If I had flown (or zipped) fast and furious in B’lakayo in Gensan, I guess I have defied gravity in Lake Sebu, still in South Cotabato. This S3X Tour hasn’t been more adrenaline-laden than before. The day before, we went to one of the fastest. This time, we’re going to take one of the highest ziplines in the country—and boy I would want to have more!
Lake Sebu is well known to be a placid mountain town, the cultural domain of the T’boli people. While most would associate this place for the tranquil lake, the people with colourful t’nalak cloth, the brass bling blings and that famed tilapia, many Mindanao townsfolk flock here every weekend to enjoy one of the Philippines, if not Asia’s highest zipline, flying over Lake Sebu’s three of the famed Seven Falls.
Mindanao—the second largest island in, down south of the republic…very far yet so close to my heart. For most of the urbanites, it is a place that most should avoid because of adjectives associated with it: war-torn, poverty-stricken and home of the “terrorists.” Indeed, the notion of the island has evaded so many people to visit this great island in the south. However, in my own perspective, we have to take a second look onto this island. Mindanao has so much to offer, so much to see, so much to experience yet so neglected and feared by many.
Mindanao was (and for some, still is) “The Wild West” of the Philippines, as what they said–a tapestry of stories of three seemingly opposite cultures, vastly still unexplored and full of potential.
Philippines will hold three local conferences about Google Map Maker this April 2012, after the successful Google Map Maker Workshop which was held in Makati City last March. The local Google Map Maker Summits will be held at the cities of Bacolod City, Baguio City, and General Santos City respectively.
It was a much unexpected weekend for me. I wasn’t expecting to go to back to Gensan that November—plane fares have gone up and we weren’t allowed to file a leave since it was a Thanksgiving (the busiest day in the US). However, with our bosses nodding for a vacation and the 13th month pay coming, I was able to push through with my trip to Gensan to attend Blogfest Soccsksargen 2.0 (or Sox Blogfest). It was organized by the Manansala brothers, Avel and Orman, together with the rest of Soccsksargen Bloggers of south-central Mindanao which was held on 26th of November, 2012 at Sun City Suites in the city of General Santos.
I wasn’t planning for a second (actually the third) visit to General Santos City in the span of three months time (like I’m there every month!), but blogger Avel Manansala of Gensan.com convinced me otherwise. I’m no stranger to this city that I fell in love with for so long since the college days, but this latest visit just went a notch higher: Defied gravity four times, pigged out for three days, camwhoring galore, and of course celebrating one of the two big fiestas of the City by the Bay, the Tuna Festival.
It was my “official” first day at Soccsksargen Experience Tour 3 (S3X Tour for short) organized by a good friend of mine Avel Manansala and the Sox Bloggers. I was a day late since I have work…but the rest of S3X Tourists have already enjoyed their outdoor activities at Sarangani Province the day before. That Saturday morning, we went all the way to the highlands of Barangay Olympog in General Santos City to experience one of Philippines’ fastest and highest ziplines, the Fifth Mountain of B’lakayo—looks like it’s time to prove that pigs do fly, fast and furious! One of Gensan’s rising adventure tourist attractions.
B’lakayo is a B’laan word meaning “Black Woods” or “Other side of the woods,” referring to the place on the foothills near Mount Matutum. It is about more than 15 to 20 kilometer ride all the way…to the highlands. Getting here needs some effort since roads are yet to be paved and steep enough (recommended if you have a 4×4 vehicle)—that’s the only start of the adventure!
Morning approaches in the highlands of the T’boli people. The lake was placid and the air was cool. The fog hugs the ground and the water surface and the canoes make ripple of the lake’s serenity. Hay paradise…Psst Marc, bugtaw na! Lakat pa ta sa lotus pads sa Pag-asa! (Marc, wake up! We’ll be going to the lotus pads in Pag-asa). We jump started our morning right in Lake Sebu, as Marc of Explore Iloilo and I had a mission that morning—to seek the fabled lotus gardens of Lake Sebu, the flower mostly associated with the T’boli people, other than the t’nalak cloth and the brass bling-blings they have.
It was serendipity that brought me back to South Cotabato this July, as the province celebrates its 45th year as a province through street dance, merry making and other activities in the T’nalak Festival. Good thing that Enrico Dee of Byahilo gave me that idea of attending T’nalak, since it’ll be my first Mindanaoan festival to attend with. Of course, the main event was held on the 18th of July, the province’s founding anniversary and I was expecting the street dance competition which showcases the best of the great three cultures of Mindanao: the Kristyanos (Christian migrant settlers), the Moros (the Muslims), and the Lumads (the animist indigenous peoples). The festival was named after T’nalak, the famed cloth of the T’boli women made from abaca. Strong yet durable and light, its designs were believed to have come from the dreams of the weavers, seemingly a communication between the living world and their ancestors. It became one of South Cotabato’s immortal icons.
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?
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.