Let’s forget about the violence or the unrest that Cotabato City is known for. This post will sum up what I have posted about this much maligned city and would focus on things you could see and do. While I could say that this city, found at the heart of Mindanao, locked between Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao, is generally safe, caution is still recommended and I would suggest to ask assistance at the local tourism office.
1. Marvel at the Magnificent Grand Mosque
No doubt the Masjid Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (or the Grand Mosque) is the main draw now in Cotabato City that it is attracting Muslims and non-muslims alike. And who wouldn’t? This beautiful piece of architecture looks magnificent and grand. It’s the largest mosque in the country.
2. Go Caving in Kutang Bato Cave
It’s the cave where Cotabato got its name from. Grab a pair of boots and get ready explore it watery caverns and multi-network of chambers some filled with bats. Kutang Bato is a unique cave found within the city with multiple entrances but the entrance at Baranggay Bagua is the recommended safe entrance. While inside, imagine how our guerrillas hid and fought the Japanese using this extensive network of caves.
3. Buy Inaul Weaving
Head over to Al Jamela Weaving Center and discover the intricate art of Inaul Weaving. Learn from the disadvantaged women, now working with the organization, in keeping this dying tradition alive. No doubt you’ll be impressed with the colorful patterns and quality of their weaving that it would be hard not to take one back home.
4. Visit a Brassware Community
Interested on how gongs, urns or some cooking wares are made? Head over to Baranggay Kalangalan and witness how a community painstakingly produce these high quality brassware. What is interesting is their method – done traditionally as they have done in the sultanate days.
5. Join the Hustle at the City’s Lively Markets
Cotabato City’s main livelihood is trade and one can see a whole slew of products from the tasty coffee from nearby provinces, fresh catched fish and even a large number of Ukay-ukay (used clothes shop) in a lot of area. See some early morning market action at the Bagsakan by the Matampay River.
6. Try out the local delicacies
Cotabateños seem to love to have snacks. A visit to one of the numerous corner coffee shops, one would see numerous pastry treats on the table. Their brewed coffee at P10 a pop is better than any 3-in-1s out there. My fave breakfast treat is their pastel, a sticky rice with mashed chicken meat inside wrapped in leaves. It’s a great food on the go.
7. Check out the City Landmarks
The city may not have much in terms of beaches or nature escapes but they do have some interesting structures worth a look. The Tamontaka Church, the oldest in the city is historically significant. The Old City Hall at the Plaza have traditional Islamic design while the People’s Palace, the seat of the government stands proud and welcoming.
8. Chill out and Dine at Al Nor
Seafood is great in Cotabato City, their crabs and shrimps living on brackish water seems to meatier and tastier than the usual. Al Nor Complex have a number of restaurants serving them. The complex added a nice lifestyle twist to the city now people have a place to chill after work with commercial coffeehouse there.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.