Gen San celebrates Tuna Festival

Edwin G. Espejo

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The Philippines' tuna capital celebrates its 15th festival this year

COLORS. The parade was a major hit to the revelers. Photos by Edwin Espejo
GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Mayor Ronnel Rivera got a certain fact wrong, but, no problem, the crowd laughed with him.

Call it opening day jitters but the city mayor mistook this year’s Tuna Festival as the 14th. 

TUNA CAPITAL. The southern city of General Santos produces arguably the freshest tuna from its waters

It is actually the 15th, but this is the first festival on Rivera’s watch. He assumed the mayoralty in July this year.

At the grand opening night, the mayor apologized for the short preparation but promised to make it grander next time around.

SOLD. Gen San's fresh catch

After cutting a slice from a fresh tuna, he declared the Festival open Thursday night, September 5, to the delight of the huge crowd that was treated to a 15-minute firework display.

Rivera said he hardly slept the night before and he had to skip the 45th Charter Anniversary rites at City Hall to welcome the ambassador from South Africa. The Tuna Festival coincides with the city’s charter anniversary, also on September 5.

LEADING THE CELEBRATION. Mayor Rivera lost a lot of sleep preparing for this event

The mayor pulled out all the stops to make sure nothing untoward would happen. Security forces were on heightened alert.

The next morning, Rivera was already relaxed.

He led visitors and revelers at the General Santos City Fishing Port Complex where tons of fresh yellowfin tuna were unloaded. This was the country’s second biggest fishport facilities, after Navotas.

Professional photographers, hobbyists, videographers, and documentary producers had a heyday filming and taking pictures of the ocean bounty for which this city has become famous as the country’s Tuna Capital.

Too bad, the city mayor said. Some events had to be skipped for lack of material and time to prepare.

Tuna industry pioneer Marfenio Tan noted the unusually heavy catch this year.

May to September are usually the lean months.

Tan also had to cancel his pet Tuna Game Fishing competition this year. “Bag-o pa bagyo [A typhoon just hit us],” he said.

ALLURE. A participant in the festival

The biggest attraction on opening day was the Tuna Float Parade that started at 330pm and went on into the night, as the 10 floats made their rounds throughout the city’s downtown barangays.

On Friday, Septmber 6, Jeffrey Galvez Jr., who held aloft a 37-kilo tuna for 1 minute and 52 seconds, was crowned this year’s fish-port strongman. He awed the crowd, led by the city mayor, with his cool demeanor, besting 6 others by more than 25 seconds.

WINNER. Jeffrey Galvez Jr. carried a 37-kg tuna by the tail for almost two minutes

This year’s biggest tuna catch failed to top the all-time record of 252 kilos. But the 106-kilo big-eye tuna hooked and landed by Dario Tabay still elicited oohs and ahs from the appreciative crowd.

THE DAY'S CATCH. You'll wonder how many slices of sashimi you can make out of this tuna

The Festival will end on Monday, September 9, with another spectacular fireworks display, said Edwin Maliwat, General Santos City Fish Port manager and also co-chair of this year’s Tuna Festival. –


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