The first positive written of the town proper of Cotabato is found in Maguindanao-Kabuntalan- Buayan tarsillas or genealogies. The original manuscripts translated into English in 1905, by Dr. Najeeb Saleeby as part of ethnological survey publications of the department of Interior. The Tarsal speaks briefly on early history of Maguindanao and rise of the sultanate but its principal function was to preserve the record of descent and determine the right succession of the of the sultanate.
But for the present article, this shall confine the background of Cotabato city History to that of Maguindanao proper. In that discussion will lead us to the establishment of the civil government in Cotabato town as distinguished from traditional administration of the maguindanao realm. Undeniably, little has been written about Cotabato part but substantially there exist also a number of travelogues Europeans who visited or stayed at the town some months. For the seventeenth century, there is a great account of the historian Combes, Captain Forrest and William Dampier, both English men whose ships laid anchor in this town, like wise were eyewitness historians of Maguindanao.
It is recorded in tarsila that the beginning of settled life was on the banks of the twin creeks of Rawass maguindanao and slanagan. In terms of local history, Sahriff Kbunsuwan was the son of Jusul Asiquin of Johore and Shariff Ali-Zain Abiden who came to maguindanao and converted to Islam all the people of maguindano, Matampay, Slangan, Simway and Katituan. In this conviction that this period presents the peregrination of the Malay rulers after Malacca fell into the hands of the Portuguese in 1511. However, evidence of the presence of Shariff Marajah and Hasan who proceeded Shariff Kabungsuwan, according to the tarsila, attest to one more generation of bearers of Islam who came to maguindanao. For the dating of Islamization period, the event was roughly in the year 1475 as estimated by Captain Thomas Forrest who visited maguindanao in 1775. And now generally settled in two generations of shariff lineage before Shariff Kabungsuwan because a certain Sharif Awliya (Arabic aula) mentioned in the tarsila as having come to maguindanao, arrived there and begot a daughter entitled “paramisuli”. The Filipino Cesar Adlib Maul has placed that event to take place roughly around 1460.
The history of Cotabato would have taken on a different course. This could be the way to picture the contrasting relations between the maguindanao sultanate and Spanish government. The maguindanao sphere of influence had begun to shrink with sahrival turning friendly towards Spain and signing treaties in 1789 and 1794 co validating the previous ones. His son and successor Sultan “Kawasa” Anwar ud-Din entered also into a peace treaty with the Spaniards in 1805.
In 1830, Sultan Kawasa died, leaving a son Datu Musa, at manubo a renovated mosque stands on the same site he originally erected the old one, with historical association including an old dabu-dabu (drum) and an ablution jar. According to maguindanao tradition. Datu Almansa Sulkarnain who was the late sultan brother and Rajah Muda succeed to the vacant seat. But pending the succession rites, and on account of the Spanish imperfect understanding of the situation, they recognized Datu Musa as “Amoral Interim’ (ad interim). Unfortunately, Datu Sulkarnain died in 1832, but one son inherited the rule of Sib gay; another of his sons named Rajah Taw had predeceased his father. On the basis of the great compromise of 1837 worked out by Jose Halcyon, Spanish governor at zamboanga, the seat passed on “Islander” to give representation to the house of Rajah Taw; the young Sultan entitled Islander Quadrahtullah Jamul Alma Uniting; his surname means “ the greatest beauty” known as well as quadrate by the Spaniards conferred on him the title “feudal king of tamontaka”.
In Sultan Quadrahtullah, entered into a treaty with the Spaniards allowing a trading house at Cotabato to arrest the declining volume of business in the region. In 1851, the Spaniards occupied polloc. Sultan Quadratullah died 1854 and was survived by a daughter Rajah Put, the sons Datu Marinating, Datu Gumander, Datu Mama, Datu Ambulate, and the youngest Datu Mastura. One on the left bank of Pulangui River at mid-way between Tuba and Lounging, there is a small monument erected in memory of those who died during the battle with the Spaniards.
