No. of :

No. of Shares:

Currently viewed by: Marcus Rosit

Tuna Festival: A Spectacle of Gensan’s Excellence as Tuna Capital of the PH

Every year, General Santos City, which is fondly called Gensan for short, becomes a vibrant tapestry of colors, flavors, and traditions as it holds the most sumptuous festival in the Philippines—the Tuna Festival.

While this celebration showcases the city's robust economy, it also pays tribute to the tuna industry that defines Gensan’s national identity as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines.”

Exactly 25 years ago today (Sept. 5), Gensan's Tuna Festival, which was born in 1998, aimed to honor the bountiful seas that are teeming with marine resources such as tuna and the subsequent tuna industry that continues to thrive, transforming General Santos City into the undisputed tuna capital of the country.

True to its moniker, this year’s week-long Tuna Festival has again featured huge species of tuna to take center stage of the celebration, and rightly so, because Gensan continues to reign to this very day as the largest producer of sashimi-grade tuna in the Philippines.

General Santos City Mayor Lorelie Geronimo-Pacquiao leads officials and guests during the grand opening of the Tuna Festival on September 1, 2023, for the ceremonial slicing and tasting of roasted tuna. (Photo: CPIO, LGU-Gensan)

The Tuna Festival’s sea of activities

“Ang ating selebrasyon ay hindi lang pagdiriwang ng kasaganaan, pagkain, at makukulay na palabas, ito ay pagbibigay-halaga natin sa isang industriyang bumubuhay sa ekonomiya ng ating siyudad [Our festival does not only pertain to celebrating prosperity, food, and colorful shows; it is also about giving importance to the tuna industry that keeps our economy alive],” Mayor Lorelie Geronimo-Pacquiao reminded citizens during the grand opening of the Tuna Festival on September 1.

The Tuna Festival kicked off with a colorful tuna float parade that featured a wide range of tuna-themed designs depicting marine life, parading the bustling streets of General Santos City. Beyond the visuals, the parade also served as a stage for private companies to proudly present their brands, products, and services, showcasing their commitment to this well-established industry.

In the evening, Mayor Pacquiao led officials and guests from the entertainment industry for the ceremonial slicing and tasting of tuna.

Actor Gabby Concepcion serenades the Generals (people of General Santos) during the grand opening of the Tuna Festival on September 1. Mayor Lorelie Geronimo-Pacquiao welcomes the actor as she poses with him along with her husband, former Partylist Representative Alberto "Bobby" Pacquiao, and Sen. Ronald dela Rosa's daughter and chief of staff, Marianne Kristel dela Rosa.

“Napakasarap, napakamalinamnam [So yummy, so tasty],” actor Gabby Concepcion quipped, describing the taste of high-grade sashimi tuna he has eaten.

But when it comes to food tourism, nothing beats the sensory delight of savoring local dishes alongside tasty beverages, coupled with the surrounding noise that seemingly serves as the welcoming trumpet of the occasion.

People from all walks of life, including tourists, flock to the 'Sugbahan sa Dalan' on September 2, which features different arrays of seafood such as tuna and prawns, among other species of fish, as one of the highlights of the 25th Tuna Festival.

The streets of Pioneer Avenue also came alive with thousands of grilled tuna panga (tuna collar), prawns, and other delectable seafood creations, generously shared among the crowd—a heartwarming sight displaying a sense of unity and community during the ‘Sugbahan sa Dalan’ on September 2. Government agencies, civil society organizations, and private companies also joined in the festive sharing of the city’s marine bounty.

The Sugbahan sa Dalan truly offers fresh culinary treasures as a gesture of gratitude to the universe for bestowing the city with an abundant sea and supportive constituencies.

With its continuous hold on high-level tuna production that has never experienced a decline, even with the COVID-19 pandemic, General Santos City remains the tuna capital of the Philippines and the leading producer of tuna in the country and the world.
A high-grade shashimi tuna is on display at the food bazaar night market on Roxas Avenue in celebration of Gensan's 25th Tuna Festival.

