Beautiful Mindanao: My Adventure Down South (Updated Travel Guide)

Saturday, 24 December 2011

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Mindanao is one of the most beautiful regions in the Philippines.

Blessed with vast tracts of greeneries and stunning natural attractions, Mindanao is a destination that will surely leave her guests in awe. It may not always be at the top of most travelers' must-visit list but for those who were privileged to marvel at Mindanao's beautiful plains, beaches, rivers, and mountains, it is an experience that is hard to forget.

General Santos City International Airport in Mindanao
General Santos City International Airport

Beautiful Mindanao: My Adventure Down South (Updated Travel Guide)


    My personal adventure in Mindanao


    Once again, I had the privilege to be given another out-of-town assignment. This time, it was in beautiful General Santos City in Mindanao. Mindanao may have a shady reputation because of the many negative news about it but we looked forward to this trip, nonetheless. Plus, the side of Mindanao where we were going was peaceful. We thought that this was also an opportunity to take on a different kind of adventure, to see sights that are unique to this region.

    We were dismayed with our previous Cebu trip because of the lack of time to roam around Mandaue City, thus, we were determined to make our Mindanao trip worthwhile.

    Arrival at General Santos City International Airport in Mindanao
    Magandang GenSan!

    We arrived in General Santos City on a Thursday. The lack of sleep didn't douse our excitement in any bit. Our friend Rose Celis, the Account Officer from our company's branch which we are inaugurating the next day, picked us up from the General Santos City International Airport. We were to meet the rest of the branch officers for brunch at a popular restaurant, Rose told us.

    The ride from the airport was a long one but it was also a chance to marvel at the beautiful Mindanao countryside with its rolling plains and pastureland. It was a relaxing ride and energized us for the work ahead.

    Lone tree in a vast field during our Mindanao adventure

    Sarangani Highlands


    At around 10:00 AM, we arrived at the well-known local hotel and restaurant called Sarangani Highlands, a beautiful oasis in the midst the bucolic landscape. Rose introduced us to the rest of our colleagues who were already waiting for us in a long table.

    After just a few moments, we warmed up to the hospitality of the people around us. Before our lunch, we were toured by the owner of Sarangani Highlands around the property and we saw the magnificent hand-painted doors of the rooms and the lush gardens within the courtyard.

    The sleeping quarters had the feel of a seaside villa; the materials used for constructing the accommodations were all locally-sourced. The owner also showed us the room where Ms. Universe 2011 3rd runner up Shamcey Supsup stayed at during her visit to Sarangani Highlands. If you are interested to book a room at Sarangani Highlands, it is located at Purok Wal, General Santos City, South Cotabato.  

    Hand-painted doors in Sarangani Highlands in Mindanao
    Hand-painted doors at Sarangani Highlands

    Flowers in the garden of Sarangani Highlands in Mindanao
    Flowers at Sarangani Highlands

    fountain at Sarangani Highlands in Mindanao
    Fountain at Sarangani Highlands

    praying mantis at Sarangani Highlands
    Praying mantis

    It was just past 11:00 AM but we were already hungry, nonetheless. We ordered two of Sarangani Highlands' bestsellers -- Arroz ala Sarangani and sizzling bangus belly. Likewise, we ordered the famous Alamid coffee. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Alamid Coffee is made from coffee beans that have passed through the digestive tract of a local wild cat (in short, cat poop!). 

    Needless to say, the food, the coffee, the ambiance and the view of Sarangani Bay were absolutely perfect. After our sumptuous meal, we headed to our company's local branch and spent the rest of the afternoon working and preparing for the event the following day. 

    sizzling bangus belly at Sarangani Highlands in Mindanao
    Sizzling Bangus Belly at Sarangani Highlands

    Arroz a la Sarangani in Sarangani Highlands
    Arroz a la Sarangani at Sarangani Highlands

    fresh fruits at Sarangani Highlands in Mindanao
    Fresh fruits at Sarangani Highlands

    Downtown General Santos City


    By 4:00 PM, we decided to buy some materials that we will use for the inauguration the next day. Plus, of course, we wanted to visit one of the landmarks of downtown General Santos City -- KCC Mall, perhaps the most well-known shopping center in the area.

    Everything about KCC Mall reminded us of SM -- the layout of the stalls, the department store, the grocery area at the basement and also the green plastic bags. After buying the things that we needed, we went back to the branch to do some finishing touches.


    Sampling the best of General Santos City for Dinner


    After we had finished our chores for the day, we were treated by our colleagues to a dinner – no, a feast! – in one of the restaurants in the area. The restaurant, though modest-looking, served one of the best meals that we have ever had.