In royal order of 1860, the Spanish Politico-Military Government of Mindanao was organized in which Cotabato and polloc formed the central or fifth district. The central district was made the capital of the Politico-Military-Government of Mindanao because of military reasons. A royal order of 1862 directed that the Spanish Governor of the district should reside on the delta of the pulangui, and it was Col. Garcia Ruiz who was the first to be appointed Governor of the fifth district. About 1872, the Spanish Jesuits begun to gather together into a pueblo (township) the sitios around tamontaka and organized population centers called taviran and lara, with their own governadorcillos. It was not so successful at the Awang pueblo, which was composed of Tiruray population. It was experimented by the Jesuits that Tamontaka be organized into a reduction (conversion) mission and an agricultural colony. Runaway slaves were purchased and sheltered by the Jesuits. Those ransomed were called rescate and reared in the catholic mission.
During that eventful year, 1884, an eighteen-kilometer highway, which runs from Polloc and connected to Cotabato, was constructed, passing through simony and ending at the present site of barrio Kalama, opposite Cotabato city. The district grew somewhat under Ramon de Acreaga and Vicente Dota, but afterwards declined because of lack maintenance.
In 1886, the Muslims of Subpangan for some reasons mounted resistance to Spanish incursion peace and order deteriorated on account of an incident between Datu Bansil of Lara and Watamama Mauya, the son of Rajah Muda Maminteng, which resulted in the killing of the former. When the matter reported to Governor Alvaro who tried to take the side of Datu Bansil, tension run high. A peace conference called Tamontaka ended in a fray, resulting in the death of Governor Alvaro, the Fiscal and in the wounding of Watamama Mauya who was able to escape to Talayan. Then, the Muslims burned the Jesuits mansion house at Tamontaka, the town of Amadeo near Polloc, the infantry barracks. Meanwhile, as matter became worse, Governor-General Emilio Terero prepared for a major expedition. After assembling some 3,411 men in the Pulangui River, he personally conducted the military operation against Datu Utu and Rajah Putri and the leading datus upriver; General Tererro’s arrival in Cotabato was celebrated with salvos, festivals while the preparation to attack Buayan made headway.
On March 12, 1887, negotiations were reached but Datu Utu had not even deigned to submit in person and merely sent emissaries. According to reports, only Datu Tambilawan of Kudarangan, an uncle of Datu Uto and the father of Datu Ali, with some 30 followers went on board the carriedo and terms of peace were discussed by Datu Sirungan, Dalandang (dalgan), who excused absence of Datu Utu and Rajah Putri and Dalgan of Tabungao, Gugo sa Buayan were Rajah Muda of Dalgan, Guiamaludin Sultan Tambila-Balsuag, Mama sa Buayan, Datu Ali, Datu Jambangan and Watamama Silungan. The capitulations contained a pledge of loyalty a stipulation not to wage war on the delta datu’s under Spanish regime. On the part of Spain, a stipulation was made for war indemnity in the form of “lantacas, buffalo and horses” and rehabilitations for destroyed rice paddies.
The following year however, after the death of Sultan Pablu the Spanish Government negotiated for a deed of reconciliation from From Rajah Putri, respecting “the religion of (her) forebears and the customs of0 (her) immediate family to be left unperturbed”. Wearied perhaps by the previous years of fighting, the Sultan Kudarat of “Talayan also signed an act of adhesion, allowing the Spanish forces to set up an outpost in Talayan. In 1894, on account of his advancing age Datu Utu took permanent residence at Nuling, close to the tombs of the royal family. Datu Utu died in 1902, but his wife lived to see many changes in Pulangui. Rajah Putri remarried Sultan Mangigin who succeeded Sultan Pablu and during whose reign the Americans came. On the bank of Pulangui just above the old Salimbao market, about three miles from Cotabato City, there is a “tampat” which shares the grave and memory of Datu and Rajah Putri who kept alive to the very end. The heritage of the Maguindanao-Buayan dynasty.
FROM MILITARY GOVERNMENT TO THE MORO PROVINCE
The materials presented so far give a historical sequence of transition from the sultanate to the Politico-military form of government. The occupation of Cotabato by the Americans at the turn of the present century brought into the confines as secular state a territory that was only nominally under the Spanish sovereignty. The American-Cotabato administration, as elsewhere in Mindanao, developed into three successive stages, namely: Military government, Moro Provinces and Department of Mindanao and Sulu. In the course of this period another era had ended in which the royal families would be eclipsed in prominence in public life. An emerging leader like Datu Sinsuat Balabaran, who readily co opted to the new order would play some vital role in Cotabato in itself was moving to a new government structure that would bring Filipino officials from the north.
