In the News: Buluan and Shariff Aguak Maguindanao
Given the degree of the events that happened in Cotabato (Maguindanao to be exact) region, HabagatCentral.com would like to give you a bit of glimpse on the towns now mentioned in the news. Personally, I’ve been to these towns in 2005-2006 as part of my thesis and bears hold personally.
Two of Maguindanao’s towns have been mentioned in the news…and yes, these are the baluartes or strongholds of the warring political clans. These are Buluan, a southern town in Maguindanao almost sandwiched by Christian-dominated towns; and Shariff Aguak, the capital town of the province of Maguindanao.
Buluan: The Mangudadatu’s baluarte
The town was established on August 1947 under Executive Order No. 82 by President Manuel Roxas. It is believed to have been once a part of a local kingdom that was ruled by Datu Ali, Datu Inok and his wife Bai Bagungan before the American occupation. The name itself derives from a legend of three brothers who gave iron-implements to the sole family who was living in the area. In memory of the sympathy shown by the brothers, the area was named “buluanen” or bolo-suppliers.
It once has a land area sprawling from present day city of Tacurong, the towns of President Quirino, Columbio, Lutayan at Sultan Kudarat and all the way to M’lang in North Cotabato. It once covered the tilapia-rich Lake Buluan. The current population as of 2007 is 33,702.
And guess what, from this mother town, several new towns were created starting from Tacurong and Columbio in the 1950s. In the 1970s, the Ilocano-town of President Quirino and in the north was General Salipada K. Pendatun town in 1991. Afterwards in 2006, 2 new towns were formed: Manungdadatu and Pandag. Buluan has once having a lakeshore area, and now a landlocked area. It was once the transit hub for the pioneer Christian settlers during the 1950s since Buluan River as I’ve said was the major thoroughfare…long before the highways was built in this once deep Cotabato hinterland.
The town itself is just less than 30 minutes away from Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat on a well-paved highway going to North Cotabato, Kidapawan City and eventually Davao City. The poblacion straddles along Buluan River, one of the tributaries of Rio Grande de Mindanao and was the main highway during the “Pioneer Years” of the Christian migration to Mindanao. The town is rather laid back when it comes to economic activities. It was noon time back then and the people were just finished from their prayer duty…it was a quiet town with a main road going inside the town. According to some old Tacurong residents, Buluan looks like the town that they knew during the pioneering days.
Buayan was once known for its crocodile-skin industry…yes, like any other Philippine towns back then, there were a lot of buwayas swimming around fresh-water rivers and lakes. The Moros of the past once hunt these for their precious skin which was in demand back then. Simeon Millan described the town as a “sportsmen’s paradise” because you could go fishing at its lakeshore.
Shariff Aguak: The Ampatuan baluarte
It was fascinating to know back then that there was a Philippine TV documentary about which is which…who’s the real capital of Maguindanao: the town of Sultan Kudarat, just north of Cotabato City or Shariff Aguak (or formerly known as Maganoy) way down south in Maguindanao? As confirmed, it is Shariff Aguak.
Its old name is Maganoy which was once part of the greater town of Dulawan (modern-day Datu Piang, Maguindanao). In 1963, it separated from its mother municipality and became a capital of the Maguindanao province after the old Cotabato province was further divided into three new provinces in 1973.
With a population of more than 41,000 and with 14 barangays as of the moment, it serves as the capital of the province of Maguindanao. Basically a third-class town at the foothills of the Tiduray Mountains, going here is quite hard from the major cities in Mindanao, especially from either Cotabato City (which is an hour away by bus or shuttle vans) or General Santos City (2 hours at least). This town has a simple “along the highway” settlement with startling contrasts in its center: The impressive new capitol of Maguindanao which straddles along a hill and the house of the ruling family of the area, the Ampatuans.
Like Buluan, there were several towns that were carved out from its area: Mamasapano, Datu Unsay, Shariff Sayadona Mustapha and Datu Hoffer Ampatuan.
This particular settlement mostly caters on provincial governmental transactions. It is also somehow a food hub in that particular area in Maguindanao.
I remember passing by Shariff Aguak not so long ago and saw the magnificent edifices. The Ampatuan residence has a golden-dome mosque inside a well-guarded compound of their residence. They are the modern-day datus of the “Kingdom of Maguindanao.” The capitol on the other hand overlooks the town and the vast plains of Maguindanao. It incorporates Islamic architecture together with the traditional Mindanao motif.
On the other hand, surrounding these magnificent edifices are the residences of the commoners. Mostly made of nipa, wood or anything that nature and limited resources could offer. Somehow, it provided a contrasting backdrop of the society in which the people of the area are living in.