Travel and Tourism

I believe I can fly in Sarangani

FROM THE HEART - Gina Lopez - The Philippine Star

I first visited Sarangani in the early part of this year. Governor Steve Solon ran unopposed and if you meet him, you will understand why. You also have to meet his energetic and very charming wife, Michelle, and I am confident that you will probably come up with the same conclusion as I and everyone else does: they are a very good team — honest, committed and very efficient.

I saw different possibilities there, which were revisited over the weekend. It was a family affair. It was my sister, Berta, who really wanted to go. Being the last weekend before I go on my bi-annual retreat, I coerced my sons into going. My other sister Marisa agreed to go with her two kids and then Ernie, who heads ABS-CBN Publishing, plus my first cousin Rogy — and it was a wonderful family affair. Included was Rose Ann Belmonte, who is almost like family to me. Our kids have been classmates since they were in kindergarten until now in college.

The conclusion? Sarangani is good to go.


I met a Norwegian there who said that Sarangani was the best paragliding place in Asia because there are no intrusions along its coast. In particular he was talking about the Sarangani Bay Paragliding site at the Safil Ranch. It is a little bit pricey but I have had dreams of flying. And my favorite song is I Believe I Can Fly, so I bought in. It is P3,000 per glide but if you are a group of six, then you end up paying P2,500 each.

My experience: if you want to be like a bird, feeling flight, feeling free, this is the way to go. Don’t do it on a full stomach, though, like I did — it made me feel a bit nauseated. However the feeling of flight was incredible. I was up in the air a little over 20 minutes, and this was actually educational because Buko — the only paragliding instructor in the entire country — informed me about drafts and about riding the drifts. I really felt that I could go even higher up and touch the clouds, or that I could perhaps zoom to another island. And it is safe. There are hardly any accidents. Buko is such an expert  — even my landing was graceful. The exciting news is the first-ever paragliding international event is going to be held in Sarangani from Aug. 22-24. If you are interested in going there, call Buko Raymundo at 215-1015 or Christopher at 0922-8071961. Another enticement is that, while you wait for your turn, you can engage in some archery for only P500. My nephew was thrilled that he shot several bull’s-eyes on his first-ever attempt. There will be kites to fly and food to eat as well. Come to this event and then you can visit all our other ecotourism sites.

Target shooting

This was my son Roberto’s request. The governor had told him about this previously, and it hadn’t left his mind, so he agreed to give Sarangani another go. The first time I brought him, I was too busy with community work. My clear realization is that I should not mix work with my sons’ visit to the places. They want to enjoy. So that’s what we did. They were joined by Rose Ann Belmonte, who told me the story of how her father had rescued her mother by shooting an “attacker” when she was very young. So she took up target practice with zest.

The fish port

This similarly elicited exclamation points from those who visited. One goes early in the morning, around 6 a.m. to catch the huge tuna. You see how they classify the tuna — the yellow tuna, the blue fin tuna and huge mackerels. If they put up a restaurant here, just like Fisherman’s Wharf, it will be a hit.

Water tubing

My sisters and their kids loved this! The thrill of riding the river on a salbabida  (the inner tube of a tire) was exciting. And the side on the Pangi River is operated by a hardworking T’boli community in New La Union.

Zipline across lake Sebu

Those who did this were effusive in their praise. The ride at Seven Falls is the highest zipline in Asia. The breathtaking view of majestic waterfalls, lush vegetation and the meandering river below resulted in statements like: “The best ever!”

Koronadal Siok Falls

There was such a big improvement from the last time I was here. There is now a visitor center, a shed for bikes, a place to eat, a makeshift toilet and the community seemed so much more organized. They functioned very well as guides, and assisted in the climb. There were bamboo railings along the hike making it safe. The forest — oh, the forest! There is something to be said about a pristine non-commercial forest. That is what Siok Falls offers. It gave me so much energy. I was still feeling it even after I had landed in Manila. I was wondering why near midnight I was still awake. I usually plunk down in exhaustion by that time. Then I figured out it was the forest.

sarangani highlands

This is a hotel having a gorgeous view of Sarangani Bay plus it is very nicely landscaped. Gardeners were ecstatic. The attraction is its owner Doc Joe Ruiz. He made us feel so at home — attending to all our needs. To think it is only 20 minutes from the airport.

the farm at carpenter hill

This is the hotel in Koronadal. A fusion of Japanese and Filipino done in very good taste, we all found it beautiful. It has villas for only P4,500. And the rooms are priced from P2,500 to P3,500. The hotel itself is well appointed. And the food is good.

The whole trip lasting four days and three nights including the hotels, the food, the transportation — everything — was P11,000 (exclusive of airfare, and fees for paragliding). That is a real bargain. To think that while spending all that money you are in fact helping the communities. Because they cook for you, we pay them for visiting their sites, we jack up the local economy and fulfill P-Noy’s and everyone’s wish for inclusive growth.

* * *

Please visit the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwCAFu25Bek&feature=youtu.be to watch how we enjoyed our stay here.

Sarangani is open the whole year round. They don’t have typhoons. It is safe and the people are wonderful. If you are interested in going call Bantay Kalikasan, Green Initiative hotline at 415-2272 local 4551 or email [email protected].

I can be reached at [email protected].








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