The two component cities in South Cotabato, Koronadal (formerly known as Marbel) and General Santos (formerly known as Dadiangas), are separated by 58 kilometers of well-paved roads. It would also take appromixately an hour to reach one destination from the other, via the Yellow Bus or a private vehicle. In both options, one could enjoy the following views: the majestic Mt. Matutum, vast pineapple plantations and lush forests. Although I previously mentioned in a travel post mortem the various sidetrips during our first trip to this province, I felt that the two or so sentences in that entry did not fully capture our experience.
Allow me to start at General Santos, which was the jumpoff in all my 3 recent trips to South Cotabato. We usually take a late breakfast at a balbacuahan before heading for Marbel which I find surprising since this city is known for tuna processing more than its delicious beef soup eateries. My personal favorite is Aweng’s Balbacuahan at Calumpang along the National Highway.
If you have made a prior reservation at Kalsangi, then this exclusive DOLE clubhouse could be your next stop. This is located at Polomok, the first municipality after General Santos. Along the way, you may have your group picture taken at a huge pineapple monument on the right side of the road. Head next for the Durian Garden, a 3 hectare property in Barangay Awas. They are famous for their durian plantation and beautiful floral gardens. Take out some of their delicious durian pies which are said to be among the best in this region.
The Kablon Fruit Stands is your next pitstop which is located at Tupi. The fruits and vegetables here are really cheap in comparison to those being sold at groceries elsewhere. The produce on display are the ones in season so you can be assured that these are fresh and locally sourced as well. Buy some of the sweet ‘MG-3 pineapples’ and singkamas that you can delightfully nibble along your journey.
Finally, make a mandatory stopover at Apareja Buko Halo Halo for their well, halo-halos. This is the perfect comfort snack especially during humid afternoons. I remember that it was also priced reasonably for every serving since the buko (young coconut) container is filled to overflowing with fresh fruits and sweet camote. It was also my first time to encounter the rootcrop in this Filipino dessert. It added a different texture and sweetness to the usual fruit mixture.
And I must agree that once you have tasted Apareja’s halo-halo, you definitely want to return for more. But it was quite different for me since I found myself returning to South Cotabato not for Apareja’s but for the other destinations of this beautiful province. I was indeed wrong to think that our weekend adventures in May of last year would be my last visit as I seldom return to a place where I have already visited before. It is without a doubt then that this province has a lot to offer in terms of the already popular tourist destinations, the off-the-beaten stops and even the sidetrips in between.