Sunday, November 6, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

Time flies fast. It's been almost 4 years when our youngest sister died and my last stepped in Mindanao was 2008 when we delivered my sister to her final resting place. We decided to visit her grave last October 2011 together with my sister (the eldest) and my hubby. Originally, the plan was together only with my 2 sisters but while the travel date was getting near, my other sister became unavailable. So, I picked hubby to join us which he hardly refused at first. The reason: because we are going to Mindanao. I understand his initial reaction; he was very scared we might get ambushed there lols! I know, that's the impression of the Manilenyos about Mindanao; a war zone area. Mindanao has 6 administrative regions: Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, Caraga, ARMM and of course, SOCCSKSARGEN or the Region 12 and it's where my hometown belongs - the South Cotabato. SOCCSKSARGEN means SOuth Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, SARanggani and GENeral Santos.

But my hubby cannot resist me; I told him if ever I get "lucky" to get ambushed there I would be glad and happy to die with him ahahaha! It took a matter of days convincing him to go with us and be our very brave "bodyguard" in Mindanao. The more excited we feel while the date is getting near was exactly as opposite as what my hubby feels - afraid. Poor hubby but I am very proud to say that he conquer his fear because he already stepped in Mindanao; the City of General Santos, City of Koronadal in South Cotabato and would you believe he was also able to entered Sultan Kudarat? Yahoo! This means that his bad impression about Mindanao had totally vanished. Honestly, I was surprised when he said he want to come back soon. Awww... He seems more excited than me eh? 

Day 1 - Koronadal (Marbel)

As early as 3:00 am, we were already in the NAIA 3. The queue from outside was quite long. I realized that a lot are travelling at that early time going to their provinces compared in daytime. We flew via Airphil Express. By the way, it was Airphil's first route to Gensan last October 20, 2011. We are one of their first passengers they brought safely to General Santos. Thank you Airphil Express! Me and my sister availed the remaining 2 available slots of P888++ (P1,497 all-in per person) promo they had a month before and I booked hubby a regular fare P1,700++ (P2,700 approx. all-in) a week before our travel date.

Our flight was 5:15 am and it was our first time to see the uprising of the sun from above. I noticed that the thick clouds formation were like giving applause, too lols! See that? The view from the plane was an inspiring awe. Wow!

Approaching the General Santos City International Airport.

It was an hour and fifteen minutes travel in the air and our plane finally touched down the General Santos safely. Applause for Airphil's success for their first route to the City of General Santos!

Panoramic view of the General Santos City International Airport. 
"The largest airport in Mindanao and was built mainly on a fund granted by the United States Government in 1993. It's the third longest runway - to date - after Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Manila) and Mactan-Cebu International Airport (Cebu). The first airport in Mindanao to have accommodated the landing and take-off of Boeing 747-200 and Boeing 747-400 aircraft."
Hello Mt. Matutum! (I meant the volcano in the background).

Since our plane just disembarked passengers, we didn't hurry to go to the baggage claim area for our checked-in bags because we saw the airport staffs were still taking it out from the aircraft. In this airport, it is not that busy as NAIA so we felt safe to take pictures around. I can't explain the feeling of stepping again in my home land - the Land of Promise...Mindanao. At 6:30 am, the sunlight was already intense and painful to skin so we headed to claim our baggage. The baggage carousel wasn't moving yet and we stood up there for a couple of minutes. Expect to meet annoying porters. I remembered saying "No" for 5 times before they actually stop when they realized we were actually 3 and can manage to bring our baggage out of the airport.

When we're already out of the airport, the haggling starts. I hate this part lols. I was shocked to know that the van fare from Gensan directly to Marbel has gone higher than I expected. Last 2008, the fare per pax was only P150 but now, it's freakin' P400. In our itinerary, we should take van for convenience but I counted a fare of P200 per pax only. The taxi drivers are also offering a more freakin' P1,500. In the end, we took the van. Then, the taxi drivers chased us and dropped the rate at P1,200. We still chose the van since it will be a 45 minutes ride to Koronadal City and we needed space for comfort than squeezing our butts in the cab. There's a guy who suddenly appeared and carried the rest of our baggage and said he was with the van driver. We gave to him our other baggage. When we are already inside the van, he asked us then for a fee for his light snack later. He's a porter pala. So annoying. My hubby gave him P20. The van we hopped in was brand new. 

The airport is quite far from the city proper of Gensan. The easiest and convenient way from the airport going to the city of Gensan is through a van or taxi especially if you have heavy baggage. I saw multi-cabs and tricycles outside, too. It depends on where will be your destinations - to Kiamba, Saranggani, Tumbler or in the city proper. 

