In the 20 plus years that I have lived in the Philippines I have seen many changes for the better, some changes which do not seem to progress and unfortunately some changes that either stagnate or go backwards, unfortunately, tourism in Region 12 where General Santos is now located comes under the latter stage!
Several years ago, Gen San came under the control of Region 11 with the Center of Power being in Davao City! If meetings were called, people did not mind making the 3 hour trip because at that time Gen San was not as developed as it is now so a trip to Davao for a meeting was always a good excuse for a shopping trip! There was always lots of things happening and the Region 12 Tourism Department was then and is still pretty dynamic compared with the basically not too enterprising Region 12 department!
One day, the people of Gen San woke up to discover that we had been moved and now came under the guidance of Region 12 based in Cotabato City! Nobody was asked, it just happened and things started to change from day one!
I received a phone call inviting me to a meeting of the Tourism Council and was told that the venue was in Cotabato City. I asked the girl on the other end of the phone about the city and inquired about decent hotels, shopping, malls etc to which I was told that at this point in time there were no reasonable hotels, there was a market but no mall so I asked her what else could I do before and after the meeting and this Tourism Rep could not give me an answer. The road to Cotabato at that time was not very good and the journey was about 6 hours with many road blocks so I told the girl that I could not really think of a reason to make such a trip just for a meeting.
I think that many business people gave the same answer to many different meetings as many of the Region 12 offices have relocated to Koronadal City which is only one hour from Gen San and has decent accommodation and Malls!
There is always lots of posts on Face-book about the Mindanao Tourism Authority featuring all kinds of events around the Island but not many if any from Region 12. This makes me wonder what the people do all day, trying to attract tourists seems to be a very low priority for them!
There is a Tourism Sub Office here in Gen San but they only seem to put their effort into the Fiesta’s we have 4 times a year. They always come up with figures of how many tourists come to such events but these figures are really not correct as many people with nothing to do come into Gen San at Fiesta Times in the hope of getting something for nothing and do not do anything else except clutter The malls for the Air Con.
There is not really that much for Tourists to do in this are but Sarangani Bay is a major player for tourism, mostly local but some visitors from overseas do return here especially for the diving!
One group has recently started Para Gliding from one of the higher hills along the coast but the actual flying site is covered with limestone rocks and already there have been a couple of accidents upon landing resulting in broken bones.
There are 2 Hobby Cat Sailing Boats at South Point but they are not over used. Sarangani Bay has good Wind and usually small White Cap Wave which apparently are Good for all forms of sailing but unfortunately this resources is simply not used.
In the Gen San Office there in nobody who has any knowledge of any sport or tourist oriented event, so why are these disinterested people employed to do a job which the know nothing about, the only answer I can think of is Political!
In December Last Year a meeting was called in order to vote for and add some local officers to this disjointed bunch but to no surprise to myself, the Tourism People did not bother to show and could not even be contacted on their personal cell phones!
Gen San in the past was much harder to get too as flights were few and far between but now, with about 5 flights in and out on a daily basis, it’s not hard to reach.
I cannot say that Gen San is the most ideal place for tourists but it’s easily as good or better than many tourist destinations in the country, all it really needs are the correct people placed in the tourism sector who are willing to work for a full days pay and try to get the tourists to the area. The idea can work as funds are available but where do they go too? The answer to that is anyone’s guess!
Chris Dearne, aka "GenSan Chris" is a long term resident of the Philippines. Chris has been living in General Santos City since 1992! Chris owns a hotel in General Santos called Cambridge Farm Hotel, and also the Cambridge Dive Center, formerly Tuna City Scuba Center. Chris' interests include Scuba Diving, Instructing, and Formula 1 Racing.