DURING the Christmas Holidays, my family and I went to our hometown in Cotabato City to spend time with our families and relatives in Maguindanao. It was also a time for my wife to attend her 25th Year Alumni Homecoming of her alma mater in high school.
Although we are based in Davao City and spends most of our time in Manila for my work in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, Cotabato City is still a home for me. Many of my childhood, elementary days, and high school memories were in this city.
Both my sons were born and raised in Davao City. They have few good memories of our hometown. My wife and I always tell them that their roots are in Cotabato City and Maguindanao. We always make sure that they have good memories with their cousins, uncles, and grandparents.
I always tell my son, the name of the city is derived from two words: Kuta which means fort, and wato/bato means rock.
The area of Cotabato City is geographically within the province of Maguindanao. But because of the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao back in 1989 and in the succeeding years of plebiscite in 2001, the city was not part of the ARMM and is classified to be within Region 12 (SocSarGen).
I also tell them about the history of Cotabato. Back in 1920, there was once a one Cotabato “Empire” District/Province. The City was the capital of the Cotabato Empire. Several towns were carved off from Cotabato town since the year 1913.
The history of Cotabato also tells us that on July 1, 1950, Cotabato was made first class municipality under Executive Order No. 466. Nine years later, it became a city on July 10, 1959, and on June 20, 1959 it was officially created into a chartered city by virtue of Republic Act No. 2364. (Source: wikipedia.com)
There are three major landmarks of the city. The first one is the Tantawan Hill which is also known as the Pedro Colina (PC) Hill. This hill is made up of huge limestone and has deep caves and creek inside. My grandmother from the paternal side told me that the cave is linked with the caves in Taviran, Datu Odin Sinsuat. Taviran is around 20 kilometres away from the city.
The second landmark in the city is the Sinsuat Avenue. Sinsuat Ave. is the main road that connects the two municipalities, Sultan Kudarat and Datu Odin Sinsuat. As we drove along Sinsuat Ave. I told my two sons that the avenue was named after the their great great grandfather, Senator Datu Sinsuat Balabaran. Datu Sinsuat was one of the greatest leaders of Cotabato who paved the way for peace and development in Central Mindanao.
The third landmark is the Timaco Hill. This hill is described as “cupsized ship”. It faces the Illana Bay. My grandmother also told me that there were wild monkeys living in this area. There were many folklores and myths within the Iranun communities that are connected to Timaco Hill.
Even before Martial Law era in 1970s, the city is the home of big political families of Maguindanao. Until today, it continues to play as a “peace zone” for the different warring clans and families. But there are unfortunate occasions where these families/clan no longer recognise the City as a “peace zone”. They settle their rido (feud) violently within the streets of Cotabato.
There are indeed many good memories that my wife and I have in Cotabato City. We may have travelled to different countries and cities around the world, but we still consider Cotabato City as our home. Inshaallah (God willing), Cotabato will soon rise again as one of the most advanced, economically developed, and culturally grounded city in Mindanao.