GENERAL SANTOS CITY, SOUTH COTABATO, PHILIPPINES — It was around 7:00 in the evening when I’ve boarded the lantsa (ferry boat) from Balut Island which was bound to return to General Santos. The moment I’ve laid my back against the ferry’s bunker, I’ve fallen fast asleep. My stomach’s jealousy from the sound of crumpling breakfast wrappers signaled me to wake up. It was around 4:00 in the morning and we have docked at Puting Bato Wharf in General Santos City. It’s the third day of my solo adventure and I’ll be heading to General Santos Fish Port Complex located in Brgy. Tambler.
SOMEONE’S TOO EARLY
From Puting Bato Wharf, I just rented a tricycle bound to the fish port located in Brgy. Tambler. The guards have informed me that tourists can only enter once the tourist assistance center opens. So I’ve waited by the gates and watched busy people (in white boots) pass by. It was around 6:00 am when I was allowed to enter and hopped on to someone’s motorcycle. People here are indeed generous!
MAAYONG BUNTAG, GENERAL SANTOS FISH PORT!
Good morning, GenSan! The soft & warm hues of the sun’s rays were perfect for this morning adventure. They even glistened on the moist skin of the tunas. Although people are busy moving fishes (mostly yellow-fin tuna) as large as half-sack of rice, you could feel a warm welcome from them.
GOOFING AROUND WITH TITOS OF GENSAN
“Uy! Ikaw! Halika dito,” exclaimed one man while I was inspecting some tuna panga. I got startled. Did I do something wrong with the panga?
It turns out he was just one friendly tito who just wanted to ask if I’m a tourist and to comment about how I don’t look like one (I don’t know what to say about this haha!). His name is Kuya Nono. He immediately told a lot of stories the moment we’ve talked. For an introvert like me, it feels nice when a talkative person sets the pace of the conversation.
I was introduced to his cousin, Kuya Jojo, who also works at the port, and to almost everyone in the area. Before our conversation, I was just a tourist poking around and taking pictures of their daily work at the port. After our short introductions, they were happy to tour me around since their work was already finished. “Picture ka dun!” they said almost every minute, which I happily complied to.
HOW THEY GRADE THE TUNA
Of course, General Santos City wouldn’t be branded as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines” if its tuna are of low quality. Careful inspections are made to categorize the tuna on each level of a grading system. Usually, the highest class of tunas are delivered to top-rank hotels and restaurants (both local and international) and doesn’t even stay long at the port. There is minimal wastage since each tuna grade have its corresponding purpose.
From looking around and asking random questions around the port, they’ve shared with me how they grade the tuna. Aside from the shape and size of each individual fish, they also check the meat color and the fat content. They do so by first cutting a sample near the tail part of each individual tuna. Fatty tuna belongs to the high-grade tunas, which are perfect for sashimi dishes.
They would then examine the core of the fish using a sashibo, a pacified stainless steel rod used for sampling. The sashibo is punctured above the pectoral fin along the fish’ lateral line to sample the meat (which comes out in a tubular form). The core sample is evaluated separately for both color and fat and is compared to the tail sample. The greasier, the higher the fat content. The overall grade of the tuna is determined from the individual grade of each aspect.
TRAVEL GUIDE / TIPS
- HOW TO GET THERE. The nearest airport is General Santos International Airport (GES), although most flights are domestic. Once in General Santos City, just hire a tricycle (tri-sikad) if planning to go early in the morning. The fish port is located in Brgy. Tambler, which is quite a long ride from the city center.
- CONTACT INFO. The Port Manager’s Office of General Santos Fish Port Complex have the following telephone numbers: (083) 304-9474 / 552-0835.
- No entrance fee. Sweet!
- If planning to tour around, make sure you’re wearing pants. Otherwise, you can rent for loose jogging pants at the tourist center. White boots are required, you can rent them for PhP 20.
- Best time to go is early in the morning, where fish trading is at its peak.
This is part of an 11-day solo birthday adventure to Soccsksargen, Singapore, Tanjung Pinang / Bintan (Indonesia) & Johor Bahru (Malaysia). Read the rest of the adventure here:
- From GenSan to Gumasa Beach
- Balut Island, Davao Occidental
- General Santos Fish Port Complex
- Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
- Asik-asik Falls, (North) Cotabato
- Grand Mosque
- Pink Mosque
- Isulan & Baras Bird Sanctuary, Sultan Kudarat
- Lake Agco & Davao City
- Tanjungpinang, Riau Islands, Indonesia
- Loklok Hunting in Johor Bahru, Malaysia
- Marina Bay, Singapore