The nomadic B’laan people are the original inhabitants of General Santos, and traces of their early settlement of the area are found in the city’s place names, which are derived from their vocabulary. Their name for the city, Dadiangas, is from the thorny Ziziphus spina-christi tree that was once abundant in the area and is now a protected species under Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Right Act of 2007. The B’laan tribe presently lives alongside the city’s new generation of settlers and other immigrants.
One thing consistently present in history since the arrival of Christian settlers is the vast potential of the city. This has continually become more attractive until now… with the presence of world class infrastructures, its fast growing economy and continued government dynamism and civil society support. On February 27, 1939, the Christian settlers landed on the shores of the beautiful Sarangani Bay led by General Paulino Santos with the 62 first batchers. In January 1948, Buayan District became a full pledged municipality as provided by Republic Act #82 with NLSA Hospital Administrator, Ireneo I. Santiago as its first mayor.
The municipality was renamed – in honor of its great pioneer – to General Santos. The administration Mayor Pedro Acharon, Sr. concerned itself with the barrio programs of President Magsaysay. Through the PACD (Presidential Assistance for Community Development), feeder roads connecting the remote barrios to the national highways were built. Artesian wells were established to solve the problem of water supply among the rural folks. Likewise, he finished the projects started by mayor Santiago particularly Makar Wharf which was declared an open port of entry in 1959. The Buayan airport was also rehabilitated from the ruins of the war during his term. Economic growth however, gained a very significant momentum when Mayor Lucio A. Velayo took over from 1963-1967. during this time, multi-million agri-based corporations such as Dole Phils., General Milling Corp. and UDAGRI started operations in the area.The City of General Santos was officially created on July 8, 1968 by virtue of Republic Act 5412. Knowing the people’s desire to keep the name of General Santos, Hon. Congressman James L. Chiongbian worked for the approval of Republic Act 5412…converting the municipality of General Santos into a city without changing its name. The city was then inaugurated on September 5, 1968 with its incumbent mayor — Hon. Antonio C. Acharon as the first city mayor. From that time until 1986, Mayor Acharon led the progress of Gen. Santos from a Third Class City to First Class A. The agriculture and fishing industry flourished during his time. This earned a place for General Santos City in the international market.
The historic EDSA Revolution, in February 1986, changed the political history of GenSan. Mayor Acharon was relieved by the Ministry of Local Government and Hon. Dominador A. Lagare was appointed as OIC City Mayor. With the local government’s dynamism and support under the leadership of Hon. mayor Rosalita T. Nuñez, GenSan became a Highly Urbanized City. The city earned for itself the nickname “Boom City of the South” and also firmed up its mark in the international market as an exporter of tropical fruits, yellow fin tuna, prawn and copra.
GenSan continued to grow as an influential economic center from 1992-1995 through the expertise in planing and economics of Hon. Mayor Adelbert W. Antonino. He promoted the SOCSKSARGEN, (South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos) growth region – a unified force with redefined geographical boundaries and economic borders. this is further boosted by the implementation of the Philippine Assistance Program (PAP) Projects like the New General Santos International-Standard Airport, Makar Wharf Development, Agro-Fishing Port Complex and a well-paved road network connecting General Santos City to South Cotabato and Sarangani.
During the May 8, 1995 elections, former mayor Rosalita T. Nuñez returned as mayor. With the use of paper and pen, she contributed to the improvement of relationship between Christians and Muslims through her book “Roots of Conflict in Mindanao”. The medium term development plan, GENSAN 2000: War Against Poverty, directed sustainable development through the implementation of its core programs: the Social Reform Agenda, Economic Reform and Environmental Reform.
Hosting of the Palarong Pambansa and the 1st BIMP-EAGA Friendship Games in 1996 highlighted the city’s capability for social and economic growth, and as an active partner in national development endeavors. the EAGA Games was participated by the eight focus areas of the BIMP-EAGA member countries namely: Brunei Darussalam, East Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, North Sulawesi of Indonesia, Labuan, Sarawak, Sabah of Malaysia and Mindanao-Palawan of Philippines. these events were economic development “boosters” which has a net effect of promoting the city as a tourist destination and investor’s haven for manufacturing, exports, services and real estate.
In the May 11, 1998 elections, Mayor Adelbert W. Antonino returned as City Mayor of General Santos. His administration was guided by Project FIRST – Fast Integrated Reform for Social Transformation. The concept anchors on improving accessibility to basic social services and ensuring that development becomes sustainable. The means will be through Shelter, Health, Education, Environment and Peace and Order or SHEEP Program. A new program — Developing Rural Investments and Village Enterprises (DRIVE) — was also developed as his administration’s support to national economic development.
