The Pulsating Gensan Fish Port

Yes to Gensan Manong Kargador! Mabuhay ka! (Long Live!)

If it is yellow-fin tuna, it’s got to be Gensan (General Santos City)! The fifty billion peso tuna industry has been synonymous to General Santos City, the boom town sitting beside the deep harbor of Sarangani Bay. Ever since 1970s, armadas of both small and commercial fishing boats have been disembarking the “chicken of the sea” in Gensan or Dadiangas, from the bounties of The Pacific and Celebes Sea. Because of this, it has attracted a lot of investors in setting up tuna canneries, processing plants and other investors—along with workers, generating thousands of jobs in a highly-industrialized city. Because of the growing demand, General Santos City was in need of better facilities for trading yellow-fin tuna. In 1999, the General Santos Fish Port Complex was opened. It wouldn’t be “The Tuna Capital of the Philippines” for nothing, right?

The prized catch from the sea–Yellowfin Tuna

General Santos Fish Port is located at Barangay Tambler, some 15 kilometers south from downtown Gensan—quite far if you’re not used to the distance. But no traffic here, so it’ll be just a quick ride in the industrial districts of Labangal, Calumpang, and Tambler.

Busy Gensan Fish Port and Mount Matutum looking over
The Yellowfin Tuna

Gensan Fish Port was constructed with the help of Gensan’s major tuna export partner Japan, through Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund. With sashimi in-demand in the markets of Tokyo, Osaka and the rest of Japan, the Japanese assisted with constructing four markets, fish container cold storage, port for disembarking products and a lot more. Currently, it is the second largest fish port in the Philippines, following that of Navotas in Metro Manila.

The cargador
Flashback: Classic 2004 photo of Gensan Fishport tuna unloading morning. Today, shirtless people ARE NOT ALLOWED to make transaction or work within the fish port.
Panorama of General Santos Fish Port. Click the photo to view larger photo

It wasn’t my first time setting foot on this 32-hectare complex. In 2004, thanks to my best friend who was working in a tuna processing factory, I was able to stay and even observe the day-to-day life inside the Fishport for numerous times. As early as dawn, the fishport was already throbbing with so much life, as fishermen started to come back and unload tuna. By mid-day, the fish port activities subside and factories and other facilities continue their trade until the evening. By dawn, it’s back to business. Those were the days.

Carrying tuna by the shoulder
Carrying tuna

It has been five years since I went back to Fish Port. The management, Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA), has become stricter than it was. Adhering to the firm European, US and Japanese standards in handling tuna, you must have a prior notice or consent before entering the said facility. It is highly advisable to contact PDFA-Gensan or the City Government of General Santos first to ask permission or set up an appointment, days prior to your visit.

Wear the right stuff before coming to FishPort! Observe proper procedures

It’s strictly no shorts, no sando, and no slippers allowed policy for employees and visitors alike. In other words, bawal ang tipikal na naka-pamalengke o pambahay. With prior arrangement with PFDA, they may provide you some sterile white boots before you even enter the markets and the port itself.

Busy fish port and sunshine
Grading tuna

Thanks to Avel of Sox Bloggers, Marcos of Explore Iloilo and I were able to enter this facility once more (enter my reminiscing/senti mode for). That morning, Market 1 (the tuna market) was already like a war room. Tuna is still being unloaded by the cargadores–a job that the now world-renowned Manny Pacquiao reputedly once had during his younger years. It was a tense morning as the cargadores bring yellowfin tuna and blue marlin to the weighing scales so that it can be graded, then exported to Japan and other countries, or sent to the tuna processing plants nearby. That’s all within that morning alone!

Fish Market Number 1 – The Tuna Market
Weighing bariles and another bariles-like person…or I think he’s a dugong.

Grading tuna is serious business. High-grade tuna is exported to Japan and the most expensive. Local-grade tuna is the one being sold at the local markets. Big tuna processing plants and canneries in the Philippines converge here to get the best yellowfin tuna there is.

The tense yet vibrant atmosphere at the fishport
Now that’s tuna in brine…

Then we moved to Market 2, where “other fishes” are being unloaded, such as the famed galunggong and the likes. Most of the fishes here are being sold at local markets and other processing plants. Seeing the hustle and bustle of the two markets just indicate how important the industry is for Gensan.

The so-called “poor man’s fish” or galunggong at Market 2
Not only tuna, but other seafood as well!

That morning, Sarangani Bay was already pulsating with life. It is here where Gensan’s throbbing heart begins. Being there can feel the heat and vibration that brought life to the once backwater city in Mindanao. That morning, I saw the persisting industriousness of the Generals—ever determined get the taste of personal and even the region’s progress. For me, it was also a trip down to the memory lane—it is just one of the places in Mindanao that changed my mindset forever. Matutum looming over the horizon and the sun rising in the east, it was a good feel for me, warm and ever vibrant.

Off to the market!
The fishport in the morning, baby!

Most likely I’ll come back here one morning, to see the cargadores once again unload the prized catch of from the sea. For now, me voy!

More photos, click here.

Visiting Gensan Fish Port, please contact the PFDA at +63 (083) 380-7256. Again, it is highly advisable to contact them first before visiting the said port.

For more information on how to get to Gensan Fish Port, you may also call the City Mayor’s Office of General Santos City at the following numbers:

  • +63 (83) 554-4214
  • +63 (83) 552-7321
  • +63 (83) 552-7320
  • +63 (83) 301-2747

How to get there?

If you’ll be taking public transportation to Gensan Fish Port, take a jeepney bound for Tambler or Fish Port located at P. Acharon Boulevard corner Papaya Street. Ask the dispatcher what specific jeepney is for Tambler-Fish Port. Don’t worry, as early as 4AM there are jeepneys bound for the fish port. It is a 30-minute ride. The fare costs more or less PhP20.00 (twenty pesos or US$0.50).

Other alternative would be habal-habal or single motorcycle ride, which is a bit dangerous and may cost you even more OR take a taxi which would cost you even more.


View To General Santos Fish Port in a larger map

Bernardo Arellano III

Berniemack Arellano, is the blogger behind HabagatCentral and ViajeroFilipino. A simple and boring guy who wants to go amok whenever he’s being prevented going somewhere else. Traveler, Blogger, Food Lover, Proud Pinoy, Mexiphile, Isko ng Bayan, Passion with History and Urban Planning, FSX Pilot and future professional cartographer Since birth, he has been traveling due to the transient nature of the work of the father: NPA for short (no permanent address) or a nomad. Prefers to do more than just sightseeing, but experience anything local--from food, festivals, cities, culture, heritage and more.