On February 1, 1900, the first visit was made to Datu Piang at his settlement, in Dulawan, by the commanding officer and his men on the US gunboat Panay. A contrast marked the first visit of Datu Utu and Rajah Putri to the military governor of Cotabato for it was attended with much ceremony. Ironically Utu who was one of the most powerful chiefs of the moro chiefs or Datu’s upriver was now downstream. The passing of his heydays was summarized by Harriet Febiger in these words: “ his is the very bluest of all the blue Moro blood in this great island. His slaves, in serving him, creep and crouch like dogs, and even the other and lesser Datu’s bow before him and murmur between their half close lips, Dato….Dato”….there is another upstart, self-made Datu named Piang, who is now respected and feared. But a last glimpsed of that passing age may be reconstructed for one moment.
Although the end was in sight, it was the inception of the new secular structure that was to break the backbone of the traditional form of governance; for the royalties shied away from the new dispensation.
Following in the footsteps of his former patron, Datu Piang peacefully and easily made friends with the American authorities. This figure had taken the measure of the conditions in the islands came to Cotabato. Thus, Daniel Williams wrote in his diary: “ We anchored off the river leading to Cotabato early in the afternoon of April 1, 1901. Major McMahon in command came aboard in the evening accompanied by Datoos and Ali and their attendants” “ At the Cotabato landing we were greeted by as heterogeneous a crowd as imagination can conceive. Three companies of soldiers were in line, as also the “Moro guard” and a company of native police decked out in all the upriver Datu’s and their following had donned their bravest and came to town, never before in all like hood has there been such a gathering to datu’s at one point” “It being the present policy of our authorities to occupy merely the role of counselors and arbitrators in Moro affairs, no effort was made to establish to local government. The Moro, although primitive in many ways, seem to work out substantial justice among themselves.”
In Dulawan, Datu Piang entertained on a grand scale. According to Col. John White, to most of his visitors Piang made presents. It was reported that “the Datu had a carefully graduated scale of gifts that ran from an engraved Lantaka (brass cannon) or valuable piece of brass for a general down to half a dozen eggs for a second lieutenant. Piang died in 1933 at the age of 84.
The government instituted under the military district may be given in summary. The commanding officer became not only the governor of his district, but also mayor of the capital town of Cotabato. It was the principal business of the commanding officers to hear and decide compliant. As this procedure became cumbersome, it was decided to organize a board of arbitration, chosen by the moro’s by themselves, to hear all such complaints of a purely civil nature. The result had been most satisfactory since this was done as of December 7, 1901. in the same year telegraph lines were extended from Cotabato to Davao; it was connected to Tamontaka by telephone later, then followed by Taviran, Kudarangan and Regina Regente. Significantly, during the hearing before the US senate committee on the Philippine problems on Ap.10, 1902, recommendation was made “for the extension of a road around the lake Lanai to and across the divide to Paring which would be the base ultimately and commercial portfor all southern Mindanao, the road to be extended to Cotabato.”
The so-called Philippine Bill of 1902” recognized the distinction between the Moro’s, pagans and Christian Filipinos, which basically determined the feature of government worked out by the Americans for Mindanao and Sulu, where the Muslim population prevailed. Among the problems initially tackled were the position of then local datus. It was first suggested to institute there residency introduced by Sir Andrew Clarke for the malays of the straight settlements. But after consideration of local conditions it was decided by the Philippines conditions for the moros, modeled, so far as related to the chief executive offices, upon the general lines followed in establishing provincial governments for the Christian Filipinos, accordingly, the commission passed on June 1, 1903, act no. 787, organizing the Moro province. Under the Moro province there were five district provinces one of which was Cotabato. On October 29, 1903, the legislative council of the Moro province approved an act establishing the municipalities of Cotabato and Makaramong. Next to the municipalities in category and importance were the tribal wards to accommodate through a simple structure the non-Christian inhabitants. Thus, by way of recapitulation, the district province of Cotabato two organized municipalities (Makar and General Santos) and 18 tribal wards. On October 6, 1905, the legislative council of the Moro Province also passed Act no. 142 organizing the tribal wards courts which had the power and authority to try civil and criminal cases when parties involved were Moro but not Christians. The Philippine commission also clearly as 1903 approved the formation of a Moro Constabulary units, they were required to wear a red fez with either a black or a gold tassel, the manila times a reported on October 13, 1908.
