WHITE-WATER TUBING along Pangi River in MAITUM, SARANGANI

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The coastal municipality of Maitum is the westernmost part of the Southern Mindanao province of Sarangani in the Philippines. Bordered on the west and north by the provinces of Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato respectively, the south by the Celebes Sea, and the east by the Sarangani municipality of Kiamba, it is also a mini-melting pot of sorts, with a population comprised of mostly Ilocano stock as well as the indigenous T’boli. Maitum in a way could be considered the primary agricultural center of Sarangani, thanks to its comparatively high rice production compared to the rest of the province. In the past it was something of a sleepy town, but the completion of a highway and the accompanying advent of global communication and technology have helped uplift Maitum to the point that it has begun diversifying its economic activity, similar to the other municipalities of Sarangani.

While Glan has its beaches (actually most of Sarangani have them, but Glan prides itself on being the center of that sector) and Maasim has its high elevations for paragliding for instance, Maitum is hard at work cultivating a new attraction aimed at drawing more tourists in. There’s a river coming down from the highlands up north that passes through the municipality, in particular through Barangay New la Union. This is the Pangi, a briskly flowing waterway that tumbles over many a smooth stone and boulder along its course, a veritable white water zone. Enterprising Sarangans saw the Pangi River and thought: Wouldn’t this make a for a nice white-water navigation course?

That sounds all fine and dandy except for one thing – the Pangi isn’t exactly wide across, and shallow enough at some parts that would make it impractical for a rubber raft to go through the entire course, much like how it goes at the Cagayan De Oro River in Northern Mindanao, which is booked by a lot of tour and rafting companies along its course. But brilliant minds find ways, and eventually the rubber raft was traded in for something more compact, more affordable, and from a certain point of view more thrilling. Thus was born the Pangi River White Water Tubing tours.

Imagine the experience of winding down a white water course, all torrents and shallows and rocks smoothed by the river’s flow. But instead of being on a raft, with a team of rowers, steersman and guide braving the natural roller coaster of water, it’s just you alone on a large rubber inner tube to support your weight, holding onto the attached handgrips for dear life as you get tossed up and down, left and right as the Pangi River wends along its way. That’s what is ahead of any daring adventurers willing to brave the Water Tubing tour.

Have we got your attention now? If you think this wild river ride is something you’d like to try out, then it’s a simple matter of heading to Sarangani province and the municipality of Maitum. This is the easy part; Sarangani is split into two areas with General Santos City in between, and the city is accessible by sea and air. Planes from Manila and Cebu can go to either General Santos City International Airport or Davao City International Airport. In case of the latter you’ll need to take an extra 4-5 hour bus trip to GSC. Passenger ferries on certain major port locations can also reach the city through its seaport. Once in General Santos it’s a simple land trip to Maitum on the western section of Sarangani, via air-conditioned public vans at marked-out terminals, 100 Pesos for a 2-hour ride.

The White Water tour is at New La Union, which is reachable upon arriving at Maitum proper through a “habal-habal” motorcycle ride, 25 Pesos per person. The entrance to the tour center is 10 Pesos, but if you’re really going on the tube ride down the Pangi then it’s priced at 150 Pesos per head. Hopefully you packed for getting wet – swimwear, sunblock, mosquito repellents, the works. Bringing your own bottled water is a smart move too, and if you think you’ll be eating lunch in the area then you’ll have to make arrangements with your guides. Visitors can also spend the night at a small house in the area with twin rooms, 150 a pop for the evening.

With that out of the way, here comes the fun part. The P150 fee covers your own big tube, a life-vest and safety helm. Accompanied by a guide (who will swim the length of the way helping you control your tube), you’ll go upstream to the white-water starting point, then ride all the way down 1.6 kilometers back to the tour center. And it’ll be worth it. The world’s most famous Sarangan, Boxer-Philippine Senator Manny Pacquiao will stake his name on it.

For more information you may contact the local Tourism office at 09103127772 or 09186133022.

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