Through the Tuna Culinary and Skills Olympics, foodies were able to enjoy the culinary prowess of the Generals. Food bazaars have lined Roxas East and Pendatun Avenues since they opened in mid-August, changing these streets into bustling dining hubs from 5:00 p.m. until midnight and providing a distinctive dining experience for locals and tourists alike.

In the meantime, the Oval Plaza and its vicinity offer a great tourist destination, with street foods lining the whole stretch and carnival attractions that try their very best to entertain families and their children and forge a happy mood.

But one should not forget the unsung heroes of the industry—the tuna fishers and catchers. The Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) 12 has honored them by initiating the "Grand Fish Fest sa Fishport," on September 4, featuring workers competing to be the fastest tuna cleaner in "Linis Tuna" and the strongest fisherfolk in "Buhat Tuna." This year's winner has a record-breaking 2 minutes and 23 seconds for carrying a 35-kilo one-piece tuna.

This year, the heaviest tuna catch weighed a staggering 101 kilograms, a testament to Gensan's unparalleled progress in its tuna industry.

Candidates and winners of the Mr. and Ms. Tourism 2023 awards show their winning titles and certificates at the culmination ceremony of the prestigious event. The winners will serve as tourism ambassadors to promote the beautiful destinations and natural endowments that the city offers the world. (Photo: CPIO, LGU-Gensan)

Meanwhile, the Gensan Tourism Promotions Division of CEMCDO also expressed its enthusiasm to present 20 candidates for the prestigious title of Mr. and Ms. Tourism Gensan 2023 on September 2. These candidates brought a fresh contrast to the competition, as they hailed from various fields or professions—lawyers, engineers, teachers, social media influencers, fitness instructors, youth leaders, public speakers, and advocates of important causes.

This unique competition is not solely focused on winning a crown. The winners would become the faces of tourism as ambassadors for the city. They will serve as interns at CEMCDO's tourism promotions division, contributing to the local government's efforts to massively promote local tourism.

The contingent from Barangay Dukay, Municipality of Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat, who calls their group 'Sidlak Performing Arts,' brought home the most coveted prize of P350,000 as the winning contingent of the 'Lawihan' street dance competitions during the culmination of the Tuna Festival celebration on September 5, 2023. (Photo: CPIO, LGU-Gensan)
This is one of the dance contingents from General Santos City that is competing in the street dance competitions held during the culmination of the Tuna Festival on September 5, which was also a local holiday. (Photo: CPIO, LGU-Gensan)

The Tuna Festival also captivates both locals and tourists with its colorful and highly energetic street dance competition, the main highlight of the culmination day on September 5.

The open-category Lawihan street dance contest did not disappoint thousands of spectators, as contingents from schools and barangays did their best to outshine each other. As a result, the Sidlak Performing Arts of Barangay Dukay, Municipality of Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat, brought home the most coveted prize of P350,000 as the winning contingent of this dance genre.  

“Ang libo-libong mga bisita na nakikisaya sa ating lungsod para sa tuna festival ay nagdudulot ng bagong kulay at enerhiya sa ating komunidad [The thousands of visitors enjoying our city’s tuna festival emit a new vibrant color and energy to our community] … Ang tuna festival ay nagpapaalala sa atin na ang kasiyahan ay makakamtan sa pagkakaroon ng positibong pananaw sa buhay [The tuna festival reminds us that our pleasures can be fulfilled by having a positive outlook on life],” the local chief executive told her constituents.

Indeed, the Tuna Festival remains one of the nation’s spectacular, must-see events that is bound to give people the greatest thrill of their lives.

The 23rd National Tuna Congress is a crucial event held every Tuna Festival that unites stakeholders from all facets of the tuna industry, locally and internationally. The congress aims to foster discussions, share knowledge, and address key issues facing the sector. (Photo: Tuna Congress Facebook page)

General Santos is still the Tuna Capital of the Philippines

Contrary to rumors hinting at a decline in the tuna industry, evidence-based facts reveal a different story. Region 12, with General Santos City at its helm, continues to lead tuna production in the Philippines, boasting a remarkable 64% share among all regions.

