THE PROVINCE OF COTABATO or formerly known as North Cotabato is located in the SOCCSKSARGEN region in Mindanao. Its capital is Kidapawan City, bordered in the north side by Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon, to the southeast east side by Davao del Sur, in the east side by Davao City, southwest by Sultan Kudarat, and to the west side is Maguindanao.
The name of the province was derived from “kuta wato” or “kota batu” which means stone fort that speaks about the long tradition of courage and resistance that marks the history of the Pulangi River basin. Manobos were the early settlers of the place and under the leadership of the Maguindanao Sultans. Other settlers were of Bagobos and the Muslims which believed to be descendants of Indonesian immigrants.
In 1861, the Sultan of Maguindanao agreed to Spanish sovereignty and the colonial government organized several districts to cover the vast plain of the Pulangi. Then under the American regime in 1901, the American government formed the province of Cotabato. Later on large companies were established to take over the vast timber resources of the region. By the 1930s settlers from Luzon and Visayas established residency in Cotabato, thus population increased. In 1966, South Cotabato became a separate province.
The settlement of large Christian communities in the then considered Muslim territories raised tensions between the two cultural communities that led to bloody fights between Muslim and Christian armed groups in 1971 onwards. In November 22, 1973 by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 373, the provinces of North Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat was created from the province of Cotabato. The province became part of an autonomous government for Region XII following the Tripoli Agreement of 1976. Furthermore, North Cotabato was renamed Cotabato on December 19, 1983.
The province has a total land area of 656,590 hectares. Alienable and disposable area covers 149,972 hectares, and forest lands cover 506,618 hectares of the total land area.
Currently, Cotabato has a population of 958,643 with a growth rate of 1.36%. Predominant language used are Hiligaynon, Cebuano, Maguindanao, Ilocano, Tagalog and the ethnic tribe dialects of the province.
In terms of climate, the province has a slightly pronounced dry and rainy season. Rains may fall anytime during the year but normally from May to October. The rest of the year is a relatively dry season.
COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY IN COTABATO
The economic growth of the province was made possible through efficient socio-economic policies in support for agro-industrial development. The provincial government is also currently developing and promoting the tourism industry in the area. The kickoff of the Cotabato Eco-Tourism Park at Amas, Kidapawan City and the identification of some tourist spots are expected to contribute in the development of the industry in the province. Another strategy is to put up various sport activities in the aim of promoting the Province of Cotabato and in turn attract new investments.
ART AND CULTURAL HERITAGE IN COTABATO VALLEY
The native Maguindanaon have a fascinating culture revolving around kulintang music, a specific type of gong music, found among both Muslim and non-Muslim groups of the Southern Philippines. Various annual festivities are also celebrated:
YEARLY SPECIAL EVENTS
Halad sa Sto. Niño This is celebrated every 3rd Sunday of January in honor of its patron, Señor Sto. Niño, featuring street dance and theater parade contest.
Hinugyaw Festival This is celebrated every September 1 in lieu of the province’ Foundation Day, highlighting colorful costumes and rhythmic-ethnic street dancing in thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest of fruits and food crops.
Kalibongan Festival Kalibongan is the Manobo term for "Grand Festival." Various tribe groups go to Kidapawan to proudly display their tradition and cultural heritage.
Pak'kaat Kal'lo This is a feast of the indigenous tribes in Maget as thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest especially during the Holy Week.
Ting'Udo Festival The festival is held on October 10 highlighting fruit festival.
Cotabato is the best place to buy Manobo crafts such as pots, baskets and weaves. Manobo cloth is also made here which is quite impressive. Currently, the province is also into rubber industry producing pale creep, brown, crumb, and air dried sheets. Fruit production or processing is also present here such as Durian, Lanzones, Rambutan, Marang, and Jackfruit.
MUNICIPALITIES OF COTABATO
The province has 2 congressional districts, 1 component city, 17 municipalities and 544 barangays:
Batasan-Biangan Hotspring Resort
A major tourist attraction dubbed as the "Fountain of Youth" because it is believed to have healing powers.
This is the tallest and mightiest mountain in the Philippines, with a height of 10,311 feet above sea level and a total area of 14.6 square kilometers.
New Israel Eco Park
Located at Barangay Makilala and is home to a religious sect called the "Moncadista." The place is famous for tamed monkeys as well.
A cave in Kabacan which is full of bats and snakes.
There are daily flights from Manila via Philippine Airlines and from Cebu City and Zamboanga City via SEAIR.
Polloc Port at Parang, Maguindanao services Cotabato province every Monday via WG&A Super Ferry and Sulpicio Lines. While General Santos City Port services Cotabato province via WG&A Super Ferry, Sulpicio Lines and Negros Navigation.