Now, if you're alone and going to South Cotabato or Sultan Kudarat, taking the van is best. But if you're a group of 2 and more and in a tight budget, here's an alternate way from the airport to go to the city proper:

Fares below are as of October 2011
         To Koronadal (Marbel)
               Taxi from airport to Bulaong Terminal (Gensan)             - P300
               Yellow Bus (aircon) from Bulaong Terminal to Marbel    - P83/ pax
         To Tacurong & Isulan
               Yellow Bus (aircon) from Marbel to Tacurong                - P45/ pax
               Yellow Bus (aircon)from Tacurong to Isulan                  - P15/ pax
* Tricycle - minimum fare of P8-10/ pax

We arrived in Koronadal at 7:30 am. After settling in the hotel and rested for a bit, we headed out to take breakfast. We ate in Jollibee of KCC Mall which opens as early as 8:00 in the morning. The sun was striking hot in our skin. I can't believe it was that intense when it was only 8:30. I've been living in Manila for over 10 years and now I am not used anymore of the heat of my hometown. Mindanao is a typhoon-free area and most in Mindanao area including Koronadal, the climate is hot and humid all year round. It rains but you can't clearly say that the area has also wet climate.

As far as I remembered, the KCC was just named KCC Department Store when I was 10. It's been changed to KCC Mall of Marbel when they bought the adjacent store (Datu Complex) and the adjacent lot next to Datu Complex early 2000 (correct me if I'm wrong).

After eating breakfast, we took the back entrance of KCC and started to do sight-seeing of our hometown. We saw a lot of changes. Progress really hitting our hometown and I feel really, really proud. 

Bigger ACE Commercial.

Samahang Nayon Bldg. 

We went to this area hoping we could find a small store owned by someone that will lead us to our immediate relative but we were failed because the small store have been removed already from the corner of ACE Commercial. After buying something from the grocery store, we decided to go back to our hotel. Honestly, we haven't been sleep yet and we had a headache and the heat aggravated it more especially it's almost noon time. We fell asleep for about 2 hours. Even it was just a nap; we felt recovered and energized again.

Villa Nina Apartelle
We chose this apartelle simply because it is located in the opposite side of our once owned big lot so many years ago.

I grew up here.

Looking back at old days, I can't help but regret. I regret that my family sold this parcel. I thought of maybe if I could turn back the time, I wish I am already working in real estate then. I could have stopped them selling this precious parcel. What could a 14 years old girl do versus the elders in the family but to just watch and goes on with the flow? 

Around 4:00 pm, we decided to go out and take a walk along Alunan Avenue. A lot has been flash-backing in my mind. What can I say? It really feels good to be back. 

This street leads to Pilot Elementary School and Koronadal National Comprehensive High School (KNCHS) where I studied.

South Cotabato Gymnasium & Cultural Sports

My sister (2nd) studied in this university.

When we reached Notre Dame of Marbel University, we felt tired and very thirsty. We realized we hadn't eaten our lunch yet. Talk about changing of body clock when going to other places huh!  We thought of taking a ride back and eat in Jollibee but good thing I remembered Figueroa Highlands. I've read about this restaurant located in the hillside near Alunan Avenue. So, off we go.

From Alunan Avenue to the hillside, you won't be lost because there's a big signage in the right side of the road. The tricycle dropped us right there on top where the open space parking is located and also the entrance of Figueroa Highlands. It was around 5:00 pm then and we see the staffs sweeping the dried leaves on the ground. We're the only customers when we arrived. We ordered food and while they are preparing it  to fill our hungry tummy, we had the place for ourselves and freely took a lot of pictures (talk about evidence lols).

Figueroa Highlands
Open space parking.

The place is nice. It is clean and landscaped. 

We waited for our order for about 15-20 minutes. We ordered Bihon since it's already very late for lunch. Just to fill our stomach. Yes, we are hungry but to be honest, Bihon tasted sooo good! When you have the chance to go to Koronadal, don't forget to have a taste of Figueroa's bihon. A must try!

After granting our gluttony, we wanted to stay a little bit more until it gets dark because I know the place is a nice sight at night but I got a text from my college best friend that she was already waiting for me in our hotel. So, we went down the road and take tricycle going to the round ball. From there, we opted to just walk going back to our hotel.

 Round ball or Rotunda

When we arrived in the hotel, I saw my best friend from the outside. I ran to her and made beso. Earlier that morning after settling in the hotel, I went to her office and we agreed to meet after her work. After some chit-chat and talking about whereabouts of our other college friends, she invited us for a dinner and off we go.

We dined at Patti's Restaurant. It's just along Gen. Santos Drive near KCC. My friend said, she with her family frequently visits the restaurant because it serves delicious foods. The restaurant is al fresco and they have a folk singer that time.

Tropical fruit salad for dessert.

My friend ordered 5 various dishes and it was all delish! My hubby can't stop praising Koronadal when he had a taste of the grilled hito. My hubby is not fond eating fish but that one was exceptional. We were so full. My hubby said Koronadal serves delicious food and very cheap. Yes, of course! After dinner, hubby and I felt drowsy and off we go to bed early.

Until my next post: Day 2 - Tacurong & Isulan


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