In 1903, the legislative council, enacted Act no 8 making the ownership of slaves a crime, and punishable by twenty years imprisonment. Datu Ali who was not likely to take this with slight provocation took the field once more. General Leonard Wood, the first governor of the Moro Province, decided to conduct a military operation against Datu Ali at Salunayan, within the jurisdiction of the Midsayap Town now, still has visible trenches, a living testimony to the first clash in May, 1904 between the American troops and Maguindanao warriors.
In this encounter, General Leonard Wood personally led the reconnaissance, which resulted in a ambush of a company of the 17th Infantry, losing two officers and seventeen-foot patrol. But the American were quite strong for the for the fort, and Datu Ali ordered t retreat of his men from their dugouts. In the hot pursuit that Datu Diambangan who was a brother of Datu Ali as has been indicated earlier, was captured and taken to Cotabato, from this point onward in what marks first history of the guerilla warfare type, to the efficient-run American Military force. At Sempitan, Datu Ali made another stand but was routed out of this conventional position; he fled to Malala where he remained in hiding. But one of his men named Datu Enok turned against him.
Datu Sansaluna, son of Datu Ali who was with him at the time of capture (he was only 18 years old at that time). Explaining, the betrayal, Datu Sansaluna recalled that the place up there was so wild it would ordinarily have been quite impossible for the American forces to reach our camp, least of all find it. But one of our men turned traitor. Before the opening of the campaign, my father had taken a woman from Dulawan, who I think owned by Enok even went as far as Digos, Davao and personally conducted the Americans westward for five days through swamps, mountain and jungles, until they saw Datu Ali house beside Malala river. The capture took place October 2, 1905. On November 17, 1905, the national daily “The cable News reported that affirm in the Moro province appeared to improved a telegram from acting Governor Langhome t executive secretary Ferguson read as follows: “fifty seven guns in good condition Lately surrendered in Cotabato valley and 1,000 Moro came in and settled in their old homes. Captain Van Horn, District governor, has heard from remaining chiefs who are coming in with guns. Some 2,000 will be settled in Paidu Pulangui under Datu Sansaluna”.
Datu Sansaluna was brought to an exposition in Jamestown Beach, Virginia, USA, where he was exhibited possibly bally hoed as the son of a famous Moro warrior he was later presented to president Roosevelt.
As Peace settled in the Cotabato Valley between 1906-1909, general Tasker Bliss, the second governor of the Moro Province, thought of imposing “a disarmamament Policy in the district Governor Mayor A.B. foster advise against it, arguing that most weapons in Moro hands were obsolete, and were use mainly for game hunting and for protection from lawless elements. In 1908, General bliss reported that Cotabato was the most peaceful district in the province, stating that there were only five cases of assassination, 3 homicides and one reported assault. In another part of his report, General Bliss mentioned that the assistant Superintended of schools, Charles Cameron issued a directive in Marched 1907 t revise the curriculum to include teaching of industrial work in Muslim schools. By 1909, the Moro province enrollment had reached 4,894 out of which 3,897 were Christian Filipinos, 842 Moro and 130 highlanders of a plan to bring Islamic preceptors into province to teach Islam in the public schools in order to dissipate Muslim apathy was proposed. But it was opposed by Governor John Pershing.
In one sense Cotabato had become a center of interactions between the government and Datu’s of the interiors, which at times were beyond reach of public service. A report of secretary of Interior to the Philippine Commission. 1908, stated that town sites surveys have been completed for Dulawan, Dansalan, Parang-Parang and Cotabato. By 1911, soil test had been completed also which showed that the Cotabato valley was well suited for hemp, rubber, coconut, sugar cane, rice corn and sweet potato in that order; Pikit and its neighborhood were found to be favorable for the growth of rubber trees. Some statistical figures reveal these comparisons; in 1901, the Philippine Commission was informed that rice, coffee, guttpereha (rubber), almaciga and bees-wax were the major exports of Cotabato sent by the Chinese to Singapore. The two months with aggregate of about $ 150,000 (Mexican dollars). In 1911, Cotabato exports valued at P 137,892.13, which leaped in 1913 to P 391,135.78. Drought caused serious decrease in rice supply so that it was decided to bring homesteaders from overpopulated parts of the country to Cotabato.