The ongoing clash between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Moro rebels in some portions of Mindanao reached the commercial district of the city. Alleged Moro rebels penetrated the GSC Hall with the explosion of 2 bombs on May 3, followed by several simultaneous bombs at the commercial district on May 6 and some other minor attacks and failed attempts. The City immediately established a Crisis Center, strengthened its security and intelligence efforts. For some time then, the impression of peace and order problem haunted the city with its local and international bad publicity. But the fundamental advantage with its world-class infrastructures, wide and well-designed road network, fast growing economy and continued government dynamism and civil society support cannot be rocked by this bombing.
In the national scene, January 20, 2001, then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took oath as the 14th president of the Philippines. This was the result of the People Power II or massive call for then President Joseph Ejercito Estrada to resign triggered by disrupted 1st Impeachment Trial in Asia.
On February 2, 2001, Hon. Mayor Adelbert W. Antonino resigned as the duly elected city mayor of General Santos. It was his symbolic way of concluding his political life, but not closing the door for public service. Then Hon. Vice Mayor Pedro “Jun” B. Acharon, Jr. took-over as the city mayor. Mayor Acharon vowed to continue his predecessor’s programs under his own advocacy – GenSan First. This is guided by his three-point program of government (Social and Community Development Program, Economic Development Program and Good Governance). Hon. Pedro Acharon Jr. was then elected as mayor during the May 2001 election and took oath last June 29, 2001. He was joined by the majority of his party mates in the city council. The new representative for the 1st District of South Cotabato and Gen. Santos City is Hon. Darlene Magnolia R. Antonino-Custodio.
In May 2004, Hon. Mayor Acharon and his party mates were successfully re-elected including Rep. Darlene A. Custodio. This second term has opened new economic opportunities for the whole constituents with the re-establishment of the KCC Mall and the expansion of Gaisano Mall.
Major city thoroughfares were expanded. The Population and Basic Services (PBS) Integrated survey were held in the later part of the year. The 2nd Yaman Gensan and 5th National Tuna festival saw renewed confidence from the local economic players and visitors.
2005 was a year marked by important milestones for the city having hosted important national-level events: Mindanao ICT Congress, Philippines Society of Agricultural Engineers and United Architects of the Philippines National Conventions. The country’s leading fast food chains have opened markets in the city. In 2005, it witnessed the re-opening of the Lion’s Beach to the public for beach and outdoors reveling. The new Eusebio Bulaong Public Transport Terminal was officially opened. The City’s program on Total Quality Service (TQS) was also institutionalized.
For the third time, Hon. Mayor Jun Acharon won the local mayoral race together with his ticketmate , Hon. Vice-Mayor Florentina Congson. Eleven (11) councilors under their tickets were also elected. This year also saw the institutionalization of the City Development Strategies (Good Governance, Livability, Competitiveness and Bankability) as implemented in accordance with the GENSAN S.H.E.E.P (Social Transformation, Human Empowerment, Economic Diversification, Environment Regeneration, and Participatory Governance) Agenda.
To improve city competitiveness and livability, a new traffic system was put in place along the junctions of Magsaysay Avenue and Pioneer Avenue as wee as in P. Acharon Boulevard. The General Santos City Children’ s Park was also opened to the delight of the kids and their families. The year was also happily intersped by four flagship festivals. During the first quarter, the “Kalilangan” festival was celebrated in February to the mark the city 68th Foundation Anniversary. The month-long business celebration dubbed as “Yabong Maliit na Negosyo” or “Yaman GenSan” formally opened on June 22, 2007 in the premiere port of General Santos. September 5, 2007 remarked the “39th Charter anniversary of General Santos City. It also serves as the culmination of the week-long 9th Tuna Festival which honors the industry that has made million for some people.
The simultaneous lightning up of the Christmas tree displays and pavilions at the city oval plaza ushers the start of the Christmas festival or the “Pasko sa GenSan” 2007 on the night of December 3, 2007. In June 2010, Hon. Mayor Darlene Magnolia R. Antonino-Custodio, after serving the First District of South Cotabato for nine years, won as the new mayor of General Santos City, together with Hon. Vice-Mayor Shirlyn Bañas-Nograles and councilors. Then the city mayor for nine years, now congressman Hon. Pedro B. Acharon, Jr. is the new representative of the First District – South Cotabato and General Santos City.
At present, Hon. Ronnel C. Rivera is the incumbent mayor of General Santos City (June 2013 – present). Before this, he served as a city councilor, after having been elected and ranked number 1 during the voting. He is currently on his 2nd term as mayor of the city.