That November in 2005, an all-time friend and colleague Joey Comandao (now an entrepreneur who owns JTC Shirts and Prints and a successful wedding planner [JC Events]) once begged to come along when he found out I am going out on a vacation which I approved. But for one condition – he should take the risk of going to South Cotabato with me. Funny - that he was alarmed at first since a series of bombing rocked the city of Gensan in the last couple of years. Well, it has always been the notion of people living in Luzon that Mindanao is the home of MILF Bombers (sounds like a basketball team) he he.
We stayed in Davao for a day then went to Gensan by bus the next morning. Without any concrete plans in mind, I just followed my instinct and my “bahala na” move. Along the way, while I was busy taking videos of the scenic Sarangani Bay and the cliffs and mountains, Joey was also busy talking to his seatmate Joy who was also meeting a friend in Gensan and take her on a tour. I made prior arrangement to meet Ruby, a friend I met in Davao some few yeas back.
Three hours and a half later we finally reached Gensan and the three of us headed to Royale Hotel. Joy’s friend [I forgot her name, I'll just call her Cherry] was already there patiently waiting for her, and Ruby was nowhere to be found. Ruby showed up after ten minutes and surprisingly, our meeting turned out to be a reunion of friends. Yes, these girls have known each other back in the early days and now reunited because of me and Joey. What a coincidence!
Since Joy, Joey and I have a common agenda, we agreed to take the tour altogether. Cherry offered her car, and asked assistance from her friend Avel Manansala (now a Gensan’s PR guru whose always very visible on TV covering the Pambansang Kamao's triumph in the recent bout, the Bb. Pilipinas 2011 Beauty Queen’s homecoming, etc. etc.) for hotel info and other Gensan notes. Surprisingly (again!), Avel is Ruby’s wedding Ninong. Ha ha.
Day 1. A visit to KCC Mall of Gensan should be a priority on the list. There I met Francis Sablon – a Travel and Tour guru in Gensan and Davao – who remains to be a very good friend up to now. Our friends took us to the city market (where the recent bombing took place) later that day for some souvenir shopping. The visit to the main port to see the freshest tuna in the whole country was an amazement. That is why Gensan is called the Tuna Capital of the Philippines anyway.
Day 2. Off to Polomolok, a municipality of South Cotabato where the Dole Plantation is located. With the help of Cherry’s connections, we were able to traverse through the entire plantation not securing a permit. What made this trip incredible? Inside the plantation, a pitcher of fresh pineapple juice cost only P10. And of course, the nice view of Mount Matutum, one of Mindanao’s highest peak. We still managed to continue our road trip up to Koronadal City then back to GenSan.
Day 3. Our morning started with a big breakfast from Jo’s Inato. For P50 a meal, you’ll have a big roasted chicken leg and an unlimited order of rice. Add another P40 pesos and you’ll find yourself bathing in a large bowl of soup enough to feed the whole barangay, ha ha ha. Ruby was very nice to come along for a quick Gensan city tour. By lunchtime we hit the bus back to Davao City and said adieu to our newfound friends for that wonderful two-day experience in Gensan.
After this journey, Joey went back to Manila with an altered perception about Mindanao and thanked me for letting him experience one of the most memorable adventures of his life.
Outside Royale Hotel
Gensan City Market
KCC Mall Of Gensan
Tuna, tuna, tuna
Dole Plantation with Mount Matutum on the background
Clubhouse inside Dole Plantation