Hie off to the highlands for a sunrise weddingBy Irene C. Perez
Thinking of your next local pit stop? Consider this affordable and cozy destination down South that offers a country bed-and-breakfast feel.
Sarangani Highlands restaurant and hotel compound is a vast garden complex. A “secret garden” in General Santos in Mindanao, it is near the airport but is a considerable drive from the city proper. Still, it’s worth the trip. The green compound sits atop a hill, offering panoramic views of the countryside and Sarangani Bay.
It started out as a personal project for landscape enthusiasts and longtime friends Jose Tranquilino T. Ruiz and Ana Belle La Paz-Abella, doctors with a green thumb.
“We are into gardening and wanted a space where we could grow plants,” Abella said. She manages a hospital, while Ruiz is a councilor of Glan Municipality in Sarangani Province. The two, together with a partner from Manila, acquired the 6,000-square-meter property as a vacation hangout in 2006.
“Friends would come over with chips and soda, and we would chill,” said Ruiz. “Eventually we held picnics, and we were prodded to put up a restaurant since we love to eat anyway.”
As the plant and flower collection grew, the place expanded into a sprawling four-hectare property. The partners opened Sarangani Highlands Garden in 2007, the in-house restaurant that serves Filipino and Asian food, and a 21-room hotel in 2010.
Sarangani Highlands’ lush setting has become popular among couples as a venue for destination weddings. And not just any kind of wedding—the come-on is a “sunrise wedding.”
Sunset weddings are great for garden and beach setups, but sunrise weddings are a fairly new idea.
It was a challenge, said Abella. “Walang tulugan! That’s both for the wedding party and our staff. You start doing your makeup at midnight, but the good thing is, by lunch, the wedding is done.”
Saying one’s vows as the sun rises is very romantic, Ruiz added, and the colors are majestic. The backdrop is the calm bay, and skies with a warm, golden glow.
Wedding packages start at P46,000 for 100 people, which include catering. Since GenSan is popular for seafood and fresh produce, you could take advantage of specialties such as Mango-Pomelo Shrimp Salad, Cream Dory or Tilapia Fingers with Fries, Grilled Tuna, Prawn in Lemon, Pinaputok na Tiyan ng Bangus, Steamed Garlic Crabs, Gambas and the best-selling Crispy Tuna Belly.
Steaks, Honey Chicken, Native Tinolang Manok, Crispy Pata; desserts and coffee can also be had.
Seven weddings are already booked for December, and spaces are roomy enough to hold three receptions at the same time, Abella added.
Aside from weddings and debuts, Sarangani Highlands also hosts live-in seminars, conferences and retreats. The hotel can house 120 people max. There are 11 deluxe rooms and 10 family rooms with seven beds and two toilets and baths, plus a pool.
There are several function areas: Pavilion, Garden Dadiangas Hall, Molave Lounge, Bougainvillea Room, Rajah Buayan Kiosk, Deck and Plaza Sarangania. Some allow al fresco dining, while others are enclosed air-conditioned rooms.
For day trips, there is a P100 entrance fee which is consumable.
The whole compound is Wi-Fi ready (it’s free and fast!). Packages also include complimentary airport transfers.
Sarangani Highlands is at Purok Wal, Tambler, General Santos City. Call 0922-8590043; visit http://saranganihighlands.com.