Friday, September 21, 2007

Maguindanao: Around Cotabato City

I had been looking forward to this weekend for months. I went to Mindanao with brods Ryan and Allen, and our friend Ching. The tickets were booked way back April (yes, it's the P1 fare promo). We took a flight to Cotabato City (the airport is in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabunsuan) where the van of Ching's cousin picked us up.

We visited Small World in the same town. Aside from the zoo, everything else was closed since the park is fully-open only on Sundays. The Lourdes Grotto is also there but since the priests who own the place make it such a hassle to visit (you have to get a permit and leave your driver's license and all), we decided to move to our next stop, the Tamontaka Church, a national historical landmark.

I had expected to see an old church. But it was totally new. The older church was destroyed by a fire several years back. It was declared a national historical landmark just in 2004, long after the new and current church was built which thus came as a surprise to me since I know that the NHI requires a certain percentage of authenticity before declaring structures.

Anyway, we passed by the new Cotabato City Hall before proceeding to Mang Gorio for a late lunch. We ordered barbeque chicken and buko halo-halo. We also dropped by the Kuta Wato Caves but that was a big disappointment. It was so dirty, and you had informal settlers residing above the caves. I could just imagine where all their human waste goes. The city government should take out that tourism sign outside because it is no longer an attraction. It's such a pity since the natural pool inside the cave would have made it such an enchanting place.

From there, we proceeded to the old city hall and town plaza. Our plan was to drop by the tourism office but it turns out, government offices close early on Fridays in this part of the country. Friday, is a day of prayer for Muslims and I was told it had been practice here that after services, employees don't go back to the office anymore. Oh well!

The local government should encourage the rehabilitation of the early post-war commercial buildings in the town proper. These structures give the city a lot of character.

We also took pictures by the Rio Grande de Mindanao and its tributaries before driving to Midsayap, (North) Cotabato where we stayed for the night. I can't remember how long the drive was because I dozed off at times. The view of the Mindanao countryside was a refreshing sight. Anyway, More photos in Multiply.


  1. Isn't that a dangerous place?

  2. It was a risk. You had the military and their firearms all over the plaza. Flights to Cotabato are relatively filled up so it's still a viable destination. We were always warned to stay near the main roads. Going to interior areas are dangerous.

  3. Anonymous28.9.07

    nice shots mate. wish i live there.

  4. Anonymous1.10.07

    Nice blog great shot!
    I always had this question about the role the Roman Church considering the Islam rule.
    Was the grotto closed because of this tension?
    I want to travel there I heard its beautiful -your photos confirmed this- but for a catholic priest (retired) might be an issue?
    I would greatly like to hear your take.

  5. I'm not sure as to why the rules to visit the grotto are strict. Cotabato City is not part of the ARMM, although it's the regional center. I heard it had a majority Christian population as recent as the 1990s and I know the city has had non-Muslim mayors in the past.

    But it has a rich history with Islam. One source says: "Cotabato City had witnessed more history than any other place in Mindanao. Its history dates back to the 15th century when Shariff Kabunsuan, an Arab missionary, landed along the banks of the Rio Grande de Mindanao and introduced Islam to the natives. Islam was the faith that moved the early settlers to communal life. He also established the Sultanate of Maguindanao with its golden age ushered in by Sultan Dipatuan Qudarat during the 17th century, the time when Cotabato City developed as the capital town of Maguindanao."

  6. Hey, I grew up there.
    You should have seen it in the early 90's. It was much nicer then.
    I grew up above the caves - the pools were cleaner too.

    nothing much to see in grotto.
    just lots of trees.

    sana you went around PC Hill.
    there's a charming church atop it (not sure if it's still there).
    and from the top of the hill, you'll have a view of the entire city :)

  7. Anonymous10.4.08

    i miss cotabato very much i grew up there too...yeah shes ryt sana u went up to pc hill ganda view doon....i wish i can visit cotabato again...

  8. We did go up PC Hill. But from what I remember, there were so many structures so the view is already obstructed.

  9. ei i realy miss my home land.. cotabato city is not a dangerous place..jan akoh lumaki eh...7 years na akoh dito sa manila pero ang cotabato city ang gusto kong balikan...maganda pasyalan ang grotho at plaza..hehehe...don e.sero 2nd st.jan akoh nakatira dati...gusto moh ba akoh maging friend sa fs?add moh akoh

  10. i realy miss my home land...cotabato city is not a dangerous place....7 years na akoh dito sa manila but still im proud to say laking mindanao akoh....don e.sero 2nd st.jan akoh dati nakatira...ang gusto kung puntahan lagi ang plaza sa town at ang cathedrall church...gusto kitang maging friend sa fs...add mo akoh

  11. Anonymous23.8.08

    Being a priest would never be an issue for visiting Cotabato City. It is a multi-cultural city and people here (regardless of religion) already know how to live together as a community -- with that, I mean, in harmony.

    I'm a CotabateƱo, I grew up here and it hurts that our city is marred with negative impressions from people outside who are innocent about the culture here. They are usually the ones who have never been here. But we couldn't blame them; it's just the way the media projects the city as such. Good news is no news, they say.

    Sure there are issues faced by the people here, it's not a perfect city. Is there a perfect one?


