Discovering the Wonders of Sarangani
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Sarangani Province, Philippines — Everytime Manny Pacquiao climbs the ring for a boxing match, he is introduced as the “Fighting Congressman / Senator from Sarangani”. But long before he became a sensation, his adaptive province has been slowly punching its way to fame in the tourism ring dominated by the big boys.
And just like the Pambansang Kamao’s eight world championship belts, this quaint hideaway has eight good reasons to boast why it is a strong contender in being the best “pound-for-pound” champion in the tourism arena.
The body of water where the province was named after is a wondrous waterworld. With a 226.4-km coastline hugging the entirety of Sarangani, it is a Protected Seascape and a Key Marine Biodiversity Area as proclaimed by the Department Environment and Natural Resources. Covering an area of 215,950 hectares, its coral resources cover more than 2,293 hectares with about 60 live hard coral genera, 411 reef species, and 11 species of seagrass. Declared by the Department of Tourism as a scuba diving haven, with its vast stretch of dive spots and fine beaches.
This town is home to the Lamlifew Village Museum, the first of its kind in the country initiated by the Blaan indigenous peoples to be a repository for the ethnic heritage, traditional weaving, and organic farming. The community makes stylish beads, headdresses, and weaves the Mabal Tabih, an elegant and expensive fabric. After the cultural immersion, swing by Kalonbarak Skyline Ridge, a hilltop view deck park which overlooks southern Mindanao. The town is also getting known for farm tourism with its two new attractions—the CCT Farm and Rio Verde—which exposes guests to the fun aspect of agriculture.
Sarangani’s capital town where the Instagram-worthy neoclassical Provincial Capitol Complex proudly stands. The sprawling grounds has well-manicured pocket gardens, the palatial Kasfalah Hall, and a marine museum which is a permanent exhibit of the lush aquatic life of Sarangani Bay. The complex is also the site of the annual MunaTo Festival which celebrates the province’s founding day in November. The town’s upland is emerging as a skateboarding haven because of its scenic zigzag road
The home of Bai Estelita Bantila, awardee of the prestigious Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (Gamaba) for her weaving of the igem Blaan mat. Located in the upland village of Upper Lasang, she is a “rock star” of indigenous peoples which draw tourists to interact with her. The town is also noted for Maguindanaon malong and inaul fabrics using traditional handlooms at the Balungis weaving center where women showcase their world-class artistry. A Moro cultural icon is the ginakit boat of the colonial-era royalty which is recreated during the Pakaradjan Festival every June for Malapatan’s municipal foundation day.
If there is one compelling reason to visit Sarangani, Gumasa Beach must be it. Situated on the eastern end of town, its powdery white sand has been considered as Mindanao’s version of Boracay, minus the madding crowd. Its shores sizzle during Glan’s Mahin Festival in April and the Sarangani Bay Festival in May, the biggest potpourri of beach events, entertainment, wellness, sports and environmental awareness which lures hordes of beach bums from all over the country. Glan is also known for its Gourmet Getaway with its array of restaurant-hotels by the shores of Sarangani Bay—Lanai 1687, Belmar Eco Park, Hacienda Don Juan, Kamari Resort, and Isla Jardin Del Mar. Travel back in time at the town’s Heritage Village with the museum-like American-era art deco homes, each with an intriguing story to tell.
Aerosport adventurers flock here to take to the skies for a literally-breath-taking glide from the mountaintop of SAFI Ranch, considered as among the best sites because of its good wind for most of the year. In 2015, it hosted the elite Paragliding Accuracy World Cup which brought the globe’s top pilots. The town is also a host to an underrated but amazing dive spot—Tinoto Wall, located just off Lemlunay Resort, which boasts of a variety of corals, nudibranchs, gorgonians, sponges, rainbow runners, groupers, snappers, Napoleon Wrasse, clownfish, angelfish, and parrotfishes. Non-divers can indulge in various aquasports at Pacquiao’s Pacman Resort which offers pedal boats, kayaks, and helmet diving.
Beach bums will fall in love with Tuka Marine Park with its powdery playground and protected sanctuary, ideal for snorkeling and freediving. You can also paddle the typical wooden Banca or a bamboo raft and bask in the sea and the sun. Tucked at a cove a few minutes away from the Poblacion, it has a few modest resorts for overnight stays for a back-to-basics experience. After frolicking in the sea, soak in the icy water of the multi-tiered Kawil falls located at an upland barangay.
Get your dose of adrenaline at the 2-kilometer bumpy and exciting whitewater tube ride at the Pangi River, Sarangani’s must-do activity. For a complete adventure, trek to Mlangen (or Kamlayaman) Falls and Yama Cave, the town’s newest attractions located in the remote villages. For a glimpse of its rich prehistoric heritage, visit the Municipal Museum which has dioramas of the caves where the more than 2,000-year old relics, most notably burial jars of anthropomorphic men, were excavated. Now on display at the National Museum, they are described as an “exceptional archaeological assemblage unparalleled in Southeast Asia.”
Fly to Gen. Santos City, and from there, you can start your trip to the different municipalities via UV Express. Most of the destinations can be easily reached by public transportation from the city, and the interior attractions by habal-habal or single motorcycle from the national road. For ease of travel, cluster the Malungon-Alabel-Malapatan-Glan attractions, and the Maasim-Kiamba-Maitum spots. You can also hire a private vehicle at Go Sarangani Travel (www.gosaranganitravel.com), a DOT-accredited tour operator.