It is a widely known fact that Mount Apo is Philippines’ highest mountain, home of the rare but mighty Philippine Eagle, and located in Mindanao. However, a lot of people don’t know that the “King of Philippine Mountains” is also a volcano! And evidence that would prove that this mountain is alive is the boiling Lake Agco in its foothills.
Mindanao—the second largest island in, down south of the republic…very far yet so close to my heart. For most of the urbanites, it is a place that most should avoid because of adjectives associated with it: war-torn, poverty-stricken and home of the “terrorists.” Indeed, the notion of the island has evaded so many people to visit this great island in the south. However, in my own perspective, we have to take a second look onto this island. Mindanao has so much to offer, so much to see, so much to experience yet so neglected and feared by many.
Mindanao was (and for some, still is) “The Wild West” of the Philippines, as what they said–a tapestry of stories of three seemingly opposite cultures, vastly still unexplored and full of potential.
Cotabato City was and is still one of the most important political cities in the country, historically holding several edifices that handle such vast and wild land. The Stone Fortress itself was a palace-fortress—made to become a political center of Central Mindanao. I have already made an article about the Old Provincial Capitol of the “Empire” Province of Cotabato located beside PC Hill—and a lot doesn’t know that it even exist!
It was a lightning rush tour—seemingly opposing my “local integration” with just sightseeing. Kulang sa time. It’s a good thing I was accompanied by locals Chris and Jam along the way in this city that is still alien to me.
November 23, 2009, the Filipino nation and the international community were shocked with the killing of 50+ victims in what is now known as the “Maguindanao Massacre”—the worst election-related violence at that time. Brought up by rivalry of powerful families that ruled the Cotabato basin, the supposedly peaceful convoy for filing candidacy was turned into bloodbath when armed men allegedly belonging to the ruling family intercepted the convoy and mercilessly killed, mutilated and hastily buried the victims in the hills of Maguindanao—leaving their lifeless bodies, crushed cars and a backhoe bearing the name of the ruling clan. Most number that was killed were journalists, same as with the wife of the opposition leader, his relatives, and some who weren’t part of the convoy at all. The event has left a lasting imprint to every Filipino psyche regarding Maguindanao—armed, lawless, deadly and violent. As of the time of writing, the province of Maguindanao, now under the then-opposition leader’s rule, is still under state of emergency.
Personally, I myself was stunned by the event. That same highway that I passed in 2005 (read my article on my 2005 trip at Maguindanao) was the same highway that the convoy was intercepted. I got numb when some of Tacurong City Hall people, whom have helped me in my thesis in college, was also murdered point blank–despite their non-involvement at the convoy. It was unbelievable that such cold-blooded act happened in this modern day and age—barbaric and devoid of civility. Then the opportunity came in, I was to visit Cotabato City when I went to GenSan—no other choice but to pass by Maguindanao once more. This time, I face Maguindanao on a different light, a different era…
Cotabato City was a bustling urban area, teeming with life and people from different places, speaking different languages. Moro, Kristyano and Lumad cultures mix and intermingle, creating a seemingly distinct culture in the heart of Mindanao. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, a white-washed edifice watches over the city like a sentinel. According to Simeon Millan’s book, 1952 Cotabato Guidebook, it was the “acropolis” that governed not just Cotabato City, but once the largest province in the country. It is the old Cotabato Provincial Capitol—half a century ago.
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 grew up in Greater Manila for most of my childhood life. Eat, sleep, talk and think as a city boy. Although I frequently visit the provinces because my parents are provincianos and my dad has a lot of out-of-town projects, which is a nature of his work. However, when I stepped into college, have chosen myself as Ilonggo and hometown at Iloilo, it was the time that I was reintroduced and reoriented with my parent’s birthplace…the “Land of Promise” down south, Mindanao. The fascination and the sojourns have changed my life forever.
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.
Originally posted at Habagat.i.ph on 21 May 2007
Two years ago, I couldn’t believe that I crossed for what they say, one of the most treacherous highways in the country. Only a few years ago, during the Estrada Administration, the only thing that you see here are bombshells, mortars, evacuating people and guns, guns and more guns. Crossfire was everywhere, and media blows it all up in Manila.
That was several years ago. The waring factions agreed upon a ceasefire while two bodies of negotiators tried to resolve this centuries-old conflict. Me, I’m busy with my thesis, and will trace the path that most of my thesis respondents’ took to the Land of Promise, and it was through that path that they took the road, or maybe a way less traveled.
And now, on the headlines again, this side of this tropical state in the Philippines has a lot of potential when it comes to resources and tourism. A lot of things that are still untapped because of unreliable peace and order and poltical suitation in Maguindanao.
I believe that this highway is one of the most well-paved in the country. The shuttle van zoomed effortlessly through the fields and the hills of Sultan Kudarat, then to Maguindanao all the way to Cotabato City within just less than 2 hours.
One October morning, it was Ramadan for our Muslim brethen. I’ve been wanting to see the entrepot of my subjects in my thesis: Cotabato City, almost a hundred kilometers away from Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat Province. And boy the van in Tacurong terminal was waiting to be filled up. I have to be there early, or else I’ll be stranded in Cotabato City without any idea where to sleep over. So, I went up to Isulan, the capital of the province, passing through palm oil plantations that are owned by Negrense hacienderos. Isulan is where most of Cotabato bound buses and vans pass by. One of the largest Christian settlements in Central Cotabato.