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.

The Grand Old Cotabato City Hall

Truly, a landmark on its own right, the old Cotabato City Hall is Moro civic architecture at its magnificence. Already more than half a century old, its ornate carvings and steep roof with resemblance of the Maranao torogan and okir carvings has made it one of the most unique government or civic structures that were built in the country. Landmark in other words.

This two-storey edifice has three facades with three pointing pediments, each with its own okir.

The city hall is found in the heart of the city, just in front of the plaza.

When I went there in 2005, it was still the city government’s seat of power. However in 2009, after the People’s Palace has been completed, the city government’s operation moved to a much spacious building, inspired by the old city hall’s architecture itself.

Some details reminiscent of the okir

Today, it is the headquarters of the Philippine Marines based in the city…therefore, this landmark with these barakos on it, is kind of intimidating to take pictures at. I held myself back then, unlike at PC Hill, since these are the Marines. So I just took photos from afar, sadly—from the city plaza.

Cotabato City Hall and the Plaza

The jewel is a bit deteriorating; some of the areas surrounding the old city hall seems to be inappropriate. I heard that the backside of it was made as a commercial area. The surrounding area is a bit disorganized and the plaza in front of it should be landscaped and maintained properly. Hopefully, the plan of the city government to make it as a museum in the near future will come into fruitition. Indeed, the old city hall of Cotabato is a jewel of the past, silently witnessing how the city rose up from the riverside of Rio Grande, to be one of the most urban cities in the Philippines at that time, to different people with different ethnicity living harmoniously, to its decline due to the rebellions in Mindanao, and to its hope to see a brighter day for the Cotabateños.

It is an architectural and historical marvel of Mindanao worth keeping.

The People’s Palace

The People's Palace of Cotabato City

This grand show of power, half-Moro, half-Neo Classical inspired whitewashed palace, was recently opened in 2009. The new city hall of Cotabato or fondly known as “People’s Palace” is the new seat of power of the local government. It has about 9,000 square meter office area and it seems to embrace everyone who enters the hall because of its outstretching wings.

The new city hall was inspired from the old city hall itself, although in my opinion, less intricate. The pointed roof and some lesser details of the okir still manifests, yet the columns in its façade has given it its hybrid neo-Classical look, which is reminiscent to most government edifices built during the American colonial era. I just wished that the architect has made it a bit bolder with its design; it could have been equally intricate and astounding as the old one. My vote for beauty still is with the old city hall—however it doesn’t mean that I don’t like this new city hall.

The roof of People's Palace -- reminiscent of the old city hall

And instead of using the cliche “city hall,” it emphasizes its name “People’s Palace,” referring that this structure is for the people and by the people, and not a palace of any datu or royalty.

Neo Classical and Moro influences

Sad to say, I have a very short stay here…mere four hours! Not enough to explore the city, in my opinion. It was just plain sightseeing. Hay! Anyway, I know there would be a next time.

I won’t be talking about that latest fiasco in Cotabato regarding water hyacinths, dredging, the mayor, the governor, the local politics, the rebels, Noynoy and his seemingly “un-inspirational” quote that ruffled some feathers in the political scene of Cotabato and the Philippines, as a result of the recent flooding that has affected thousands of lives.

For now, lets help the people of Cotabato recover from one of the worst floods in its history. You can donate through Philippine National Red Cross (click here for details) or any other organization that facilitates distribution of relief goods.

By that time I’ll be back, I shall see the resolute spirit that Cotabateños are known for. Strong yet still accommodating.

View The City Halls of Cotabato City in a larger map


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2 comments to The Halls of the People of Cotabato City

  • Mervz |

    ang ganda ng new Cotabato City Hall… Question po, is Cotabato City an independent or a component city under Maguindanao? Thanks! :)

  • Sa definition po nya, it is an “independent component city.” Until now I still ponder what does this mean exactly to the people.
    However, Cotabato City is not under Maguindanao Province (chartered) yet it is the regional capital of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, yet the city itself is under Region 12. Confusing no? Hehe!

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June 2011
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