beach

A quick guide to South Cotabato, Sarangani, and General Santos City

Thinking of your next big vacation? Divert from the usual tourist traps such as Palawan, Cebu, or Boracay and experience the unique culture of SOX. Short for SOCCSKSARGEN, it’s the development cluster referring to 4 provinces and 1 city in central Mindanao, namely South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and General Santos City. If you’ve ever wanted to explore Mindanao, then this is the perfect time to visit as SOX has so much to offer.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY

GenSan, the city synonymous with our Phil. boxer Manny Pacquiao, is usually the starting point for any traveler. Here are some of the spots you have to check out when you come visit:

3DOE Ecopark and Restaurant

Adrenaline junkies, take your pick from the ATVs or buggies to get to the next cultural destination. I chose to drive an ATV myself on the way to Lamlifew Cultural Village in Sarangani. The travel time is 1-1.5 hours passing through scenic rice fields and involves crossing two rivers. The drive itself was fun, perfect if you already know how to drive a car or a scooter as it’s pretty easy.

Tip: Wear trekking sandals as you will get wet! Don’t forget your sunblock, too. 

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The hidden beauty of Burias Island, Masbate

What constitutes an ideal beach trip? For me it’s being able sink my toes into fine, powdery white sand, basking in the sun whilst enjoying the cool breeze (and napping thereafter), swimming in the clearest azure waters, and enjoying simple amenities on a far-flung island with literally no data or mobile reception. Yes, Burias Island was this and more!

When I booked my trip, I had only one simple desire: to relax by the beach away from the big, bad city. I had researched previously and I knew the beaches here were exquisite, but had no idea they were this beautiful. The trip made me more grateful and proud to live in such a beautiful country. But wait, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s explore Burias Island together, shall we?

HOW TO GET TO BURIAS ISLAND

Burias Island is one of the three major islands of Masbate frequented by adventurers and backpackers. The other two are Ticao Island and Masbate Island.

Burias Island_Masbate_Elegantly Wasted 1

The jump off point to Burias Island is Pasacao Port in Naga City. From Manila, you can choose to drive (8 hours) to Naga City or fly. Not surprisingly, I chose the fastest and more convenient route:

  • fly to Naga City via Philippine Airlines (50 minutes)
  • take the jeepney to the terminal, take the padyak trike to Pasacao Port (approx. 1 hour ++)
  • take the public passenger boat to San Pascual, Burias Island (2 hours)

*If you’re coming from Masbate City, travel time to San Pascual is extended to 6 hours via boat. 

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Sunsets

There are about a dozen things that come to mind when I think about my first trip to Tablas Island, Romblon last summer: the snorkeling, waterfall jumping, the scooter drive up the mountain, etc. But the main thing that I fondly remember is the gorgeous sunset I witnessed on my last day, while I was sitting on the sandy beach catching my breath.

I had previously driven a scooter around the island and was about ready for my flight back to Manila. I felt that I had accomplished much on my own the past 5 days and I really, really wanted to head back home. The good and the bad, I had experienced them all in Tablas Island.

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A Newbie’s Guide to Siquijor Island

While most people would immediately think of Panglao Island or Palawan for their beach escapes, I would highly recommend Siquijor for its laid-back atmosphere and hidden beaches. Over time, I’ve leaned towards places that are more secluded and provincial. My last adventure was in Tablas Island, Romblon where I drove a scooter up and down the mountain (still the highlight of my 2016), and now two months later I was itching to drive and explore again.

I distinctly remember Cendy (I had met her previously in Tablas) inviting me over to Siquijor, and so I felt this was as good a time as any to come visit. Plus, I always feel comfortable in places that speak Cebuano.

How to get there

There are no straight commercial flights to Siquijor, but there are several jump off points. I chose to take the Philippine Airlines flight from Manila to Dumaguete, a flight that would last an hour and 10 minutes. Make sure to get the 8:40am flight (there are only 2 options) because you’d like to catch the ferry to Siquijor which leaves at 12nn. You can check the ferry schedules here. When you get to Sibulan Airport in Dumaguete, ask the tricycle driver to drop you off at Dumaguete Port.

siquijor_elegantly-wasted

Buy your Jaylan tickets here

Tip: Tricycle rates at the airport are from Php 80-125. You can walk and hail a tricycle outside to save money, or hangyo from the driver to lower the rate. 

Once in Siquijor, I hailed a tricycle to take me to Maite, San Juan where I will be staying. Tricycle rides here are regulated and the rate is a standard Php 250. The town of Siquijor to San Juan is only a 20-minute ride.

Expenses:
Tricycle ride from airport to port: Php 80
Jaylan Ferry ticket: Php 130
Terminal Fee: Php 12
Tricycle from Siquijor port to San Juan: Php 250

 

My lodging
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It’s been said that San Juan has the best beaches so it was timely that Cendy’s place, Residencia Diosa, was smack in the middle of town and within walking distance of food establishments. I got a fan room (with hot shower) in a huge property with dogs! There’s also a beach out back, too!

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