Pursuant to Act no. 2254, Christian settlers in the upper part of Cotabato, in the southern coast was planned with the following objectives: (a) to increase the production in this imported in large quantities for local consumption; (b) to equalize the distribution of population in these islands; (c) to afford opportunity to colonist to become land proprietors and to bring under cultivation extensive wild public lands. The Cable News reported on June 3, 1913, that first actual shipments of colonist to the new Cotabato project would take place. In a chattered steamer 150 families, averaging five members each, would leave Cebu to take up their homesteads in Mindanao. Given the families were necessary implements to till the soil; supplies sufficient to tide them for the first few months would be advanced by the government, including the value of work animals and tools. In two other acts numbered 2280 and 2806, it was provided that the agricultural colonies at Pikit, and glam both in Cotabato town’s growth could for the settlers; some colonist in fact actually stayed instead of proceeding to their appointed places.
In accordance with cat no 2309 of the Philippine Commission the powers and duties of the Moro province were transferred to the Department of Mindanao and Sulu. Towards June 1914, the Philippine Commission 0also approved Act no. 2408, known as the organic Act of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu. Which was formally organized under Governor Frank Carpenter. In contrast to the legislative Council under the Moro Province, the Governor of the department was assisted by an Administrative council, which powers. Each province in the Department had a governor appointed by the department governor, subject to the confirmation to the governor general of the Philippines. There was a board of three members; the provincial governor, the provincial secretary-treasurer and the third member. Later on, however, the provincial treasurer was relieved as a member of the provincial board in his place another elective member of the board was provided. At first the "third member" was appointed by the Department Governor also appointed the third member, but in March 1915, the post was made elective under no. 2429. In Cotabato province, as in bukidnon, lanao and Sulu the third member was elected by the presidents, Vice presidents and councilors of the municipalities and municipal districts in the respective provinces. But the election was only in theory; he was most certainly handpicked by the governor. The positions were originally occupied by American officials, which were given to Filipino’s. Under the filipinized board the following were appointed: Major Dionisio Gutierrez, provincial governor; Mr. Lorenzo Palileo, provincial Treasurer Datu Ping, third member and Mr. Edilberto Mendoza, secretary to the provincial board. The municipal government was also reorganized.
The tribal wards were abolished and replaced by Municipal districts. The provincial governors from among the influential leaders of the communities appointed the municipal president. In summary, we may record that Cotabato had two organized municipalities (Cotabato and Parang) and 23 municipal president of the capital town of Cotabato. The period under consideration may be marked as the transition from a semi-military rule in Cotabato to full civil government. There has been a significant development also when governor Bryant and captain Carter on May 19, 1914 received the coming to the folds of law of Datu Alamada and 500 of his armed men. Datu Alamada had fought the government for twenty years prior to his surrender in 1914; he resisted the disarmament policy of governor John Pershing. But Ignacio Ortouste, who later became assistant to the governor of Cotabato, and Rosauro Lualhati, later made provincial Secretary –Treasurer in Bukidnon, negotiated for his giving up. In 1915, on invitation of Governor Carpenter he came to Manila Carnival. Governor General Burton Harrison describes his visit at Malacañang. He seemed tome like a wild bird, Poised for instant flight and extremely uncomfortable among the large crowd of officials at Malacañang Palace his hands was cold from suppressed nervousness and embarrassment. He had to come to Manila upon the assurance that he could carry his Kris at all times, and that he would not be obliged to wear ‘Christian clothing’. However, before the end of his first day in Manila Datu Alamada is said to have discarded the Kris and procured an American suit. Upon his return to Cotabato he was resettled with his followers in the Valley of Libungan River. Datu Alamada was subsequently appointed deputy governor Dionisio Gutierrez.
