The City of Cotabato is one of the unique cities in the country. It’s different because it isn’t a part of any province. The fact that it doesn’t belong to South Cotabato still surprises many Filipinos. Geographically it’s in Maguindanao but it doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of that province. Cotabato is among the few cities in the country that happens to be an independent component city.
It also happens to be the seat of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. And it’s perhaps Central Mindanao’s most cosmopolitan city—it’s the hub of the center of the island of Mindanao. It’s the “go-to” destination when it comes to shopping and experiencing life in the big city
As a child growing up in Marawi City, I and my siblings always looked forward to visiting Cotabato during summer vacation. We had relatives who lived in this city and we’d have fun shopping and driving to the nearby beach for a swim.
For many of us, it is also the city that never sleeps; it never even blinks. It is the place to make it big. Naturally, after finishing college, I sought my first job in Cotabato. I then had the honor of being one of the original employees of the ARMM when I was hired to be a member of the legislative staff of Lanao del Sur Assemblywoman Princess Diamond Johaira Pangarungan. She had won a seat during the first election of ARMM’s Regional Legislative Assembly. Yet after a while, I decided to go to Manila to search for other opportunities.
But I never turned my back on Mindanao. Lately, having visited the city for its annual celebration of the ARMM Pakaradjaan Festival, I was elated to witness how Cotabato is as lively as ever. Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi has evidently done much in pushing forward its progress. She’s also made great strides in maintaining peace and order. A report prepared by the Philippine National Police indicated that during the first three months of 2018, Cotabato was the second safest city in the country, next to Ormoc. Puerto Princesa in Palawan came in third. Correspondingly, the city is the safest in Region 12 and Mindanao.
The mayor herself was elated by the report, though with all the effort she had put into reducing the city’s crime rate, the news to her was hardly a surprise. She has continuously implemented the RONDA: a peacekeeping effort done in collaboration with the PNP, the Task Force Kutawato, and the barangay force multipliers. These teams have tirelessly been patrolling the various sections of the city and have successfully aided the PNP in apprehending criminal elements.
In a statement, the mayor said the city has proven itself to be safe for its people despite the insurgencies that have plagued neighboring provinces. As a result, the city’s economy is on the upswing. It has attracted local and foreign investors. In fact, a group of Chinese businessmen has committed to build a new airport terminal and seaport for the city.
The mayor has also transformed the city into a thriving metropolis that beautifully blends the old heritage of Muslim Mindanao and the modern style of living. It remains to be the center of the region where various tribes of Muslim Mindanao converge. Never has this been so clearly manifested in the 2018 anniversary celebration of the ARMM. At the grounds of the Sharif Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in Cotabato, a festival showcasing the colorful cultures of the six provinces under ARMM is in progress.
Mayor Guiani-Sayadi also marked Cotabato City’s 59th Foundation Day with several festive events last month. She kicked off the celebrations on June 12 to coincide with the observance of Philippine Independence Day. It included a week-long program of cultural presentations produced by the Department of Education, which was held at the City Plaza. This was followed by the three-day Cotabato Toy Fair at the City Mall.
Simultaneously, the Sayaw Cotabato Dance Workshop and Competition, and a sports festival (Taekwondo, table tennis, jiu jitsu, super fights, a fun run, and lawn tennis) were held in various venues. Also, the mayor’s Culinary Competition was held at the People’s Palace. And of course, no city foundation day anniversary celebration in the Philippines would be complete without a beauty pageant. The 2018 Mutya ng Cotabato was held at the Sharif Kabunsuan Cultural Complex.
The founding date itself (June 20) was observed with a military parade and the presentation of “Sayaw, Cotabato,” the annual indigenous dance festival that showcases the city’s diverse ethno-linguistic groups and modern dance influences. The Davao-based Daybreak Band also performed at the City Plaza.
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