacent beach resorts. 

Discovering Glan, I must say, has been one of the crowning glories of my travels around Mindanao. Why head to other places when I can enjoy almost the same kind of natural attractions in Glan? I’ve made it there on three occasions yet I can’t seem to get enough of the picturesque little treasure trove of a destination with an awe-inspiring vista of Sarangani Bay!

Like most beach lovers—young ones and young once, locals and foreigners, singles and couples, yuppies and hippies—I run away to the town to seek serenity in the beauty of its unspoiled, white-sand stretches such as the one in the village of Gumasa, which I think has some of the Philippines’ finest grains. 

Glan’s drop-dead gorgeous locales never fail to resuscitate the sagging spirits of world-weary visitors. That's why it’s been attracting packs of local and foreign tourists who relish immersing themselves in its immaculate beach coves and turquoise waters that are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, sailing, scuba-diving and more!

Almost an hour’s drive from GenSan, the beach town, most especially Gumasa, is probably the closest slice of paradise you can visit to get a summery dose of sun, sea and sand in the eastern side of the province (whose western part also boasts of several seaside turfs).

Driving all the way from Davao, I, along with Arvin and his son, Kyle, left for Sarangani Province at around 7:30 in the morning. Usually, the trip takes about three and half hours if traffic is light all the way. It took us thirty minutes longer than that to reach our destination as we stopped over at Digos City for brunch.

En route to Glan, we passed through generally smooth stretches, verdant rice fields, gently rolling mountains, sugar cane fields, mango orchards and quaint villages. Caveat: some portions of the road in Davao del Sur (Sulop) and Sarangani (Alabel and Malapatan) are undergoing either a repair and/or widening.

For those planning to commute to Glan, the best take-off point would be GenSan. From there, you can hop into one of those aircon vans stationed at KCC Mall that are bound for Glan. Upon your arrival at the bus/van terminal in the poblacion, negotiate with the driver of either a motorcycle or tricycle to take you to your chosen resort.  

Travelers can take their pick from any of these resorts dotting Gumasa’s shores: Davak Ridge, White Haven, Rosal, Coco and Isla Jardin, to name some. From what I’ve gathered, it was in Rosal where Kris Aquino stayed for a while before heading back to Manila during one of her sorties in that part of Mindanao.

The resorts at Gumasa cater to tourists from all walks of life—solo backpackers, well-heeled corporate execs, beach-bumming yuppies and adventure-loving families.  Their overnight accommodations range from open-air cabanas to one-bed and/or two-bed cottages (either aircon or non-aircon) to pricey two-storey suites. 

At Rosal (where I was billeted), Coco (where Arvin, his family and our friends stayed) and the other resorts in Gumasa, you can have the best of what Glan has to offer: swim to your heart’s content, scuba dive into the deep, straddle on a banana boat, sail into the blue sea, and sweat it out thru beach volleyball and many more.

Every second week of May, the beach town is abuzz with activity in line with the Sarangani Bay Festival, fondly called SarBay Fest by beach habitués. Good thing, we were in Glan a week before the said festival. Otherwise, it would be twice as hard to get booked what with all the throngs going there to take part in the festivities.
There’s no denying that the charming beach town has become one of the country’s most promising tourism hotspots. Geez, no less than the loquacious presidential sister got enamoured with Glan! But with or without her endorsement, I’m glad I’ve made it again to one of Mindanao’s sought-after beach towns.

Unlike many well-known destinations in the country, crass commercialism has yet to rear its ugly head in Glan. The resorts there aren’t that developed yet and you still get to bask in the beauty of the natural attractions found all over the place without busting your budget. It’s still nature at its very best!   

So, fellow weekend warriors, hit the road to Glan if gladness is running short in your life. Once you reach the place, take to heart this reminder I saw on a signage there: “Take nothing but beautiful pictures; bring nothing but your wonderful memories, kill nothing but your precious time; and leave nothing but your footprints.” :-D

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