(1935 – 1941)
The first opportunity for Cotabato to have elective officials was occasioned by the choice of delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1935. The electors consisted of the municipal districts presidents, vice president and councilors. Cotabato elected: Datu Blah Sinsuat and Datu Menandang Piang. These gentlemen were first generation of educated Maguindanao. Atty. Piang served as chairman of the committee on Special Provinces of which Datu Blah Sinsuat was a member. The people of Cotabato voted in favor of ratification of new constitution with most vote cast coming from resident Christian Filipinos in the capital town. The result of the plebiscite was; 3,104 in favor and 491 against.
The election of national assemblymen in September 1935was not only lively but interesting because the town voted for its national officials. Datu Menandang Piang challenged Datu Sinsuat Balabaran, who twice his age and who had served in the old legislature with his father as appointed.
Senator from the 12th District of Mindanao and Sulu. Datu Menandang was badly beaten after a pre-election campaign in which he charged that governor Dionisio Gutierrez took Swimsuit’s side. According to Ralph Tomas, Datu Menandang was apparently regarded as an ally of secretary of the interior as Governor Gutierrez was called to manila to explain the accusation. He was exonerated of the charges, however, as reported in elected mayor of the municipality of Cotabato was Alejandro Dorotheo and voted for the first time, as vice mayor was Jose L. Lim.The forerunner of factional politics came about in the appointment of Datu Salipada Pendatun, another young Maguindanao Lawyer, as third member of the provincial board sometime after Datu Sinsuat Balabaran defeated Datu Menandang Piang 1935election for assemblyman.
In the next two elections for the national legislature Datu Ugalingan Piang, a brother of Datu Menandang, defeated Datu Sinsuat Balabaran. The predominance of the upper valley was further seen in the election of the two of the upriver Datu into the provincial board, namely: Datu Painkilling. Two appointive governors still served before theOutbreak of the war, Jose Cui and later maintain close’ ties with the Christian elements of the Municipality of Cotabato and evidently had the covert support of Governor Alfonso Pablo in the 1941 elections. At the outbreak of the war there was one regular municipality the capital and together with 37 municipal districts embraced the empire province.
Before leaving these sections, we may hasten to record that Oblates of Mary Immaculate came to the province in 1939 headed by now Bishop Gerard Mongeau. The Oblate fathers organized one of the first private schools of the Notre Dame of Midsayap; other private schools were the union Institute of Pikit. Frederick Doherty who was one of he ‘Thomasites’, then I.B. Edwards Kuder, John Stumbo and Colin Mackenzie, pioneered education in the province. Among the Filipinos were Siwa Guiana, Apolinario Corpuz, Sixto Tacardon, Calixto Panes, Adolfo Cascolan, Jose Hombrebano and Simeon Millan Sr. to name but a few Maguindanao teachers to the position of academic supervisor. According to miscellaneous Information collated by Governor Gutierrez in 1932. Cotabato had 117 schools, which included the Cotabato high schools, the Upi agricultural school, 2 farm schools and 97 other schools. The elementary schools at that time were divided into ten supervising districts. There seems to have been a material decline of enrollment of Muslim of decrease over previous years was noted annually also according to the yearbook of the Philippine Islands of 1930.
It is now nearly 500 years when Shariff Kabunsuan made his landfall at Cotabato. If this progenitor of the Maguindanao dynasty could return to discover what has become of the twin settlements of Maguindanao and Slangan, the Shariff would probably find these places beyond recognition. In this capital, where once Sultan Qudarat held court the seat of the Cotabato city government stands an imposing town half. It has been written of this Building:
About half a century old structure in the city hall, which houses almost all the city government offices. It is considered one of then landmarks as well as a tourism spot of the city and it can boast of its unique and antique architectures, providing a fascinating study on the complexity of Maguindanao/Muslim art. It displays ornate, artistic, colorful and abstract configurations with emphasis one stylistic and geometrical patterns.
The city government is run by the city mayor (incumbent is Hon. Juan J. Ty.), by the city Board (Sangguniang Panlungsod) and is supported by an administrative machinery of the offices of the city treasurer, city auditor, city engineer, city assessor, city register of deeds, city court, city fiscal, city health, city superintendent of schools, commander of integrated national police. The city has a project and planning development office.
The biggest expenditure of the city government is for maintenance of the market and slaughterhouse. Police gets a fairly large share amounting to ore than a half a million pesos since 1975. For the last ten years, beginning CY 1965-1966 to 1974-1975 the total revenue has reached the one million mark. In 1965 the city generated an income of P 1,504,658.77 and by 1973 assumed a peak in receipts of P 4,894,996.85. And the revenue dropped by almost P 800,000.00. Business palling enterprises to establish branches in Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City.
