Itching for a new adventure? Why not opt for the road less traveled, and give SOCCSKSARGEN a try. 

Region 12, or SOCCSKSARGEN (SOX, colloquially), consists of four provinces: South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Sarangani, and the Highly Urbanized City of General Santos. The region is filled with natural wonders like Lake Sebu, the Pangi River, and the Bakngeb River Cave. 

SOX is also a place with rich cultural heritage; it is home to the T’boli Tribe, known for their T’nalak cloth that are made of woven abaca fibers. And there’s also the thousands-year-old burial jars in Maitum, as well as the old heritage buildings in Sarangani. 

Apart from the cultural destinations, there are also plenty of nature spots worthy of visiting in SOX. There are beaches in Sarangani and also bird sanctuaries, Pawikan nesting sites, and Mangrove forests.

Here’s a rundown of the most well-known tour destinations in the region:

Lake Sebu Tours – Budget: Less than Php1,000

View of the sunset from Lake Sebu. Photo by Allan Barredo courtesy of the Department of Tourism – Region 12.

This natural lake shares its name with the town it’s in. A valuable watershed, it provides important irrigation to the provinces of Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato. 

The Lake Sebu Tour takes one to two days to complete, depending on the pace of the group and the chosen stops. Popular tour destinations include the Seven Falls Zipline, the highest zipline in Southeast Asia, where guests zipline through two stations, all while getting a view of the four out of seven cascading waterfalls beneath. 

Nearby, there’s some DOT Accredited Resorts, which offer boat cruise around Lake Sebu. The Lake Sebu Tour also includes a stop at the Lang Dulay T’nalak Weaving Center, which gives guests a chance to appreciate a centuries-old tradition. Called T’nalak Dreamweaving, it is a form of dyed abaca lacework mastered by T’boli Dreamweavers such as the late Lang Dulay. 

For more information, visit the LGU Lake Sebu facebook page.

Lake Holon Tours – two to three days. Budget: Php1,500 to 2,000 per head 

View of the clear water from Lake Holon. Photo by Gerald Marcfred Dillera courtesy of the Department of Tourism – Region 12.

This circuit tour focuses on the Great Lake Holon, which is found in Tboli, South Cotabato. Holon is a crater lake, and is noted for its beautiful, clear, turquoise water. The tour consists of a trek through Mount Melibengoy. This goes all the way down to the crater lake itself.

The hike employs native Tboli guides, and would take tourists through a choice of two trails, Sitio Kule or Salacafe. 

Sitio Kule is a more advanced trail, and takes three to five hours to complete. Salacafe, on the other hand, is easier, and would take about three hours. Both trails provide travelers with views of farmlands, clear bodies of water, and fresh mountain air.

After the trek down, tourists can then camp by the lakeside of Holon, which offers a wide view of the night sky.

Apart from the Lake Holon tour, the circuit offers packages to various nearby farms and parks. There’s the Tupi Fruit Park with its fresh fruits, vegetable produce, and panoramic views of Mt. Matutum and the Bakngeb River Cave tour.

For more information, call the Tboli Tourism Office at  083 237 1205.

River Tubing Tours – one to two days. Budget: Php200 for the 30-minute River tubing in Pangi River

Water tubing in River Tubing. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism – Region 12.

The River Tubing tour offers a ride over the Pangi River in New La Union, Maitum, Sarangani Province.

The tour highlight is the white water tubing, which is similar to river rafting. It differs only with its tube-like raft as compared to a traditional raft’s oblong shape. The adventure brings tourists a 1.6 kilometer river ride filled with rapids, twists and turns, and great splashes of water.

While you will definitely get wet, and perhaps swallow some water, the ride is relatively safe. After the river ride, tourists can then learn about the country’s ancient history with an exploration of the Anthropomorphic Jars found in Maitum, Sarangani. 

The jars were used for burial ceremonies by the indigenous tribes in the area and were dated way back to the Iron Age about 5 BC. to 225 A.D. Replicas of the burial jars bearing effigies of a deceased person’s head are on display at the Maitum exhibition in the town’s municipal building. The original pieces are on display at the National Museum in Manila.

For more information, call the Sarangani Tourism Office at (083) 508-5253, or Email [email protected]

Sarangani Beach Tours – Day Tour – Budget: Php1,500 to 2,000

Boats of local fishermen. Photo by Jericho Mariano courtesy of the Department of Tourism – Region 12.

This tour offers travelers an alternative to Boracay or Bohol—Glan, Sarangani. To reach the town, travelers take an hour and a half flight from Manila going to General Santos City, followed by a land trip to Sarangani.

According to locals and tourists alike, the beaches and clear waters of Glan can rival the sands and waves of the most sought after beach destinations in the country. The most popular one is Gumasa Beach, which features a coastline made up of powdery white sand beaches and lined with coconut trees. 

In nearby Kapatan, there is the Lago Dive Spot. It is beside an aquaculture farm for the unique sergeant fish, with its neon-like, bright blue and yellow colors.

Glan also has a black-sand beach. The sparkly quality of the sand is due to the silica rich content of the sand in the coastline. There’s also a Heritage Tour in the town of Glan; the old town center is filled with ancestral houses mixed with commercial buildings that go back centuries.

For more information, call the Sarangani Tourism Office at (083) 508-5253.

Mt. Apo Food and Climb Tours – three day, 2 nights, budget Php2,000 

Baras birds. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism – Region 12.

Mt. Apo is the highest peak in the Philippines, with an elevation of 2,954 meters, or 9,692 feet. It is known as one of the best ecotourism destinations in the country. Kidapawan’s Mandangan trail and Magpet’s Bongolanon trail include forest views and an enduring adventure-hike experience to the mountain’s peak. 

Mt. Apo is one of the most popular climbing destinations in the country, with its massive boulders, technical terrains, and sulfur craters. The mountain is also home to the endangered Philippine Monkey-eating Eagle, as well as other endemic species like the Scops Owl, Philippine Brown Deer, and the Mindanao Lorikeet. 

Travel safely!

All tourist destinations in Soccksargen have health and safety protocols in place to protect locals and visitors alike. Everyone is expected to comply by wearing face masks, regularly washing their hands, and practicing physical distancing.

To check up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.

For the latest advice, information and resources, you may check and visit each LGU’s website or Facebook pages:

General Santos City – https://www.facebook.com/LguGensan 

Lake Sebu – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100069254107931 

Midsayap – https://www.facebook.com/midsayaptourismofficial 

Koronadal City – https://www.facebook.com/CityGovernmentofKoronada 

Magpet – https://www.facebook.com/municipalityofmagpet 

Kidapawan – https://www.facebook.com/kidapawancitytourismoffice 

Lake Holon, Tboli – https://www.facebook.com/LakeHolonOfficialPage