SarBay fest, Mindanao’s biggest beach party, cancelled due to Covid-19 jitters

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 12 March) – The upcoming Sarangani Bay (SarBay) festival, the biggest summer beach party in Mindanao if not the entire country, was cancelled due to the dreaded 2019 novel coronavirus (Covid-19) threat, organizers said.

Beach volleyball in Gumasa, Glan municipality, during the Sarangani Bay Festival (SarBay) in 2016. File photo by Russel Delvo, Sarangani Information Office

Sarangani Gov. Steve Solon said the SarBay fest in Glan town’s Gumasa village, touted as the “Boracay of the South,” has been postponed as part of the province’s precautionary measure against Covid-19.

“As excited as we all are, the Sarangani provincial government and organizers prioritize your health and security. Our prayer is for everyone’s best and we can’t wait to see you all in 2021,” the provincial government said in an advisory issued Wednesday.

Solon on Wednesday facilitated a provincial government workshop to fight Covid-19, attended by health workers and other stakeholders in the province.

He noted that transparency is vital to combat the deadly disease that the World Health Organization now classifies as a pandemic.

“We need to speak the truth to the public without alarming them,” Solon said.

President Duterte early this week placed the entire Philippines under a state of public health emergency due to the confirmed local cases of Covid-19.

Glan, a bucolic town at least an hour away from this city by vehicle, is considered the top tourism destination in Sarangani, mainly due to its  fine white sand beaches in Gumasa and nearby villages.

This year would have been the 13th edition of the SarBay fest, which was launched in 2006 during the term of then Governor Miguel Rene Dominguez. In 2017, it was cancelled due to security reasons following the siege staged by Islamic State-inspired Maute Group in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur.

Rhoa Wadingan, acting Glan tourism officer, said this year’s SarBay fest is slated on May 28 to 31.

The SarBay fest has become the ultimate summer beach party scene in Mindanao, attracting thousands of visitors. Night-long music by popular bands and water sports-related activities are among the main features of the festival.

Last year, at least 2.5 tons of wastes were collected from merrymakers during the SarBay festival themed “Neon Summer.”

Gumasa has become famous not only among domestic but also foreign tourists.

In February, Glan town banned the entry of Chinese nationals after four of their citizens sneaked in as tourists, as a precautionary measure against Covid-19.

The four Chinese tourists were quarantined in isolation in Alabel, the capital of Sarangani, and were eventually released after testing negative for the highly contagious and deadly virus. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)