Ethnic position in Cotabato has always fascinated observers. Ethnologically, the Chinese predated the Spaniards in coming to this place and remained constituting a commercial middle class. There are still descendants of Arab, American and Indian immigrants who will constitute a very small sector, the biggest ethnic group is still the indigenous Iranon Muslims, reflecting 36% of the population; next in rank is the immigrant Cebuano, comprising 26%; some 15% tagalog, 11% hiligaynons; ilocanos, maranaos, and chabacanos (origin from Zamboanga) compose the remaining 12%. In terms of economic roles, the Luzon migrants, excepting the boholanos vendors, are in barbershops, cottage industry, agriculture and domestic concerns. Maguindanao Muslims form a large percentage of the fishermen, stevedores, goldsmiths and some farmers. The more economically stable have antique shops, restaurants and lodging houses; others handle makeshift stalls; quite a few own and operate inter-island vessels and small rice mills. The Chinese also monopolizes commercial establishments, although some Christian natives have entered the grocery business. The city Project Planning and Development Office has at the conclusion that Cotabato ranks 14 in the hierarchy of commercial settlements and the mercantile economy far outweighs its agricultural base.
Ecological structure in the city has been determined by the pattern of occupational distribution and limited built-up areas. Chinese residents usually live on tenements located downtown above the stores they maintain. According to a study made by Chester Hunt in the late 1950’s, the earliest migrants (Chabacanos) who were descendants of soldiers and preside Rios were concentrated close by the river front along the west side of the town, which is Manday. Migrant professionals began to occupy the Rosary Heights. Maguindanao in the past were scattered in the outskirts of the town along the riverbanks and its estuaries. A number of Maguindanaon where active heavy concentrations of Maguindanaons where active indigenous life exist, so reminiscent of the quaint days of Cotabato. Intermixed communities today constitute Tamontaka, but this district has high growth potentials. Once the road to Biniroan and to Kakar will be completed residents will live on the San Vicente from Bagua towards Malagapas; it is likely to follow the same trend of expansion. The Tantawan, which was originally occupied by the company of Moro constabulary in 1906, has since referred to as PC or Colina Hill and dotted their houses of constabulary officers, enlisted personnel and their families. The CEMCOM has since 1973 started to improve the summit to Tantawan as it appears.
Cotabato city often gives visitors the impression that the place has little sense of leisurely way of living. The town proper is small in size but its charm lie in Maguindanao history and as roam the city street in about 24 hours as there is a total 0f 54.034 kilometers of 1st class concrete, 1st class asphalt and 2nd class asphalt and 2nd class gravel roads. Or a vehicle can take a short drive to nearby historic Sultan Kudarat town which features countryside life and drive all the way through green rolling scenery. The first class highway (13 km) leads as of the present to the scenic Polloc harbor at the town of Parang, Maguindanao, where multi million modern ports is under completion. Once completed the 44-meter wharf will be supported by a reclaimed area of 11,800 square meters for the development of warehousing, storage and other ancillary services.
For a brief coastline trip, one can be cruise back to Cotabato and approach the city from the Bucana (mouth of Pulangui) where payguan lies on the Sultan Kudarat side of the bank and Kalanganan on the city side of the channel. The boat enters the cut-off channel traversing the Tinunduan River where Shariff Kabunsuan and Rajah Tabunaway first met. Along the banks of Paidu Pulangui is strung picturesque Maguindanao Muslim houses which would soon give way to the proposed boulevard connecting the city proper and Timako Hill. A word about Timako Hill and Tantawan hill. Legends have it that both hills are connected by the cave at the foot of the Timako and Tantawan in what could have been a subterranean label of life which conjures up the shades of the ‘hollow earth’ club of the European societies. Timako is said to have been the sunken boat of one of Buntugan’s wives who is the legendary figure in the epic of the Maguindanao and Lanao. Anyway in reality Timako hills over looks the Illana sea-lane, which is naturally protected by Bongo Island and graced by the beach resorts of Linik, Kusiong and Tapian point and the Amadeo Beach. Timako itself makes good resort considering its blue waters and sandy white beach, and once made accessible can be very well become the Cotabato seashore park. The place was so ideal for camping, boating, swimming and fishing as well as location for excursions, picnic grounds and recreation.
