BIG surprises come in small packages. You’ll find there is wisdom in this adage when you foray into this laid-back town of Glan, tucked in the easternmost coast of Sarangani. Regarded as the province’s tourist capital with its mile-long powdery Gumasa Beach, which is said to be southern Mindanao’s counterpart to Boracay.
For the past decade, hundreds of thousands of partygoers from all over the archipelago have been trooping to this hideaway for the Sarangani Bay (SarBay) Festival, the country’s biggest beach gig.
But aside from the mesmerizing pull of its talcum sand, Glan has surprises up its sleeves—its checkered history and mouth-watering cuisine.
Sarangani’s de-facto heritage village, the town has scores of American-era houses dating back to the prewar era. A hamlet under the Empire Province of Cotabato, Glan traces its roots to October 8, 1914, when the pioneering batch of migrants from Cebu landed to populate the area.
Over the years, it has become a melting pot of Maguinadaon, Tausug, B’laan and T’boli indigenous tribes who live in peaceful coexistence. It also become home to Indonesians from North Sulawesi who have settled in this land of promise. One of the must-see ancestral houses is that of Dr. Joe Ruiz, a municipal councilor and scion of the leader of the first migrants from Cebu. Situated in the Poblacion, the Ruiz residence is like a living museum with its antiquarian home furnishings and assortment of paraphernalia.
A new stomping ground that masterfully blends culture and nature is Hacienda Don Juan, a private farm ranch with a beach-front ancestral house-museum as centerpiece. The two-story Spanish-style building is almost a century-old house with its remaining original solid hard wood structure. It has eight verandas, overlooking the hacienda and the bay.
Conservation measures are being formulated by the municipal government and homeowners to preserve art the deco-inspired homes, which have withstood the ravages of time.
A cultural showcase it takes pride of is the annual Lubi-Lubi Festival, which it recently celebrated to mark its 101st founding anniversary. The locus of the festivity is the street-dance parade where revelers are dressed in costumes made out of lubi (coconut).
The presentations portrayed old religious and animistic belief of the townsfolk about the tree of life, as well as traditional dances from Moro and lumad tribes.
Glan’s total land area is dotted with coconut trees, making it a top producer of coconut and its derivatives in the Soccsksargen region. Of late, this town has been luring locals and visitors alike for its new magnet—Great Glan Gourmet Getaway, or 4G, whose strong signal beckons across Mindanao.
The culinary tourism program seeks to provide travelers a consummate experience by putting to the fore its homegrown and cozy dining outlets.
Belmar Ecopark and Beach Resort, situated on a cliff by Sarangani Bay, is a must-try with its wide menu of all-time Pinoy favorites, which is dominated by harvest from the sea, most notably tuna. Leave space for dessert as you cap your meal with the equally filling buko halo-halo or you can come back for it at merienda time.
The resort has and a nook of domesticated animals and aircon rooms named after the town’s pioneer settlers. Down by the beach is a cove where guests can bask in waters under the protective shadow of a mangrove forest.
Another gustatory getaway is Lanai 1687, a roadside ridge house that is slowly converting itself into a bed and breakfast. The resto takes pride in its rich burgers, sandwiches, pastas, grilled delights and combo meals of Filipino signature dishes, as well as short orders.
Providing a front seat to the Gumasa Beach is Isla Jardin del Mar, a 34-hectare resort hotel that was first to blaze the trail in that was once a frontier area. It has a 1-hectare lagoon where guests can go paddling or fishing, and a vast expanse of sandy beachfront.
A sister establishment of Sydney Hotel in General Santos City, the resort has aquasports equipment, such as banana boat, Jet Ski, glass bottom and kayaks for those who want to frolic in the enticing waters.
Down at Glan poblacion is King James Hotel, a boutique lodging that has a small pool and features live band on weekends as you sink your teeth on barbecue and homemade pizza.
And for a consummate swing, Bangsi Watercraft Service is taking the Glan getaway to the next level with its Sarangani Bay cruise, that sails around the charming coastal towns. The home-built boat glides across the sea and docks in selected resorts for a pit stop or a quick bite.
Indeed, small packages can reveal big…and gorgeous surprises.
Image credits: Bernard L. Supetran