Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Kozy Time in Koronadal City

Want to be in a kozy place because you have some extra time on your hands? Then hit the road until you reach 6.4974° N, 124.8472° E. And where in the world exactly is that? Where else but the City of Koronadal (that's the official name), the fast-growing urban center in South Central Mindanao! 

Gateway leading to the poblacion

Mind you, the triangular-shaped city has several interesting attractions that can help you burn your boredom to the max. In recent years, this bustling capital of South Cotabato has come into its own identity as a progressive and peaceful city—a gateway to wonderful experiences that make it a fascinating destination. Take it from me, I recently made it to the city—for the nth time!—and whenever I’m there, I always have a blast!

Kozy? Yes, it’s kozy, not just cozy. People, events or places are said to be kozy when they evoke feelings of warmth, acceptance, friendliness, good humor, coolness, etc. I can’t think of a more suitable word to best describe the place and the positive vibes we felt when I, along with some coworkers, spent time in Koronadal to attend the island-wide sports competition among water utilities a few days ago. I bet you’d find it kozy, too, the moment you step into the bustling capital of South Cotabato.

Interesting tales often surround the names of many cities in the Philippines. Koronadal is no exception. Before the arrival of the early Christian migrants, B’laan and Maguindanaoan tribes used to populate the place now known as Koronadal. What is considered to be the poblacion today was once called Marbel, whose name was derived from the B’laan words, malb-el, meaning “muddy water”, perhaps in reference to what is now known as Marbel River.

Time was when I’d associate the city’s name to the Latin word “corona” or crown. Its appellation, however, resulted from the fusion of two B’laan words, koron (cogon grass) and nadal (plain). Roughly translated, Koronadal is a “plain of cogon grass.” Perhaps banking on the crowning glory of the city’s name, its drumbeaters, however, seem to be promoting it not as some grassy field but as the “Crown City of South Central Mindanao”.

Alunan Avenue: one of Koronadal's main thoroughfares

I guess they’re on the right track as Koronadal is fast emerging as the “center of power and governance in the entire SOCCKSARGEN Region, the conglomeration of South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City.  As the region’s new administrative hub, the city is the center of social, economic, and political activities in the province.

Strategically located in the heart of Central Mindanao, Koronadal lies in the intersection of two major road networks: the Pan Philippine Friendship Highway and the Koronadal-Banga-Isulan Road, which connect the city to other destinations in SOCCSKSARGEN and the rest of Mindanao. Less than an hour’s drive from General Santos City, Koronadal serves as the crucial economic crossroad not only for the province but for the region and the whole island as well.

Moby Wave PoolParaiso Verde's most sought-after aqua attraction

Hiligaynon, the language of the Ilonggos, is widely spoken in the city. But the people also converse and write well in Cebuano, Ilocano and Tagalog. Years ago, I used to frequent Koronadal, either to do some research work or assist in the conduct of workshops for local government units. Good thing, I can understand Hiligaynon, hence, it wasn’t that  difficult to interact with the locals. 

Made up of twenty-seven barangays (villages), the city occupies the northwestern part of the province. Koronadal, however, is relatively small (in terms of population size) compared to the other regional hubs in Mindanao—just a little over 174,942 people called it home in 2015; with average annual population growth rate at 1.93%. Even so, it has grown in popularity since it became the administrative center of SOCCSKSARGEN in 2000 by virtue of Republic Act 8803 and hosted the Palarong Pambansa (National Games) in 2007.

Round Ball: Koronadal's most popular rotunda

Koronadal sizzles with an interesting fusion of urban chaos and rural charm. Although a huge part of it is still predominantly rustic, its poblacion, which most people still call by its old name, Marbel, has been experiencing urbanization recently, spawned by the spate of commercial, agri-industrial and residential developments taking place all over the city.  

In this most recent sojourn, I noticed that traffic along the rotunda, which the locals affectionately call “Round Ball”, has become much heavier than the last time I went there. Surely, there were more cars, trucks, buses and vans going to and fro the regional center these days. If this could be considered an indicator of progress, then, by all means, Koronadal is one of the island’s highly progressive cities!

Bed numbers are on the rise in Koronadal

From what I’ve seen, tourism has taken off and the number of accommodations is on the rise obviously in a bid to keep up with the influx of transients and tourists. Revisited after quite some time, the city impressed me with the stunning metamorphosis of its landscape. New hotels have risen, including FB Hotel and Convention Center and The Farm@Carpenter Hill.

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Koronadal also prides itself with a new tourist attraction that would surely give swim fans and sun worshippers the thrill and fun they crave for especially during summer—Paraiso Verde Resort and Water Park. The world-class resort, which made a big splash when it opened a few years ago, offers several aqua-based attractions, most popular of which is the Moby Wave Pool.

Paraiso Verde has open cabanas, airconditioned cabins, a food court, a 300 person-capacity pavilion, a café, a souvenir shop and a lush garden, among others. A few months ago, the resort has opened its own plush 40-room hotel! We stayed there for a few days and really enjoyed the experience to the hilt! 

But it’s the awesome wave pool that really impressed me the most. At first, it looked like an ordinary pool with a gradual slope just like a beach, until the waves started coming. It’s one of the most exhilarating aqua adventure parks I’ve seen in those parts. Now that’s something that would surely make you find Koronadal kozy when you’re in town!

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Paraiso Verde's spacious hotel lobby 

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Moby Wave Pool

Truly, Koronadal has so much to offer these days that can really make the world-weary see it as kozy and comfy. Mall rats, for instance, won’t get bored as they have a new shopping complex, Gaisano Grand Mall to explore. Also, the old KCC Mall has undergone a major face-lift, perhaps in a bid to keep up with the competition. 

For foodies, Cinco Niñas is a must-try. For me and my colleagues, it was a delight eating there. Although plain in decor, the service was nice and yes, kozy! The eats were awesome in that old town fashion and had us wishing our tummies had room for more.

Several other diners and restaurants offering their own specialties are found all over the city (Mesa Filipino Moderne, Kuya J, Razon’s, Tambilawan Native Halal, Nadie’s Chicken, Francheska Grill, Sa Balay Bistro, Apareja, Mi’Grande, among others) but the roadside resto was truly a tasty surprise, serving up a hearty lunch that warmed not only our hearts but our souls as well. After our meal at Cinco Niñas, we felt jolly and roly-poly 'til sundown!

If you're fond of first-rate meat products, then a visit to Aloot Meatshop is a must. It’s reputed to be the major producer of the best-tasting tapa (dried or cured beef) in the whole province! You're either a sadist or a saint if you can walk out of there without buying one of their products such corned beef, chorizo (pork sausage), embutido (local meatloaf), and of course, the famous tapa).

South Cotabato Sports Complex: venue of the 2007 Palarong Pambansa

All sojourns have their letdowns. If there’s something I’d consider as one, that would be the current state of the South Cotabato Sports Complex. I was there for several days and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for it what it has become. The facility needs a major upgrade if only to make it a more competitive and attractive venue for big events in Mindanao in the future. With Koronadal playing a larger role in both the local and national scenes, I guess the local government should make it one of the city's priorities, if only to restore the complex to its former glory.

From a mere plain of cogon grass to a bustling regional center, Koronadal has truly come of age. Although I’ve been there on a number of occasions, I still feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface of this wonderful city. So much more to discover, yet so little time on my hands. If time and resources permit, it will surely be one of the places I’d like to revisit. Who knows, I might be back in Koronadal sooner than expected! 😃

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