Text & Photos by BERNARD SUPETRAN
But aside from these two iconic images, this serendipitous province is as sizzling as the grilled tuna served on the dining table.
Mention Sarangani and two things immediately come into mind—its Fighting Congressman, the “Pambansang Kamao” Manny Pacquiao and Sarangani Bay, one of the country’s richest bodies of water where one of world’s tastiest tuna is caught. But aside from these two iconic images, this serendipitous province is as sizzling as the grilled tuna served on the dining table.
Sarangani’s appetizing sizzler begins with its array of white sand shores topbilled by Gumasa Beach tucked in Glan town. Dubbed as “Boracay of Mindanao”, this long stretch of fine sand is simply blissful minus the madding crowd and unbridled commercialism of its more popular counterparts.
On May, this Gumasa hosts one of the country’s biggest beach party in the now-popular Sarangani Bay Festival.
In addition to its mesmerizing sleepy shores, Glan’s centenarian heritage village takes you to a throwback experience with its ancestral homes, the most notable of which is Ruiz house is the de facto museum which give you a glimpse of town’s checkered past.
In the province’s western coast is a vast expanse of coastline hemmed by an undulating terrain.
The worn-out cliché “paradise” comes true at Lemlunay Resort in Maasim town. “Lemlunay” literally means paradise in the B’laan ethnic language, and calling it as such is no exaggeration.
It takes pride in its lush marine life at the Tinoto Wall just a few meters away from its shores and hosts the province’s only dive shop, South Point Divers.
Because of its current called “Tinoto Express”, drift diving is the norm and divers can frolic in a wide variety of hard and soft corals, nudibranches huge gorgonians, sponges and an endless array of reef life.
Pelagics, turtles, rays, rainbow runners, groupers, snappers, the majestic Napoleon Wrasse, clown fish, angel fish, and parrot fish are the common species sighted in this underwater world.
After taking the depths, true-blue adventurers can take the heights in the uplands of Maasim where you can defy gravity and paraglide and be rewarded by the arresting panorama of the tuna-rich Sarangani Bay.
In neighboring Kiamba, you can laze in the sun, sea and sand at the Tuka Marine Park neatly tucked in a cove 15 minutes away by boat from the poblacion. This is reputed for its marine protected sanctuary where fishes spawn, making it ideal for snorkeling and free diving.
On a lucky day, you might just see the Pambansang Kamao scouring this waterworld which is located a stone-throw away from his beachfront resort.
To Sarangani’s western edge is Maitum, where you can get an adrenaline rush at Pangi River as you negotiate the rapids in the 1.6 kilometer white water tube ride. Its chest-deep water appears to be anti-climactic at first, until the bumpy downstream ride begins. Fear not as your skilled guides will ensure you have fun even as you scream your lungs out.
Deep into the wilderness, you can trek the remote Ayub Caves where anthromorphic burial jars of the precolonial settlers called “MunaToh” or first peoples, dating back to more than 2,000 years old, were discovered.
The archaeological finds are on display at the National Museum, but a replica can be viewed at the atrium of at the Maitum Municipal Hall.
Its moontainous terrain have made the domain of ethnic tribes such as Blaan, Tagakaolo, Tboli, Manobo, Ubo, and Kalagan who have been in the uplands for generations.
Culture vultures can immerse with the B’laan communities at the Lamlifew Tribal Village Museum in Malungon, which can be reached in about an hour’s walk from the main road.
This repository of ethnic heritage, the only one of its kind in the country, chronicles the B’laan’s exotic culture, especially its intricate weaving and dyeing traditions and organic agricultural practices.
Another cultural gem is the Maguindanaoans tribe in Malapatan town which has preserved the art of weaving the
“malong” and “inaul” cloth with their traditional handlooms.
These exquisite fabrics have found their way around the world as Muslim-inspired clothing or accessories.
The town also takes pride in its “ginakit”, the gaily-decorated boats which they parade on the sea during its Pakaradyan Festival every June.
Food tripping in Sarangani is almost synonymous to feasting on tuna and more tuna due to its rich bodies of water. If this favorite dish is priced like gold in Manila, here you can sink your teeth of freshly-caught tuna morning, noon and night time prepared in the trademark Mindanaoan sutukil combo—sugba (grilled), tula (souped), kilaw (vinegared)—without hurting your wallet.
From this gigantic fish comes derivatives such as the healthier version of the crispy chicharon made up of tuna skin.
The province’s culinary scene is made more diverse and more interesting with the infusion of Moro delicacies such as the spicy beef sinina, the local counterpart to rendang, and the ubiquitous tinagtag snack-slash-dessert.
In between the mouth-watering tuna and Muslim delights are an assortment of processed food, condiments, regional specialties, ands knick knacks and which you can nibble as you hop from one destination to the next.
For a gastronomic adventure, Isla Parilla Resort in Gumasa and
Lemlunay Resort in Maasim are hands-down choices for their sumptuous seafood offerings coupled with a breath-taking front row seat to the vast expanse of Sarangani Bay.
But beyond tuna and the Pacman, every bit (and bite) of Sarangani sizzles just like its famous aquatic resource, on and off the plate.
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