This validation came during the recent press conference of the 2023 National Tuna Congress, a crucial annual event held in General Santos City during the Tuna Festival that unites stakeholders from all facets of the tuna industry, locally and internationally. The congress, which gathered some thousand people, aimed to foster discussions, share knowledge, and address key issues facing the sector.

"Beyond the exchange of ideas and strategies, the tuna congress serves as a running point for hope. Hope that by advocating for responsible fishing practice and fostering sustainable consumer behavior, we can leave a legacy of environmental responsibility for future generations," said Dominic Salazar, president of the Soccsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc. (SFFAII).

The event also brought together key businessmen, investors, seafood processors, government officials, scientists, professionals, and other relevant stakeholders in the industry.

Based on data from the PFDA and the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), General Santos City, the heart of the tuna industry, has maintained a steady and upward trajectory over the past decades. These statistics underline the resilience and enduring importance of the tuna industry in the region, dispelling any notions of its decline.

Nazarion Briguera of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ Information and Fisherfolk Coordination Unit (BFAR-IFCU) explained that tuna species are "seasonal and migratory," hence this might be the reason why some people would think that there is a decline since "they come and go."

"Kung titingnan natin ang data natin, hindi pa rin nag-decline [If we look at it, there is still no decline]. We have to avoid overfishing para hindi tayo maging [so that we will not turn into] sunset industry. So we need implementation and enforcement from the government—maybe BFAR, the Coastguard, or the Philippine Navy—in concerted efforts," SFFAII past president Marfenio Tan of the SAFI Group of Companies said.

On matters of the robustness of tuna stocks, the response from the agencies has been quite reassuring. Rosanna Bernadette Contreras, executive director of SFFAII, said the stock of yellowfin tuna has not been experiencing any overfishing, ensuring a healthy catch.

She said that most of the frozen goods are unloaded by foreign vessels, but if they are fresh, they are from Filipinos. So "you cannot say that there is really a decline," she pointed out.

Contreras also said that even during the height of the pandemic in 2020, "nag-peak po tayo [we peaked] because the fishing industry didn’t stop bringing fish."

She also pointed out that there was a peak in tuna exports in 2017. "But relatively, there is a stable trend in terms of volume."

The Philippine tuna industry and General Santos City, in particular, remain vibrant and resilient. The local government, alongside government line agencies and private fishing companies, ensures that General Santos City continues to flourish as the tuna capital of the Philippines.

With a rich history, a thriving industry, and vibrant celebrations like the Tuna Festival, Gensan is showing no signs of having to relinquish its title anytime soon.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada (middle) is the guest speaker for the grand opening of the Tuna Festival on September 1, 2023, among other special guests led by former Senator Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao and Senator Ronald dela Rosa, represented by daughter and chief of staff Marianne Kristel dela Rosa. (Photo: CPIO, LGU-Gensan)

General Santos as Soccsksargen’s highly-urbanized city

The city continues to rise and boom as an A-list, first-class city to this day. It has seen dramatic growth due to its flourishing agriculture and fishing industries and proactive leadership.

Now tagged as the only highly urbanized city (HUC) in Soccsksargen, General Santos also previously earned the moniker "Boom City of the South," cementing its position in the global market as a supplier of not only high-grade tuna and other seafood like prawns but also tropical fruits and copra.

Currently, General Santos is the premier economic hub of Soccsksargen and the leading location of various investments and infrastructure project developments in the region.

This unprecedented growth redefines geographical and economic boundaries, bolstered by macro-development projects like the New General Santos International Airport, Makar Wharf Development, and Agro-Fishing Port Complex, including the expansion and upgrade of road networks that would surely secure its stature as an alternative gateway for international travelers, returning overseas Filipino workers, and trade within the ASEAN nations and its other neighboring countries.

“Ito ay patunay na ang ating lungsod ay patuloy na lumalago at nagiging inspirasyon sa iba [This is proof that our city continues to grow, expand, and become an inspiration to others],” Mayor Pacquiao said. (HJPF – PIA SarGen)

About the Author

Harlem Jude Ferolino

Job Order

Region 12

Feedback / Comment

Get in touch