With the month of August coming to an end, Generals are looking forward to see what wonders the city will have to offer for this year’s Tuna Festival on the first week of September. Gensan is the Philippine Tuna Capital after all, a title it has held onto with pride for decades now. And this grand celebration of the city’s signature fishing industry has been a way to share the legacy and the bounty of the sea with residents and tourists arriving from other parts of the country, and even the world.
2017 will be the nineteenth time Gensan will be holding the Tuna Festival. It’s quite impressive that it got this big, when its beginnings in 1998 were ever so humble. During the week-long celebration period of the 30th City Charter Anniversary of General Santos City, the local Tourism Association held a modest showcase of tuna cuisine at the Halieus Mall (present-day RD Plaza). That event featured activities ranging from culinary competitions with tuna as the main ingredient, skills demonstration, and of course as many varieties of tuna dishes as the guests could eat.
Then-Mayor Adelbert Antonino felt that this celebration could be expanded into a full-fledged city-wide fiesta, and that is what happened. With the 1998 event being reckoned as the first, the annual Tuna Festivals grew and expanded to envelope the City Charter Anniversary that it spawned from (said anniversary celebration has been moved to June 15 starting this year). Eventually the familiar elements of the Fest would appear and stay on the program year after year: the float parades with spectacular tuna imagery, the amusement park, flea market and concert venue/beer halls at the Oval Plaza, and of course the free eat-all-you can tuna binges usually done near City Hall.
Now, the milestone second decade of GenSan’s Tuna Fest will be next year, but that doesn’t mean the local government and the many sponsors all over the city would be skimping on the celebration right now. With the theme for 2017 being “A Peacetival of fun – “Bida sa Saya, Bida sa Tuna!” the Festival looks to enjoin everybody to come and celebrate in General Santos City, with the guarantee of fun, excitement, and peace.
In the background of all the festivities, yet a true integral part of the occasion, is the 19th National Tuna Congress. With the fishing conglomerates of the city as host, the congress gathers together interests of the Philippine fishing industry and government representatives to confer on the now and tomorrow of their business, providing a vital food source for Filipinos. For 2017 their theme is “The Philippine Tuna Industry: Strengthened. Responsive. Competitive.” The discussions done and decisions made in the Tuna Congress helps to ensure that there will be tuna to fish from the sea to make its various food products, with as little complications as possible for the whole process.
But that is only one event for the Tuna Festival; there are so many others, and eve more fun besides. We certainly can’t forget the “Sugbahan sa Dalan” for tuna hot off the grill. Those who can make it to the GenSan Fishport Complex can go and catch the Grand Fish Fest competition. Speaking of competitions on the water, the Tuna Festival also has a Dragon Boat race, “Bancarera” (race between custom outrigger boats), contests for Skim-board and Jetski, for a lot of wet and wild fun.
If you’d prefer contests on dry land, Tuna Fest 2017 has got you covered too. There are several ground-bound races to join or watch, like an Invitational Motocross, a Mountain Bike Challenge, and a triathlon for real super-bodies. Martial law is no object also for shooting enthusiasts who might be interested in checking out the Airsoft Competition or the Mayor Rivera Shooting Cup. Other contests are the team-based football and basketball tournaments, International Invitational Table Tennis, and Ultimate Frisbee. Even dogs get their time to compete with the Invitational Dog Show.
Of course, we’ve already covered the regular features of the GenSan Tuna Festival. The float parade has been getting ever better by the year thanks to the participation of big companies like SM City GenSan. The Grand Carnival has been up and running well before the Festival week proper. Musical concerts of various genres are also expected to light up both the Oval Plaza stage and the SMB Party Zone, with bands on rotation every night until the big week ends. Exhibits of visual arts are also on the schedule, promising a Tuna Fest that touches upon every corner of GenSan culture, both pop and traditional.
One can easily run out of superlatives to describe the Tuna Festival of General Santos, but perhaps that is the point. This major event of the city’s yearly events calendar shouldn’t have to be just described; it has to be experienced. GenSan will eagerly be awaiting one and all for the Tuna Fest when it officially kicks off this September 1. The festivities will culminate on September 5. Enjoy the week!
Photo courtesy of gensantos.com