Go Gumasa!

Edwin Espejo
Pack those bags and fly farther south for a summer retreat

SARANGANI, Philippines – Tired of the maddening crowd of Boracay? The crash commercialism of Panglao? Or the prohibitive and princely price tag of El Nido?

Save your bed-and-dine budget and get more adventurous.

Pack those bags and fly farther south for a summer retreat where one can discover the most rural of settings and still get one of nature’s few remaining unspoiled beauties.

GUMASA COVE. Home to Sarangani Bay Festival. Photo by Cocoy Sexcion.

Welcome to Gumasa in Sarangani, home to Mindanao’s biggest beach party – the Sarangani Bay Festival.

PARTY. Party zone at the Sarangani Bay Festival. Photo by Cocoy Sexcion.

Cheap thrills

It is in this part of Mindanao where you can still frolic in the most powdery white sands, watch beach volleyball and soccer, build sand castles, snorkel and skinny dip in crystal-clear sea waters, and party all night long. 

BALL TIME. Beach volleyball is a common sport. Photo by Cocoy Sexcion.

On the side, you can shout your hearts out as you cheer for your favorite 5-man relay swimming team and race against many others in the shark-infested Sarangani Bay, a distance of 15 kilometers across the channel. (Don’t worry. The sheer number of sea crafts, swimmers, and spectators are driving those sharks away.)  

DOLPHIN WATCH. One option is to go dolphin-watching. Photo by Cocoy Sexcion.

Oh, lest you forget, watch dolphins playfully swim with human tankers at a safe distance. When there are no sharks, there are dolphins, period.

Gumasa, they say, is what Boracay was 25 years ago when the world-reknowned tourist destination was not yet as crowded as it is today.

Neither is it as expensive, considering that for a Metro Manila minimum wage earner who wants a 2-night stay for 2 in Boracay, it means spending half-a-year’s salary. Half of that amount will buy you 4 days in Gumasa.

During the off-season, you can practically claim to own Gumasa, or on busier days hobnob with personalities and celebrities.

Big beach party

Sarbay, as organizers have coined it, now proudly owns the tag as Mindanao’s biggest beach party and Gumasa is the resident host of Sarangani Bay Festival.

The festival itself has become the province’s great leveler – where a farmhand can rub elbows with celebrities, where Sarangani’s officials are part of the crowd – not the crowd.

For instance, Supreme Court administrator Midas Marquez was at the bay festival 2 years ago and was seen tightly clasping a bottle of ice cold San Mig Lights while watching Cueshe live on stage. Tina Muñoz Palma had her moment with youthful Sarangani Governor Miguel Rene Dominguez along the beachfront one breezy and cloudy afternoon the year before.

Dominguez said the late Filipino rock icon Karl Roy once popped out from the crowd and went upstage to jam with the local band. Eric Gancio, a friend of the governor and a member of the lamented and missed Yano band, is a regular performer here. Recent Pinoy Big Brother fourth placer Paco Evangelista is likewise a regular at the bay festival.

“I think we can claim it has become the bigger beach party in the country where people party literally from sundown to sunrise,” the governor said.

GO SHOOT. Other adventures include shooting the rapids. Photo by Cocoy Sexcion.

More locals

Dominguez said, last year, the bay festival was able to attract 35,000 local tourists – up from 6,000 in 2006.

Have you seen your vice governor break dance on stage in your place? Try Gumasa.

The bay festival was one of the first activity concepts pushed by the governor immediately after election in 2004.

This year’s Sarangani Bay Festival has been shortened to two days – from May 18-19. This should give visitors enough time to enjoy the serenity of the place and explore other places before and after Sarbay.

Sarangani province shares the bay with nearby General Santos City. (Sarangani’s six coastal towns are evenly separated by Gensan). After failed attempts to jointly host Sarbay with General Santos, Dominguez gave his signal to proceed with the concept that has now become a buzzword in Mindanao.

Mindanao today. The world tomorrow. – Rappler.com

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