General Santos

Kalilangan Festival parade

General Santos City is commonly called Gensan and is one of the fastest growing cities in the Philippines. It is also the southernmost city of the country. It is not as big as Manila or Cebu, but it is a city with a well-balanced urbanization. As of 2010, there are already over 538,000 people in the city, making it one of the most populous cities in the country. Gensan is surrounded by the municipalities of Maasim, Polomolok, and Alabel. To the south of the city is Sarangani Bay. Koronadal is the capital of South Cotabato, but General Santos is the center of commerce and trade in the province and in the whole Region XII. Gensan and the neighboring areas are collectively known as SOCCSKARGEN, which includes the provinces of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat as well as Cotabato City.

The name General Santos comes from the General who came to the area more than 70 years ago. His name is General Paulino Santos, and he led the transfer of 62 Christian settlers from Luzon. This movement was part of the National Land Settlement Administration, which was headed by the Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon. The settlers from the north came to the shores of Sarangani Bay on a steam ship on the 27th of February 1939. From that day on, the landscape of the place changed. The 62 pioneers were mostly young adults in the field of agriculture and trade. Together, they cultivated the soils of Gensan and introduced modern trade. The influx of people from Luzon and Visayas, however, resulted in the displacement of the original settlers of the B’laan tribe. The B’laans, who lost their livelihood to the new settlers, were left with no choice but to move up the mountains.

Progress continued with the addition of big multinational companies in the city and in the adjacent areas. The expansion of Dole Philippines and UDAGRI led to the economic upsurge of the once municipality of General Santos in the mid-1960s. The late Congressman James L. Chiongbian authored the Republic Act No. 5412, which was approved on July 8, 1968, to convert the municipality into a city. Today, more than 40 years since its birth, General Santos City is known as one of the highly urbanized cities in the country.

Agriculture and fishing industry fuel the economy of the city. The rich soil and even rainfall throughout the year favors growth of corn, coconut, banana, rice, and pineapple. Livestock and poultry also form a significant part of the city’s economy. As for the fishing industry, General Santos is a major source of sashimi-grade tuna. There are seven tuna processing plants in the city. Needless to say it is coined as the Tuna Capital of the country. To give you an idea of the lush fishing industry, approximately 750 metric tons of fish are caught daily.

Climate

General Santos City lies just 6 degrees above the equator, so the climate is warm all year round. Temperature would range from 23 to 31°C (73 - 90°F). There are no pronounced wet and dry seasons, unlike in the northern areas of the Philippines, but expect March and April to be the driest and hottest months.

Money

ATMs Banks are everywhere in the city of General Santos. Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) has branches along Pioneer Avenue, Santiago Boulevard, and Jose Catolico Avenue. Banco de Oro (BDO) has one branch beside Sydney Hotel and another branch along Santiago Boulevard. Along Roxas Avenue is the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). Land Bank of the Philippines has branches along national highway and Pioneer Avenue. Metropolitan Bank branches can be seen along Pioneer Avenue and Santiago Boulevard. Union Bank of the Philippines has two branches along Pioneer Avenue. All these banks have ATMs that allow withdrawal of funds anytime. However, the major malls have ATMs of the major banks, too, for the shoppers’ convenience.

You can have your money exchanged for local currency at banks. There are a few money changers in the city. Aljam Money Changer is located at Villareal Building along Osmeña Street. Nur Money Changer is along Jose Catolico Avenue. Another is worthing Money Changer, which is at Door 2, Mendoza Building along Magsaysay Avenue. For less hassle, you can go to KCC Mall and look for Al-Iskandar Money Changer or to Robinsons Place and look for Mariz Money Changer.

Visa for Foreigners

Visa requirements for entering and staying in General Santos are the same as those in any other cities in the Philippines. Visitors from certain countries can enter the Philippines without a visa, as long as they do not stay longer than 30 days. These countries are Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Take note that visitors from Israel and Brazil can stay in the country for 29 days without a visa. Those who are not from these countries should get visa at the Bureau of Immigration. You can visit the Philippine Embassy to apply for a temporary visa. 

Visa Extensions

Upon your arrival in General Santos City, the immigration office will require you to show your return tickets. If you are staying beyond 21 days, you need visa extension. The first visa extension lasts for 38 days and getting one costs ₱3,010. The second visa extension, which lasts for 59 days, is more expensive. The longer you stay, the more fees you have to pay. If you are already in Gensan, you can visit the Immigration Office to have your visa extended. It is located on the second floor Arcade II East Asia Building in Royal Hotel along national highway. You can contact this number (083) 552 3442.