Cotabato City: The Unique Side of SOCCSKSARGEN
In a glance, Cotabato City is very much like any other rapidly developing city in the Philippines – people go to work, children goes to school, the streets become quite busy during peak hours, and there’s Jollibee. But this competitive city has something fascinating beyond its bare facade – an identity distinct among many counterparts. Cotabato City boasts of attractions which may help us get to know a little bit more about this unique side of the 12th Paradise, SOCCSKSARGEN.
Cotabato City Plaza (Don Rufino Alonzo St.)
The plaza lies at the very heart of the busy city, along a major thoroughfare, and surrounded by establishments and business centers. This is a landmark where locals meet, congregate or maybe just to pass time during day time. But as the sun goes down and food stands, fruit carts, and mobile coffee shops come rolling down the busy center, and the place becomes livelier. Spare well-known restaurants for a day, and grab a barbeque and pastil from one of the numerous stands for a cheap but delicious dinner.
Kutawato Cave ( Brgy. Bagua)
Beneath the earth of Pedro Colina Hill, referred locally as PC Hill, is a cave system that has witnessed Cotabato City’s rich history unfold. During the Spanish Era, the 7-kilometer cave served as a refuge to natives resisting Spanish influence. It was a garrison and armory to the guerillas during the Japanese Occupation. This unique historical cave within the city is called Kutawato Cave – “kuta” meaning fort, “wato” translates to stone, thus Cotabato – Fort of Stone.
Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid (Brgy. Kalanganan Dos)
Mosques can be found anywhere in a city where majority of residents are Muslim. In Cotabato City, every area, every baranggay, every sitio, has a sacred place for prayer. But the grandest among all these mosques around the city is the 48-million Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid. This magnificent 43-meter high edifice shines in white with golden domes and minarets accented by crescent moons on top as if reaching out to the heavens. It was one of the most marvelous religious structures I’ve seen in the country. No wonder it’s referred to as, “grand.”
The Al-Jamelah Weaving Center (Tamontaka, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao)
Being conveniently located just on the outskirts of Cotabato City, most travelers visit Al-Jamelah Weaving Center in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao to buy the world-class Maguindanaon craft known as Inaul, a sophisticated type of silk fabric weaved using traditional techniques mastered for generations.
Cotabato City. It’s partly Maguindanao, partly Cotabato. It is ARMM, yet SOCCSKSARGEN. It is old yet its new. It hustles, it bustles, yet laidback. It has a mind of highly urbanized city yet possesses the soul of rural lifestyle. It is a sanctum to both Muslims and Christians. It is a home to Magindanaons, Maranaos, Tagalogs, Cebuanos, Ilonggos, a city that embraces multiple dialects. It has a myriad of wonders which can be found only in this city. It is radically beautiful. This is the heart of Mindanao. This is Cotabato City.
1. Awang Airport in Maguindanao is Cotabato City’s main point of entry if traveling by plane. There are also vans and buses coming from Davao, Isulan, Tacurong City, General Santos City, Kidapawan, and many other hub of transportations all over Mindanao. From Awang, you could take a tricycle to the main highway and then take a multicab to the city.
2. There are numerous hotels and lodges in Cotabato City, but I stayed at Hotel Filipino. Nothing really fancy about it, but it’s pretty cheap at P300 per night (fan room and common CR). Best of all, it is located at the city center where most public transport passes by. It also has a nice vantage point of the plaza and the main road that’s why I stayed there (2nd photograph).
3. Where to eat. Like most cities, many restaurants can be found in the city but most of the time, I eat around the plaza and barbeque stand. I just can’t get enough of barbeque (lots of varieties) and pastil, steamed rice with shredded chicken or pork then wrapped in a leaf. Ever since I tried, every where I went in SOCCSKSARGEN, I always look for pastil – pastil and boiled egg for breakfast, pastil and any viand for lunch, pastil and barbeque for dinner, repeat three times.
4. Directions to Grand Mosque – from the plaza, take a jeep bound for Awang and get off at the Husky Bus Terminal. There are several habal-habal (single motorcycle) and you could ask them to take you to the mosque, and wait for you as well. Fare would costs around P100.00 two way. It’s quite far from the main highway.
5. Directions to Kutawato Cave – it’s a walking distance from the plaza, actually. Walk up to Tantawan Park, there’s a statue of Sultan Kudarat. That’s the entrance to PC Hill. Take a left, go straight. There’s a fork there – one that goes up the hill, one that goes straight, and one that leads to the market. Take the one that goes straight. Ask for directions just to make sure.
6. Visit the city tourism office at the Provincial Capitol for further assistance. To go there, take a multicab bound for Awang. It passes by the provincial capitol or People’s Palace.
7. The Al-Jamelah Weaving Center and Inaul is located at Tamontaka, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao. Contact 0917 785 1737.
8. More destinations in SOCCSKSARGEN
9. Like Biyaherong Barat on Facebook.
10. Follow @BiyaherongBarat on Twitter
11. Be safe and happy travels.
With Cotabato City’s local BMX riders.