General Santos is the southernmost city in the Philippines and located geographically in the province of South Cotabato. It is a highly urbanized and progressive city and the center for commerce and trade in the SOCCSKSARGEN region. Much like any busy city in the Philippines, General Santos is sprawling with business and commercial areas where tourists have different shopping and dining options. But more than just being the hometown of the Philippine's most celebrated boxer Manny Pacquiao, General Santos is also a place with thriving industries and rich local culture.
General Santos City was named after General Paulino Santos, the Commanding General of the Philippine Army in 1936. After he retired from the military, he became a public servant under the administration of former President Manuel Quezon. He was responsible for establishing several settlements in South Cotabao—one of them was known as Buayan, which went on to become a municipality. It was later on renamed General Santos.
General Santos City has a rich fishing industry and its most prized catch is the sashimi-grade tuna. It production is the biggest in the country, earning it the title "Tuna Capital of the Philppines." Different types of tuna are caught in the city everyday like yellowfin, bigeye, and skipjack. Every year, the Tuna Festival is celebrated in the city where different kinds of tuna dishes can be sampled. Cook-offs, parades, food festivals, bazaars, street dances, and other fun events also take place in the week-long celebration.
Of course, a visit to General Santos won't be complete without seeing something about Manny Pacquiao. The Pacman Wild Card Gym in the middle of the city features world-class gym equipment and a boxing ring. Visitors can enroll for boxing lessons.
Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have multiple flights daily from Manila to General Santos City. The flight is about two hours.
If you’re coming from Davao, you can travel to GenSan by bus such as the Yellow Bus, Rural Bus, and Husky and Holiday. Travel time is about three and a half hours.
How to Get Around
Tricycles and Habal-Habal
Tricycles and habal-habal are available for traveling short distances in the city.
Jeepneys and Utility Vans
Like most sprawling cities in the country, General Santos has jeepneys all over its main roads. You can also take passenger buses or public utility vans at General Santos City Terminal for traveling to neighboring towns.
Cabs are also available if you want a more comfortable option.
What to See
Plaza Heneral Santos is located right in the heart of the city where locals and tourists can hang out. Within the park is the General Paulino Santos Shrine, dedicated to the indefatigable general who spent his life in service of the Filipino people, especially his fellowmen from Dadiangas. The city used to be called Dadiangas before it was named after the great General Santos himself.
General Santos City, or GenSan as it is more popularly called, is known as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines.” After all, the city is the largest producer of tuna, yielding a total catch of 750 metric tons daily. To see the daily grind of the industry, you can visit General Santos City Fish Port Complex. Visitors must register and secure a permit first before entering the port. While there, you will see humungous tuna which could weigh as much as 70 kilograms.
Aside from its tuna produce, GenSan is also known to be the hometown of Manny Pacquiao—a legendary boxer, basketball player, and Senator of the Republic of the Philippines. If you’re in luck, you might just catch a glimpse of the man himself in the city. While Pacquiao’s mansions in GenSan are closed to the public, you can head to the Pacman Wild Card Gym where you can learn how to box like “The People’s Champ.”
Any trip to GenSan will never be complete without visiting the breathtaking Kalaja Karsts Park. This eco-tourism destination is home to beautiful campgrounds, waterfalls, and caves. Also in the park is Kalaja Cave, which boasts limestone rock formations and a natural pool about three meters deep. Meanwhile, the park’s Bunga Springs has clear spring waters that can entice anyone for a refreshing swim.
The Amsikong Falls, located on the boundary between Polomolok and General Santos City, is another natural attraction you shouldn’t miss. The trek to the falls is an adventure in itself, especially with a large group or with friends. While the trek to the falls can be tiring, the view of the 13-cascade falls and a swim in its cool waters will rejuvenate hikers while there.
For thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies, the Malakong Gorge is the ideal spot for some rock climbing. But if you want something more challenging, you can go hiking up Mount Matutum, located in Tupi, South Cotabato, just an hour’s drive away from GenSan.
General Santos is a city full of energy, and you can experience more of this when you visit 5th Mountain Adventure Park, located in GenSan’s Barangay Olympo. The park is home to the 800-meter zip-line, which is considered as the fastest in the city: it only takes 27 seconds to cross from point A to B. The adventure park also has an open air cable car, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding sceneries.
Events and Festivals
The tuna industry in General Santos City is one of its claims to fame. To commemorate this, the city celebrates the Tuna Festival as a gesture of thanksgiving for their main source of livelihood. Culinary competitions, carnivals, trade fails, dance competitions, beauty pageants, and the float light parade are some of the highly anticipated events of this citywide fiesta.
Where to Eat
Sarangani Highlands is a resort in GenSan with a restaurant that treats its guests not only to sumptuous Filipino and Chinese dishes but also to a spectacular view of the skyline. The restaurant serves delectable dishes made with the freshest produce from General Santos City.
While GenSan is known for their delicious seafood, the best place to try them all is at Tiongson Arcade. The establishment houses rows of eateries where you can enjoy the freshest seafood that are usually grilled on the spot. Their best-selling tuna can be enjoyed in different ways: grilled, ceviche style, or with a soup base.
Aside from tuna, balbacua is one of the favorite delicacies in the city. Balbacua is similar to bulalo, but beef skin is used in making the broth. When in GenSan, the best balbacua is served at Aweng’s, right along Jorge Royeca Boulevard.
Where to Shop
General Santos is considered the shopping capital of the Soccksargen region. If you’re eager to get some shopping done, there are huge shopping malls such as Robinsons Place GenSan, SM City GenSan, and Gaisano Mall of GenSan.
Fare: PHP 6,000.00++
Roundtrip airfares from Manila to GenSan range from PHP 6,000.00 to as much as PHP 10,000.00. Keep an eye out for seat sale promos so you can snag better deals.
A habal-habal ride in the city costs around PHP 20.00, while the base fare for the jeep is PHP 7.00. If you’re taking the cab, the flag down rate is PHP 30.00 with additional PHP 3.50 for every succeeding 500 meters.
Food: PHP 150.00 to PHP 250.00
A bowl of balbacua is only PHP 50.00. At the Tiongson Arcade, main dishes start at PHP 150.00. A budget of around PHP 150.00 to PHP 250.00 per meal is recommended when in GenSan.
Shopping: PHP 20.00 to PHP 300.00
Key chains and ref magnets are sold for PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 apiece, while souvenir shirts are priced between PHP 150.00 to PHP 250.00. You can also score some quirky memorabilia like a tuna papier-mâché, which retails for PHP 300.00.
Accommodations: PHP 800 to PHP 2,000.00
For budget travelers, there are hostels and inns that offer comfortable accommodations for only PHP 800.00 a night. There are also resort hotels that offer quality rooms starting at PHP 2,000.00 for an overnight stay,.
Activities: PHP 300.00 to PHP 1,200.00
Zip-line and cable car rides at the 5th Mountain Adventure Park cost PHP 300.00 per head. You can also go on a tour of the city for PHP 1,200.00.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
When dining at restaurants, tipping is no longer necessary since a service charge is most likely included in the bill. But if you insist, a PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 tip should be just fine.