The Halls of the People of Cotabato City

Old Cotabato City Hall

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.

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Don’t Tell my Mom That I was in Maguindanao

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.

Somewhere over those hills, the howling and the wailing of the dead seeking justice

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…

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Old Cotabato Provincial Capitol: Seat of the United Cotabato

Old Cotabato Provincial Capitol

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.

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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.

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The Pacquiao Serendipity

Starstruck: Me, Marc of ExploreIloilo and Manny Pacquiao

It was nearing midnight in General Santos City. We just had some dinner and shots at Piyesta at Robinsons Place Gensan in Lagao District together with the SOX Bloggers. Avel, Marz, Marc and I were heading to Horizon Spa, just a few miles north east from the resto. While we were on our way, we passed by J Mix Bar and Pacman Sports Bar and Grill—of course owned by Gensan’s pride boxer Manny Pacquiao. At first we were like, “ah ok, kay Pacman pala yan” and carry on. However, our fellow blogger Marz noticed a black Hummer parked in front of the bar and uttered, “andyan si Manny! Andyan yung Hummer nya eh.” (Manny is there! The Hummer is there)

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June 2011
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