    We had Grilled tuna panga, clam soup, a great-tasting fish whose name I forgot, and bihod adobo. Bihod or fish roe has always intrigued me because it seemed so rich and tasty whenever I read about them. It was a seafood feast.

    clam soup at a restaurant in Mindanao
    Clam Soup

    grilled tuna panga or jaw in Mindanao
    Grilled tuna panga (jaw)

    grilled tuna in Mindanao
    Delicious seafood dinner

    My second day in Mindanao

    The following day was all work. The inauguration went well, with local flavors served during dinner. However, the highlight of the event was the whole fresh tuna displayed at the branch. It was carved right in front of the guests and served as sashimi.

    fresh, whole tuna in General Santos City, Mindanao
    Whole tuna

    the freshest tuna sashimi in General Santos City in Mindanao
    Freshest tuna sashimi

    tuna sashimi from whole fresh tuna in General Santos City in Mindanao
    Tuna sashimi

    fireworks in Mindanao
    Fireworks…

    more fireworks after the branch inauguration in Mindanao
    …more fireworks

    beautiful fireworks during our Mindanao adventure
    …more fireworks

    fireworks to celebrate our Mindanao adventure
    …more fireworks

    last batch of fireworks during our Mindanao adventure
    …and more fireworks

    Our trip to Sarangani Bay


    After we had finished our official task, it was time for some serious adventure. The following day, Rayne and I woke up early to take advantage of the buffet breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast, we prepared for our trip in the afternoon.

    giant tuna float in General Santos City in Mindanao
    Grand winner of the tuna float design contest

    Rose and Felix met us at the branch at around 1:00 PM. From there, Rose drove all the way to Sarangani Bay in Gumasa, Sarangani. It was a long ride, around 2 hours of continuous driving from General Santos City to Gumasa.

    Before heading to Sarangani Bay, we made a brief stopover at the Sarangani Provincial Capitol to rest a bit.

    Sculptures at Sarangani Provincial Capitol
    Sculptures at the provincial capitol

    At the Sarangani Provincial Capitol in Mindanao
    Sarangani Provincial Capitol

    Beautiful Mindanao Adventure: Sarangani Provincial Capitol
    Sarangani Provincial Capitol

    On the way to Sarangani Bay, we passed by an interesting building. It was the Glan Municipal Hall which was hard to miss because it was decorated with gold plates which reflected the sun's rays in bright golden sheen. Of course, it was not real gold.

    Beautiful Mindanao Adventure: the gold-plated Glan Municipal Hall
    The gold-plated Glan Municipal Hall

    Beautiful Mindanao Adventure: view of Sarangani Bay
    A majestic view of Sarangani Bay

    We arrived at Sarangani Bay at a little past 3:00 PM. We have not yet had lunch so we ordered food at Isla Jardin Resort. We had fish belly – perhaps the best way to really savor the taste of Sarangani, a coastal province, is to sample its fish dishes – which were all fresh and flavorful.

    Beautiful Mindanao Adventure: fresh fish belly
    Fish belly at Isla Jardin Resort

    After our sumptuous meal, we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around the white sands of Sarangani Bay and taking shots of the horizon as well as the mangrove trees that dot the beach.

    Beautiful Mindanao Adventure: seeing Sarangani Bay face to face
    Sarangani Bay

    white sands at Sarangani Bay
    White sands of Sarangani Bay

    mangrove buds at Sarangani Bay
    Mangrove buds

    mangrove tree at Sarangani Bay
    Mangrove tree

    mangrove roots at Sarangani Bay
    Mangrove roots

    our friends at Sarangani Bay beach
    Rose, Felix & Rayne

    Beautiful Mindanao Adventure

    Beautiful Mindanao Adventure: strolling along the beach at Sarangani Bay
    Strolling along the beach

    a hermit crab we saw during our Beautiful Mindanao Adventure
    Hermit crab

    beach photos at Sarangani Bay

    Beautiful Mindanao Adventure

    Sarangani Bay glistening against the sea in Mindanao
    Beautiful Sarangani Bay glistening against the sun

    Beautiful Mindanao Adventure mangrove tree in Sarangani
    Mangrove at Sarangani Bay

    the sands of Sarangani Bay
    Sarangani Bay sands

    one final shot at Isla Jardin before we left Sarangani Bay
    Final shot before we left Sarangani Bay

    Seafood Dinner at Tiongson Arcade


    By 5:30 PM, we thought it best to head back to General Santos City because of the long drive back. It was getting dark and the roads do not seem to be adequately-lit.