Water sports and boat racing used to be the one of the popular attractions on the Pulagui River. The occasion usually coincides with the feast of Hariraya Puasa and Hariraya Haji (Arabic Eid-ul Eid –ul Haj). Not seen these days are Maguindanao traditional Guinakits (floating decorated boats), which delve on the historical merry making on the river system. A colorful pageantry, through celebrated only once was festivity to complement the inaugural day of the region with the coming of Shariff Kabunsuan re-enacted on the Pulangui River. It can very well developed to revive the merry making festival on the historical mood of Cotabato. Fire works was always a part of the celebration in the past.
In the same token, there is for many recollection of the festivity that pervaded the cultural life of Cotabato in the observance of the Immaculate Conception Day in December. It used to be that the different educational institutions and civic clubs contribute each program, every night for one week to entertain the people of the old Notre Dame Gymnasium. The festival coincided as it still does, with the Christmas season and a majority of the urban districts used to celebrate it with elaborate preparations for the holiday Revelry likewise welcome the coming of the New Year amidst fireworks.
In retrospect, Cotabato has had its share of a colorful mood, and enriching cultural life. One recalls to mind hosting of the Third National Muslim Congress in 1953, and there was one moment that represented a converging of people from all walks of life into Rizal Park. The people have done it before and there are still many celebrations to come, which are tuned to both Islamic and Christian traditions of hospitality. Merry making, graciousness and the bright side of life. And many came to spend their holidays, as we foresee others will come to such a cultural revival. Cotabato is endowed with a balmy climate. The weather here is generally characterized by more or less an even distribution of rainfall throughout the year with varying the temperature from 76.63 inches to 94.88 inches in the province which gives a fairly good amount of share to the city.
The city is not bereft of convenient facilities today. The local telephone system, comparable to many in the country, serves 1,500 single lines and ties to the Philippine Long Distance Company. The to telegraph stations (RCPI and PT & T) also serves long distance telephone calls to many parts of the country. The city has also a good number of relatively comfortable hotels and restaurants catering superb seafood’s: it is for certain noted for its ‘pigek’ (a fish which spawns in the brackish part of the Pulangui). One samples native cookies “tinagtag” to the sipping of the native black coffee for only a minimal cost. Cotabato has places of worship for different denominations. There is the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in the poblacion, and the catholic churches at Almonte street and at Rosary Heights Tamontaka still has its old mission church, already described earlier. For Muslims, there are relatively impressive mosques at Lugay-Lugay section, along Mabini Street, the super market site, and a recent addition at the regional government center. Just across the Pulangui River at Banubo is the century-old Sultan Kudarat. As for the other religious denominations, there is the modern Iglesia ni Cristo Church, the Evangelical Church fronting the Rizal Park, Epicospalian Church, etc. Besides those church mentioned there are still others in many of the clustered settlements.
Historic choice of Cotabato city as the focal pint of the rationalization process has restored it to its past role in administration. Establishment of the regional commission was an original concept under reorganization Plan No. 53-A wherein the country was divided into 8 regions. As envisioned then Cotabato would have been dependent on Davao City as the growth center. The situation in Central Mindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi pursuant to P.D. 742 mandated the policy direction.
In order to make effective budgetary process as an instrument of regional government L OI No. 447 and No. 448 were issued. The latter has completed of the development of the regional government centers; administrative capabilities of the line agencies of government is worked out by the former Ho. Simeon A. Datumanong was appointed in September 1975 to become inn the history of the regional commission, its commissioner and as such the first pioneer personal representative of the president in the region. The central Mindanao command, which had its headquarters at Tantawan, has occupied the former provincial historic capitol building. Its first commanding general, Maj. General Fortunato Abat, is now the chief of staff of the army; AFP the present Cemcom Commanding General is Brig. Gen. Delfin C. Castro.
When our visitors come to Cotabato City, it will become obvious why our people live very normal lives in the wake of all negatives images concurred up elsewhere. Although the city is in the midst of urban renewal, while destroying many of its landmarks in the process, there are still historic structures preserved for everyone, including tourist.