Cotabato City is one of the most interesting places to visit in Muslim Mindanao. The place is booming, transforming itself into a modern cosmopolitan city and — thanks to the local government headed by its energetic Mayor, the honorable Frances Cynthia J. Guiani-Sayadi, and Vice Mayor Graham Nazer Dumama — has elevated itself into one of the cities that one must see for investment opportunities in Mindanao.
Travelling from Davao City by land, it would take roughly four hours of travel to reach Cotabato City, passing through lush green vegetation, agricultural plantations, and wide concrete roads. The travel is generally peaceful, and may be exciting for first-timers as they will see mosques and other landmarks along the highway, roundabouts in cities and towns, and modern structures with metropolitan amenities.One can also fly in from Manila to Cotabato City as Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air fly regularly to this enchanting place in Mindanao.
Of course, a must see for architectural buffs and the curious traveler would be the Grand Mosque of Cotabato or the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque. Situated just 20 minutes outside the city, the largest mosque in the Philippines can accommodate 15,000 people. One must be dressed properly to enter the premises. A reminder to those who love taking photos: respect for the place and the local culture should be one’s priority. Designed by Arch. Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr., the Grand Mosque has four minarets rising 43 meters from the ground. It rests on an elevated landfill and perfectly captures the sun’s brilliant light at certain times of the day.
The famous and historic Pedro Carolina Hill, or PC Hill, overlooking the city has been transformed into a colorful and fascinating attraction similar to the one in La Trinidad, Benguet, which was painted as an outdoor mural by Davies Paints. This spot is a must-see especially for those looking to take memorable pictures.
Around the city are historical sites and architectural wonders that will amaze and educate visitors about the city’s rich culture and history. The old Cotabato Municipal Hall built in the 1940s, which was eventually renamed the Cotabato City Hall in the 1960s, used to be the seat of the local government when the place was chartered into a city. It still stands along A. Dorotheo St., showing its vintage Malay Muslim architectural design and influence. The Muslim brass gongs and artifacts that are found here are considered collector’s items. I have a few of those back home as decoration for our living room. The old Municipal Hall is now the Visitors Information Center/Museum, which is a tourist attraction in itself.
Then there is the seat of the city government, the new City Hall in Malagpas, aptly called the People’s Palace along Sinsuat Avenue. It is another Malay architecture-inspired design but with an influence of neo-classical Americanstyle.
I have been to Cotabato City several times and each time, I always see something new. One of the latest developments is KCC Corp. proposed mall at the heart of the city. The location is presently undergoing subsoil and foundation preparations. Another property development that was recently completed is the Al Nor Hotel and Convention Center, including its Shopping Center Complex, which is now occupied by Robinson’s and other popular brands. This complex, designed by Arch. Marlo Basco, is close to the People’s Palace along Sinsuat Ave. and offers a convenient location for those doing business with the local government. In fact, some of the millennial members of the community hang out here in the evenings, making this property development hum with life way into the late hours of the evening. A new mid-rise commercial complex at the corner of Sinsuat Avenue and Gov. Gutierrez, designed by the same architect, is also changing the skyline at this bright and lively intersection.
There is much to explore and enjoy in this mystical and invigorating Central Mindanao city. The people here enjoy the progress and the night life, even bringing business to the table while having dinner out and meeting new friends.