    We were at General Santos City by 7:00 PM. By this time, the four of us were very hungry. We bought isaw (grilled chicken intestines) and pork barbecue at a local shop. That won't do, of course, so we proceeded to the Tiongson Arcade within the city center. Here at Tiongson Arcade, they sell a variety of fresh produce like meat, fish, clams, and seaweeds.

    fresh tilapia at Tiongson Arcade
    Fresh tilapia at Tiongson Arcade

    huge choices of fresh seafood at Tiongson Arcade
    Fresh seafood

    fresh squid at Tiongson Arcade in General Santos City, Mindanao
    Squids

    fresh catfish at Tiongson Arcade in Mindanao
    Fresh catfish on skewers

    tuna sperm or bagaybay in Tiongson Arcade in Mindanao
    Bagaybay or tuna sperm sacs

    fresh clams at Tiongson Arcade in General Santos City
    Clams for the perfect soup

    You may have your seafood cooked the way you like it such as tinola (soup) for the clams, garlic butter for the shrimps and crabs, and fried or grilled for the fish.

    After placing our orders, the cooks were immediately busy doing their magic in the open kitchen. The smell emanating from the pots and pans were heavenly.

    Food must be very good here as the place was packed that night. We bought clams, tilapia and another type of fish. In a few minutes, clam soup, crispy-fried tilapia (they call it fish chicharon) and buttered fish were served. Once again, it was gastronomic heaven.

    Coffee and dessert at Blugre Coffee


    After the splendid dinner, it was time for some dessert and coffee. We drove to Blugre Coffee at Robinson's for our sugar and caffeine fixes. Blugre Coffee is probably the most well-known coffee shop in General Santos City.

    I ordered ice-blended durian coffee with whipped cream. It smelled like authentic durian and it tasted good. I just didn't like its consistency which was a bit too thick so you quickly get thirsty with each gulp.

    cake at Blugre Coffee in General Santos City
    Slice of chocolate cake swimming in cream at Blugre Café

    durian coffee from Blugre Coffee in General Santos City
    Durian coffee which was a little bit too rich (Blugre Cafe)


    A visit to Our Lady of Mt. Matutum Trappistine on our last day in Mindanao


    Rose met us at the lodge after our breakfast. We were to go to South Cotabato, specifically at Mt. Matutum. We were to attend Mass at the Our Lady of Mt. Matutum Trappistine Monastery at the foot of the mountain.

    On the way to Mt. Matutum, we traversed a road that cut through a seemingly endless field of pineapples. I later found out that this was Dole's pineapple plantation. It was a monotonous view but the vast plantation was stunning, nonetheless.

    a stopover at Dole pineapple plantation in Mindanao
    Dole pineapple plantation

    Trappistine Monastery in South Cotabato in Mindanao
    Trappistine Monastery at the foot of Mt. Matutum, South Cotabato

    We arrived at the Monastery just in time for the Mass and the first thing that greeted us were the angelic singing voices of the nuns. After the Mass, the people trooped to the Monastery's store to buy pastries. We later found out that the nuns sold cookies, handicrafts, and other baked goodies to supplement their income.

    Our flight was at 3:00 PM so we still had time for a quick lunch. And quick indeed was our lunch at Jollibee. Rose and his younger brother accompanied us to the airport. We wanted to stay a bit longer in Mindanao but, alas, we had work waiting for us in Manila.

    We promised Rose that we will see each other again in more adventures. We had Corregidor and Tagaytay in our priority list. Having fallen in love with the sights I saw and the beautiful experience at Mindanao, I promised myself that I would again be back here someday.

    Cebu Pacific flight from General Santos City to Manila
    Boarding time

    on the way back to Manila from Mindanao
    Return flight to Manila

    Beautiful Mindanao Adventure
    Return flight

    A few moments later, we were air bound. We slept through the entire flight because we were tired from all the driving and nights out.

    PIN THIS MINDANAO TRAVEL GUIDE

    We were in Manila by 5:30 PM. Later that evening, we were at Rayne's house for dinner and a few drinks in celebration of his birthday.

    It was indeed a weekend well-spent; full of unforgettable food, beautiful places that we visited, and new acquaintances.

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    10 comments

    1. So many beautiful pictures! The pictures of all the seafood makes me want to go back to the Philippines!

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    2. Catrin - theVeganista9 July 2016 at 00:55

      Amazing!! :)

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    3. Awesome pics and looks like you had good time.

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    4. Most been a really unforgettable experience :) lovely pictures

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    5. It was indeed unforgettable. Thank you so much.

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    6. It was really fun. I'd love to go back here.

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    7. Thank you. It was a great time.

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    8. Ah, so you've been here. Hope you would visit my country more often. :)

      ReplyDelete