By Kyle Llamas
For the first time in history, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao collaborated with the City Government of Cotabato to celebrate the Great Work of Shariff Mohammad Kabunsuan.
It is a festival showing off the colorful, vibrant, and rich culture of the Bangsamoro People and honoring the contribution of Kabunsuan, bringing the teaching of Islam to Mainland Mindanao and Lanao.
The festival started on December 15 and ended on the 19th with the “Guinakit” fluvial parade in the Tamontaka River, Cotabato City.
This year’s theme is “One heritage, one culture, endless possibilities,” highlighting inclusivity, diversity, and unique traditions among tri-people communities in the Bangsamoro region, including Moro, Christians, and Indigenous people.
Cotabato City Mayor Bruce Matabalao led the reenactment of the arrival of Shariff Kabunsuan in the Philippines through the rivers of Rio Grande de Mindanao.
After the opening program and reenactment, the afternoon got heated because of the passion and termination of schools and dance troupes from different provinces of Cotabato City who joined the “Kuyog” Showcase Competition.
The top three winners took home almost P1 million worth of cash prizes and trophies, including P50,000 for a consolation prize.
The second runner-up received P150,000 (Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao), first runner-up received P250,000 (Isulan, Sultan Kudarat), and the champion received P350,000 (Tulunan, North Cotabato).
The festival also showcased locally manufactured products of various tribes in Cotabato City and the Bangsamoro region to show diversity and inclusivity.
Culture, arts, and tradition
From the second day to the fourth day of the festival, it focused even more on the cultures, arts, and traditions by showcasing the Life and Works of Kabunsuan, the Quran Reading Exhibition, Colors of Cotabato, and the Inaul Fashion Show.
In the Quran reading competition held at Bangsamoro Government Center (BGC) in Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex, 15 contestants show off their passion by reading the central religious text of Islam.
Another highlight of the week-long festival was their very own Inaul fashion show.
According to Cotabato City Tourism Council chair Bai Sandra Sema, former Maguindanao representative, the inaul cloth is a heritage that warrants preservation and deserves national recognition.
“We are working to push inaul to become a national fabric,” Sema said. “If we are talking about unity, if we are to talk about solidarity, the Philippines must recognize inaul as the national fabric.”
Inaul is a Maguindanaon term meaning woven, symbolizing strength and demanding pride and respect from its wearer.
The inaul’s best known patterns are the panigabi, makabimban, and binaludto (rainbow) (taro). Sinindengan, matampuhay-seko, seko-kawang, and sinupikan motifs are featured in the weft weave.
The karanda and the unusual tie-dye fabric known as binaludan (ikat), which features waving patterns, are other weaving techniques.
The designers featured in the fashion show were Wilfred Yee, Melissa Ajaddi Chin, Akmad Kari Jr., Cely Nicolas, and Marc Gernan.
The festival also showcased the rich flavors and species of delicacies and desserts in their Culinary Showcase held in the Bangsamoro Government Center.
Most of their food features coconut, coconut milk, and coconut meat.
The message of peace and unity despite differences should be interpreted from the celebration’s use of the colors “red, yellow, and green,” according to Cotabato City Mayor Bruce Matabalao.
Wood is the primary component of the Guinakit. Riders carry musical instruments, and the vehicle has colorful traditional Muslim clothing.
“More than the display of this colorful bancas (motorboat), this celebration symbolizes strong Islamic faith in Mindanao while respecting and living side by side with peoples of various faiths, cultures, and traditions,” Matabalao said in Magindanaoan.
Despite the number of Muslims in Cotabato City, they do not treat Christians and Indigenous people differently. They all promote inclusivity and peace, which is why locals and tourists enjoy the week-long festival.
Spectators viewed the Guinakit fluvial parade (a convoy of bancas) in the Tamontaka River, which flows into the southwest seacoast of Cotabato City.
Over 500 years ago, Shariff Kabunsuan and his boat of Muslim missionaries arrived in Mindanao along the banks of Masla Pulangi, today known as Rio Grande de Mindanao, on a massive banca known as the Guinakit.