With repeated foreign travel advisories and the declaration of Martial Law in 2017, Mindanao has been painted in a bad light. Contrary to popular belief, the so-called “Land of Promise” is not the backwater many have conceived to be, but a booming exotic southern getaway.
It boasts of well-paved roads, four lanes in many parts, an organized public transport system with integrated transport terminals, and trendy airconditioned buses to take you around the major destinations. Davao City, the president’s hometown, is extremely popular among travelers, but Gen. Santos is fast catching up as an alternative entry point in the south.
Below is a southern road swing which will take you to some of the roads less travelled by Metro Manilans.
Pit Stop 1: Gen. Santos City. Dubbed as the country’s “tuna capital” because of the mouth-watering fish caught off its waters, it is the aerial gateway and urban hub in exploring the Soccsksargen Region. You can rent a car to enjoy the scenic and hilly countryside roads, sans the traffic gridlock of the metropolis. You can swing by the city’s famed fishport to see the tuna being unloaded before being shipped to the markets or Felicidad Orchard and Garden Organics in Barangay Katangawan, the city’s latest attraction which takes you back to the good old days of farm life.
With its strategic location, the city is the ideal crossroad in exploring the neighboring provinces of Sarangani, South Cotabato and Davao del Sur.
Pit Stop 2: Maasim. The boundary town with Sarangani west of the city, you can drive to the mountain-top SAFI Ranch Fly Site which has been identified by aerosports aficionados as among the archipelago’s best paragliding sites. With a stunning view of the vast Sarangani Bay, it has hosted prestigious international competitions which drew the world’s best pilots. If you aren’t paragliding, the view deck is an ideal place to get a drink while admiring the seascape and the 200-km cove which embraces the bay.
Down below, the panoramic coastal highway is dotted with tourist hotels, most notably Lemlunay Resort, known for scuba diving, and Manny Pacquiao’s Pacman Beach Resort, which has an assortment of watersports recreation. To the town’s far end is IML Resort which has a firing range and zipline.
Pit Stop 3: Malungon. Situated on Gen. Santos City’s eastern boundary, this town is largely known for the Lamlifew Community Village Museum which chronicles the heritage of the Blaan indigenous peoples. The only one of its kind in the country, native women weave the mabal tabih, an exquisite dyed fiber regarded as Sarangani’s crown jewel of cultural resources.
Because of its fertile land, the town is being groomed as a center for farm tourism with the Rio Verde Farm, and the Center for Community Transformation, which gives guests a taste of Blaan cuisine and way of life.
A highland spot worth-driving is the Kalon-Barak Skyline Ridge which has a commanding view of Mt. Apo, Mt. Matutum, Sarangani Bay and Davao Gulf. With an altitude of 2,677-foot high, this viewpoint is ideal for picnics, camps, and cultural and close-to-nature activities. It is also the site of the Kasumma Festival which gathers neo-ethnic musicians for a series of workshops and concerts on the mountaintop.
Pit Stop 4: Glan. Close to an hour’s drive away from the city is this “Tour Town,” which is called such because of its resorts, restaurants, American-era heritage homes, and pockets of powdery beaches, most notably Gumasa, monikered as the “Boracay of Mindanao.”
Along the road are the Tour Town landmark perfect for an Instagram post, Hacienda Don Juan, an ancestral house-turned-resort with a private beachfront which has good food to boot, and a series of home-grown restos, each with local delicacies to offer.
Pit Stop 5: South Cotabato. To the city’s northeast is this vast province where Gen. Santos belongs. A long stretch of four-lane roads, which are among the country’s best, will take you past the sprawling Dole pineapple plantations in Polomolok, and the provincial capital city of Koronadal. The bustling urban center is also the jump-off to the upland town of Lake Sebu which is known for the placid lake, the exotic Tboli tribe, and the thrilling 100-meter high zipline which glides over the seven falls in the area.
Interestingly, the province will mark its foundation day this month through the T’nalak Festival which will feature a series of events highlighted by a Tboli-inspired street dance tilt.
After the road swing, you’ll realize that Mindanao is, by and large, an exciting joy ride and not a scary travel as many of us would like to think. And it won’t be long before you rare to come back to explore more of the Land of Promise.
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