Chaotic GenSan and the Search for the Maranao Market

After the lake and the forests, the culture and the people, it was disconcerting to be in GenSan.  It was like my trips to Sagada before when upon arriving in Baguio City, the first thing I wanted to do was leave right away. I might as well go back straight to Manila.  Nothing in the city that had been listed in internet sites interested me. Those that did such as Mt. Matutum and Kalajia Karsts needed more time.  With just the afternoon to spend as I was returning to Manila tomorrow morning , the only thing I planned to do was head to the Maranao shops across the public market which I had read so much about. I actually left Lake Sebu early so I would have enough time to browse the shops and hopefully find something.

The Case of the Missing Maranaos

The multi-cab dropped me at  Dolores Hotel which I had called a week before to reserve a single room.  It was located in a busy thoroughfare and was just a stone’s throw away from the public market.  There was a large lobby and a small business center.  Php 550/night got me a large room with a double bed, a small tv, and ensuite toilet and bath.  It was good value for its price and was clean at least.  It was mid-afternoon so I just showered a bit then headed out to the public market just around the corner to look for the Maranao souvenir shops.  Stuff here was reportedly being sold there at a much lower price than Davao.

I circled the entire block of the public market, did it again for another time, and then again, asked the security guard at the hotel, used Google Maps and the GPS in my Blackberry device, checked out the internet posts, but THERE WAS NO MARANAO SOUVENIR SHOPS!  Sure there were plenty  Maranaos and plenty Maranao shops selling sundry goods but where were the colorful malongs and the shiny brassware?  The latest internet post about the souvenir shops were just a little over a year old but the time period between then and now must have been enough for changes to have taken place.  Like an archaeologist out to find a hidden city buried underneath centuries of rubble, I went back to its reputed site and other possible sites.  There was no trace of the market.  The hotel guard had mentioned “TLJ” but it was just a small general merchandise store.  Defeated, I went back to my hotel.

The Case of the Missing Sauce

 So what does the vanquished do?  Eat!  Blogs had mentioned Kanto Grill which supposedly serve the freshest seafood on top of which was their secret sauce which was to die-for.  The hotel staff didn’t know about it.  Bad sign.  They asked other guests. Negative.  Hmmmm. A lady who had just walked in and overheard the entire thing chimed in that Kanto Grill had already closed at its location had been taken-over by SM.  Another defeat.  I had come to look forward to GenSan for only two things—- the Maranao shops and Kanto Grill’s secret sauce and both had been reduced to nothingness. Frustration is a small word to describe how I felt at that moment.  Not willing to put my faith and trust in a dated blogpost, I turned to the friendly female receptionist and asked, “Where can I eat?”  She suggested I take a multi-cab and tell the driver to head to the barbecue places in San Pedro Lagao.

The driver didn’t seem to get it at first but I repeatedly kept-up the mantra, “Barbecue… barbecue…” either he was afraid I’d roast him over a charcoal pit or he had a sudden memory jolt but he did deliver me to a row of simple barbecue stalls with attached restaurants.  I went to the one at the far end on the right side which had two tables full of happy diners.

I chose two chorizoes and five sticks of pork barbecue.  Four days of eating nothing but tilapia had turned me into a ravenous carnivore.  Everyone else can have GenSan’s freshest seafood and tuna.  I want bits of sinewy muscle and soft fat.

No tilapia here! Only meat! Meat! Meat!

My order soon arrived together with a liter of Coke and two packets of rice in banana leaves.  What is it with Mindanao that it does barbecue so well?  The meat was tender and whatever marinade they used tasted very well.  It had just the right sweetness that went well with the smokey flavor imparted by the charcoal.  Extra two packets of rice please.

Done with dinner.  Now for dessert.  I took a trike to KCC Mall which I had passed by en route to the barbecue place.  It looked just like any mall with all the usual brands and a large food court and grocery in the basement.  Maybe because it was a holiday the next day that’s why the place was quite packed with people.  I didn’t find anything there to tickle my sweet tooth so I just headed back to my hotel.

Street peddlers had set-up shop selling second hand clothes at the street surrounding the hotel.  The public market was closed and in its place was an evening market along the road that sold cheap goods from China.  Nothing really special.

I only spent half a day in GenSan and didn’t go out much. From what I experienced in my very brief stay, I can’t say much about it.  There was nothing there to hold my interest plus I found the streets to be quite chaotic with all the multi-cabs.  Oh.  There was one thing I liked about GenSan, though.  In spite of  its population being largely Christian, Muslim presence was obvious here compared to other Mindanao cities such as Davao and Cagayan de Oro.  I chanced on a group of Muslim men in their white caps and gowns getting on a small jeep while the shiny minaret of a mosque loomed from behind.  The sight of that alone made me feel I was truly in Mindanao.  Mt. Matutum also makes an impressive sight as it looms over the city.

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