Sarangani: "A diamond on the rough waiting to be polished"
By Russtum Pelima
Alabel, Sarangani (1 December) -- They have all to say about this province.
"A diamond on the rough, waiting to be polished," said Manila visitor Trina Draynos.
Draynos, an executive assistant from the Department of Tourism, went on a tour here with her six-person team last September.
From ancient finds to endangered wildlife, from rugged coasts to mythical caves, Sarangani has it all, they were told.
Draynos' team leisurely motored across Sarangani - from its eastern hidden coves to its western coast where endangered mammals live - in just two days.
"Seeing all these is quite a revelation. Sarangani is a fantastic destination. It has vast potentials," she said.
A favorite destination was Gumasa cove, a 10-minute drive from poblacion Glan. It boasts of a six-kilometer shore of pinkish white and fine, powder sand.
"Why do you always attach your name to Boracay with what you have here?" Beni Gomez, media representative of Hong Kong-based Action Asia magazine, asked while having a day dip at Gumasa during her summer break and first visit to the province.
Spanish national Maria Fernandez, on the other hand, was amazed by how local folk in Glan bear Spanish influences and antiquities, or Hispanic touch like its century-old houses in poblacion.
Fernandez, a writer from Madrid, and photojournalist Jordi Llorens from Barcelona were the most recent to visit Sarangani. They stayed for three days here last month.
"What's remarkable in Sarangani is the smile of the people," said Llorens. "Next to it is the landscapes. These have made this place special for me."
The Philippines, he disclosed, was his 97th country-destination.
"We are here to promote Philippine tourism in Spain," Llorens said. They spent their last night in a T'boli community in Maitum town.
Maitum is 107 kilometers west of General Santos City.
According to dive enthusiast Giuseppe Chew, one of Maitum's off-shore reefs is home to weird and unusually huge cardinal fish unobserved in other parts of the Philippines.
"The other reef harbors the solitary grey black tip reef sharks," he said. "For more denizens of the deep, there's Barracuda Highway where hundreds of this fish can be found in constant patrol."
For travel writer Toby Martin, Sarangani is the right destination for adventurers and backpackers.
"It's ripe for adventure sports," Martin noted.
A marketing communications consultant and former sports editor, Martin writes for Philippine Airlines' Mabuhay Magazine.
A trekker himself, Martin would rather like to see Sarangani's natural environment untouched by too much development.
"Rough-rocky roads are not to the adventurers' disadvantage," he said. "Instead, it complements the thrill."
Martin experienced the fun and excitement of the 1.6-kilometer Pinoy tubing at Pangi River in barangay New La Union in Maitum, an Ilocano and T'boli enclave.
Pinoy tubing or the use of inner tire tubes (salbabida) to ride the rapids, is now an adventure craze taken by locals and foreigners.
The site has been visited by tourists from Japan, Zambia, USA and Sarangani's neighboring provinces. Tourists from General Santos City take family picnics at the riverside.
Also in Maitum's barangay Pinol, thousands of the world's largest bat could be seen in their sunset flight.
To top it all, the people of Maitum take pride of Pinol Cave, origin of the National Museum's anthropomorphic potteries, made circa 5 B.C. to 225 A.D. The rest of Southeast Asia has nothing of this type of archaeological find. It could suggest the backbone of Maguindanao prehistory and the Filipino people as a whole, according to tourism officials here. (PIO-Sarangani/PIA-Sargen) [top]