I am currently in the Philippines for my summer holiday and took time to visit my mom's hometown, General Santos City (affectionately called "GenSan" by the locals). To me it seems that Mindanao is unchartered territory - even for many Filipinos - who fear what they read/hear on the news. But for me, Mindanao is home away from home. Since I started visiting GenSan in high school, I quickly learned that there is no reason to be afraid or wary of my surroundings. I simply had to sit back and absorb all its beauty.
Planning my summer holiday was quite easy. I knew I wanted to take in as much of Manila as I possibly can, but I also wanted to visit the areas where my parents are from – Pampanga and Mindanao. I spent one week in Mindanao, visiting General Santos City and Davao. This being the first time I visited the Philippines without my parents, I was excited for the opportunity to come up with my own appreciation and understanding of my roots.
My adventure around General Santos City began as soon as I got off the plane – which by the way, is a quick, affordable 1.5 hour ride from Manila via AirPhil Express or Cebu Pacific. After lunch, we visited Olympog – 40 minutes from the city proper into the hills. The view is majestic. You can see the whole valley of rolling, green, sprawling trees (mostly coconut) right below you. They have a small canteen and a zipline for those who are feeling a bit adventurous.
The next day, we went to Rosal Beach Resort, Glan, Sarangani province. It’s about 2 hours away from the city center along the beautiful coast. Since we went on a weekday while the kids are at school and everyone else at work, we had the beachfront to ourselves and all you can hear is the crashing of the waves.
Our last major escapade in GenSan was Lake Sebu – the ancestral home of the T’boli people. We had lunch on the lake at Punta Isla Resort and took a tour around the lake to learn more about the T’boli and their relationship to the land.
GenSan is a jack of all trades – you can head into the mountains to enjoy ziplining, waterfalls, etc. or down to the coast for fresh seafood (the best yellowfin tuna, bar none) and white sandy beaches. I now understand why the area has done well over the years and why I keep wanting to return.
Photo and words by Yvette Cuenco. Yvette is a Filipino-American originally from Concord, California who has lived and worked in Brooklyn, NY, and is now feeding her travel bug by living/working overseas in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Read more of Yvette’s international adventures on her Tumblr and her jaunts with Filipino (plus more) cuisine at her other blog.