GLAN, Sarangani (MindaNews /22 August) — Over the years, tens of thousands of local tourists have been flocking annually to this idyllic, century-old town largely due to its fine white sand beaches in Barangay Gumasa, which is being hyped as the “Boracay of the South.”
But beyond the famous beaches in Gumasa lies another charming powdery white sand coastline still in very pristine condition that offers no-frill adventures and chill time away from the urban jungle.
Fifteen kilometers away from Gumasa is Barangay Burias, which is becoming popular to tourists looking for secluded and enchanting swimming spots to spend the weekends or holidays.
The trip to Burias in itself provides a refreshing sight. The left side of the concrete, winding road offers a view of the rolling hills and plains planted with coconut and corn crops. On the right side, the majestic Sarangani Bay can be seen in some parts of the highway.
From the main highway, the white sand beaches of Burias are about 3.5 kilometers away over unpaved roads that are accessible to all kinds of vehicles.
Gumasa, which is about 10 kilometers away from the poblacion or downtown area, has a string of well-developed resorts usually packed with tourists during weekends and holidays. It is the go-to-scene for those who love parties or huge crowds.
It has become popular due to the annual staging of the Sarangani Bay festival, or SarBay fest, undisputedly the biggest beach party in the country held during summer.
In 2017, Glan recorded around 370,000 tourist arrivals, majority of whom came to swim at Gumasa’s well-developed beach resorts.
Indeed, Burias is too far behind Gumasa in terms of development.
But the former is beginning to attract tourists, including couples and motorcycle groups seeking other beautiful beaches in this rustic 106-year-old municipality, one of the oldest settlements in Mindanao.
“Tourists, mostly locals with some foreigners, learned about our place through word of mouth and social media,” Bazaron Kingkim, supervisor of the family-owned Kingkim Beach Resort, told MindaNews.
Besides Kingkim, the other resorts operating in the village are Crystal Shore Beach Resort, Malingkat Beach Resort and Salisipan Point View Resort. They offer bare amenities tailored for the ordinary Filipino, or tourists who are not picky.
Aside from being secluded, the fine white sand and the turquoise crystal-clear waters of Burias beaches are the reasons why tourists flock here, he noted.
So far, the beach resorts along the coasts of Barangay Burias offer a few airconditioned accommodation, with the priciest fetching PhP 2,500 for an overnight stay. Many are “air-cooled” or open cottages that cost a few hundred pesos.
Entrance fee to the resorts is less than PhP 100 per head overnight.
Tourists can go for a 15-minute rented boat ride to Bato Buri, a cove that’s ideal for swimming, especially for kids. Its coastline is also covered with fine white sand. Giant rocks, in some portions of the cove, are ideal for “selfies” or group photographs.
There’s also a floating cottage on the way to Bato Buri where tourists can slide or dive to the sea. The cottage is circled by corals and a nice spot for snorkeling.
Tausugs who populate the communities along the shorelines of Barangay Burias
say they have been spotting dolphins farther away from the shoreline for years.
Besides dolphins, dugongs (sea cows), pawikans (turtles) and whales have been documented to swim across Sarangani Bay, declared a protected seascape by former President Fidel Ramos. The bay covers 215,950 hectares across the towns of Glan, Malapatan, Alabel (the provincial capital), Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum, and the chartered city of General Santos.
Bazaron assured their community is safe and populated by peace-loving Moro residents.
As part of the experience in Burias, tourists can mingle with these hospitable families. Upon request, Moro women would readily cook food for guests — rice or shells and fish freshly caught. They don’t fix a rate for their service, but you can reward them out of your heart’s generosity.
One of the unforgettable things to experience at the resort is eating exotic sea urchins for a few pesos.
Still, it is best to bring your own food and drinking water, especially for those in a large group. In deference to the area’s predominantly Muslim population, tourists are advised to refrain from bringing pork.
Glan town remains under the COVID-19 general community quarantine classification until August 31 and is open only to tourists within Region 12, Mayor Vivien Yap said.
Fully-vaccinated tourists can enter the town while non-vaccinated ones need to present negative COVID-19 antigen results 72 hours before entering the locality, she added.
Tourists must book with a resort before they can enter the town, Yap said.
Norsal Kingkim, an Imam or religious leader in the community and Bazaron’s uncle, said more local tourists have been flocking to the beaches in Barangay Burias since the area still remains basically unspoiled.\
“They come here for the natural beauty of the place and to swim in the crystal-clear waters of our white sand beaches,” he told MindaNews.
Burias also boasts of white sand beaches, now no longer a secret jewel of the municipality that is less than two hours away from General Santos City. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)