  12. Anonymous22.10.08

    They call me Lambing... Let me bring you back as far as 1954. My father was the Pastor of the first Evangelical Alliance Church in this city. It was the First Christian church in Cotabato(a town then)when Christians were so few and protected by the the Moro leaders because of the rarity of our kind.
    My mom was a nurse and my aunt too, who assisted to many birthdays of Chinese immigrants in the city and both sisters were summoned by almost all respected moros who were addressed as Datus, not by royalty but by choice of their own. Most of them comes from families of one father and 10 wives or more, siblings that is as many as 26 to 35 brothers, females are not counted. I had a classmate who had 17n brothers and unumbered sisters (they were called Muslims after the 60's).
    These were years when we swam the Rio Grande for pleasure with crocodiles and did not mind about it...the wild areas of the city is now a dream to a tale to people that would not understand that we cut down fruit trees (Avocado, mango, Durian to gather fruits and not climb them for they were like wild grass (Cogon) to be rid off)
    Fruit trees were everywhere. The caves from (then the PC Hills,the Philippines Constabulary Headquarters that overlook the city) and Bagwa hot springs to the caves at the Catholic cemetery that goes to Tamontaka (which was basically a tunnel) which was use by the Japanese Invaders were one of those place we played and chase bats of all sizes, and pythons and snakes - poisonous and not, that thrives in these caves to toy around or for our meals. Kata-Wato is the moro name for the city... meaning Kuta ... Fort and Wato.. Stone.... Kutawato - Fort of Stone; now known as Cotabato.
    The City is an enclave from the sea mark by Bongo Island which knowm to be own by the Biruar clan who were popularized as smugglers of foriegn brand cigarettes to the Philippines via Cotabato City.
    This city was the oldest civilization in this part of Mindanao but was a "left behind" due to the moro culture. Dulawan is basically the oldest commune in South Cotabato, like old Marawi city in Lanao but held back to improve due to the culture of Mohammedanism - just like muslim countries, they are so backward, so is Cotabato city.
    Our Mayor then was Datu Mando Sinsuat and our Governor was Datu Udtog Matalam...Both of them did not even know how to spell ..Philippines, our country's name.

  13. wutuwutu9.4.09

    to Lambert...

    yung term na "mohammedanism". gusto ko malaman kung anu pinapahiwatig nun...

    i admit that the culture of cotabatenos makes cotabato city "left behind" as you described it.. pero isa rin sa problems is the past to present political situation of the city. from the head of the city, down to the barangay level, talamak na yang TRADITIONAL POLITICIAN..problema na yan simula pa nung pinanganak na ako sa cotabato city..

    taga cotabato city ako and still living in cotabato city, la ka ng hahanapin kung gusto mo ng livable city, ang mura ng bilihin, from sea foods, ang alimango, wow, 150 pesos per kilo...:)

    ito lang ang city na nasa center ng ARMM region pero under sa Region XII.. Downside, regardless of the political setting, people say that there are actions undertaking to put Cotabato City in ARMM region but the Cotabatenos are the ones not willing to join the region, ika nga nila, mas magkakagulo at magsisialisan mga tao sa cotabato city kung magiging ARMM na ang lungsod...

  14. To Watuwatu... "What is Mohamedanism"---the followers of Mohamad during the early days of Cotabato were branded by the American invaders of Cotabato City as "Mohamedans" - today, they known as Muslims and their religion is Islam. Fridays at the back of the Old Market place which is between Mabini and Bonifacio street is where the muslim mosques was located ... I don't know now.
    In several occasions during my youth.... people watch these mosque because "hurementados" comes out of the mosque and start killing people inside the market place and this was very common then. Now the muslim calls it "Killing for Allah" what is known today as " Godly Act of Terrorism" - now worldwide but nothing new to Cotabato old timers.

  15. Loyd Varquez20.4.09

    hello anyone there,

    Since Cotabato City is very nice place, and a great potential to a lot of business to put up to. So we able to come up with a High End Fitness Center, The SUPERBODIES GYM, located at MEGA Square, Malagapas. Try to check the facilities, and come on get fit. ....... Hey we need to develop local talents to be an Aerobics Instructor and Personal Fitness Trainer. Its a great job with huge potential in the fitness industry worldwide. We offer free training. Hope you can recommend somebody.

    Thank you very much buddy....
    you can contact Mr. Anthony Huang Operation and Marketing Manager 421-1363

  16. Anonymous5.8.10

    I miss Cotabato City. I grew up there too.

  17. Anonymous18.11.11

    is it dangerous here? we'll be going here next year

  18. Anonymous7.6.12

    Thank you, Ivan, for bringing me back happy childhood memories. I grew up in Cotabato City. I cross Quirino bridge (that bridge that spans rio grande de mindanao and connects Cotabato City to Maguindanao) every school day as I walked from home to school and back. I climbed trees, played tumbang preso and patintero, frequented the fruit stand and the barbecue stand near the plaza, and had my own misadventures at the grotto and the ORC complex. Cotabato City is a safe and beautiful place. It is not fair that the media is giving it an ugly face.

    I haven't visited Cotabato since 1995. I hope to visit next year to meet old friends and neighbors, Christians and Muslims alike.

  19. Anonymous14.6.12

    what can you advise for backpackers like me in going to the not so safe places in the country, will i have to register first to the local tourismoffice for safety purposes? thanks im on my way to visiting all provinces. i already have visited 30 and im planning to have it all at 55. by the way im half a century young...

  20. Anonymous24.6.12

    You should have gone to cotabato in the 90s. The city is beautiful and clean back then. GMA's 5 and Up show even featured the city. Chynna ortaleza and atom araullo went on top of pc hill through the "hundred steps"

    Here are my tips and advices:

    1. Dont leave the city without visiting brassware shops and the inaul weaving shop in tamontaka.

    2. Try the Pastil. The best i have tasted so far is from al bashir restaurant, near jollibee, at the back of the town stage.

    3. A night, pass by the barbecuehan near the town plaza. Stalls there sell tasty barbecue and pastil.

    4. Visit the grand mosque of sultan hassanal bolkiah. But you need to rent a transpo to get there. 30 minutes away from the city, but it's worth it.

    5. Dont show-off your gadgets.

  21. Anonymous9.10.13

    Come visit cotabato now..theres more to cotabato than what you hear or read.


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