The Golden Mosque of Cotabato City
Cotabato City wasn’t really on my itinerary on my vacation in Gensan-Soccsksargen since it is too far AND a lot of things have changed since 2009 (refer to Maguindanao Massacre). Yet what caught my attention was the tweet from a good friend of mine who worked in ORC-Cotabato City. She said that there was this big golden mosque being constructed in Cotabato that was partly funded by the Sultan Bolkiah himself—big enough to be called perhaps the largest masjid ever constructed in the Philippines. And more confirmations came in, and even the people at Cotabato City Tourism Office recommended me to go there. Now, that caught my attention to go back to Cotabato City, six years after I last visited it.
I am fascinated by Islam, its culture and most especially its art and architecture. Mostly Arabic in influence but mixed with vernacular or Asian aspect, its works of art are manifestation of their devotion to the one true God or Allah. From the minarets to the domes and even listening to the adha or call to prayer. It got me.
The golden mosque or as the media called it as “Masjid Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah dang Brunei” (Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque), is located some seven kilometers away from the highway (Sinsuat Avenue) at Barangay Kalangalan, in a plot of land donated by the Dilangalen clan. Nestled beside Tamontaka River and the Moro Gulf, the masjid is a sight to behold both from the air (since it is near Awang Airport) and the sea. Getting there, you need to take a habal-habal or a motorcycle worth P70 for a roundtrip journey (believe me, the place is sparsely populated and public transport is as rare as diamonds—so better have manong to wait you up while sightseeing).
The golden masjid is partly funded by the Sultanate of Negara Brunei Darussalam as part of a bilateral agreement with the Philippines. Designed by world-renowned Palafox and Associates, the mosque incorporated domes and minarets of the Arab-Islamic influence. As mentioned earlier, it would be the largest in the country. It can occupy as much as 1,200 worshipers (800 male, 400 female worshipers). It features towering 15-storey high minarets, courtyards and fountains…seemingly having striking resemblance to its counterparts in the Middle East. The masjid is reported to have a cost of US$48 million and is part of a project to build a 5 hectare community with functional sports and educational facilities and madrasahs.
And as I’ve arrived at the masjid, it was still not complete. It was a Sunday. Construction workers were nowhere to be found and only a lone CAFGU or guard was…well guarding the edifice. Hot as it was, I took advantage of taking photos together with Chris Sodusta and Jam as my guides for the day. It was a hot and a bit humid day, but the azure skies give a striking contrast to the mosque bathed in white and golden glory…even if it is still unfinished. Although I was expecting that the domes are gold-plated, but the fact that it was still unfinished, the yellow domes still give it splendor.
Indeed, even though in isolation, the golden masjid or mosque stands guard as the sentinel of Cotabato City—at the mouth of Tamontaka River, near Timako Hill and majestically dominant in its surroundings. A beacon of Allah’s teachings of peace. The golden mosque is a cultural legacy that brings forth the best of the Islamic Mindanao and perhaps also bringing the sense of community and between the Muslim, the Kristyano and the Lumad.
View Masjid Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah in a larger map