Ang Mapusok at Maanghang na Cotabateno

Thanks to Hannah Corpuz for sharing this article to Letters to Mindanao.  Loosely translated as The Reckless and Fiery Cotabateno, she writes about how growing up in Cotabato City has made her typically cocky, adventurous, domineering and loud to a fault. 

True enough, we grew up in Cotabato amidst the backdrop of unrelenting kidnappings, extrajudicial killings, indiscriminate bombings, gang wars cum clan wars, and really dirty politicking.  But surprisingly, we survived all these as many others who have stayed in the city, seemingly unscathed physically but jaded and desensitized in our collective psyche.

Read through and understand how soul food like the spicy Sinina, a local Maguindanaoan favorite has made Cotabatenos cope with a life that is “nasty, brutish and short”.

Ang Lungsod ng Cotabato ay isa sa mga sinasabing high security risk na lugar sa buong Pilipinas. Normal dito ang makasalubong ng checkpoint, military base camp, o maya’t maya makakita ng high-powered fire arms na nakasugbit sa mga balikat ng mga sundalo at private army na kadalasan nama’y bitbit ng mga politiko. Madalas naisasalarawang matapang at matigas ang mga taga rito.

Madalas din napapagtawanan ang punto ng mga Cotabateno. Kasing tigas daw ng bala ang salita na kahit matagal nang babad sa tagalog Maynila ay ipinipilit pa rin ang pananalita nya. Ito kasi ang melting pot sa Kalagitnaang Mindanao kung kaya’t ang salita ay bagamat Tagalog, hinahaluan ng mga salitang Cebuano at Ilonggo sinamahan pa ng matigas na punto ng Bisayang Davao at Maguindanaoaon. Lumabas na kakaiba ang tunog ng mga salita na sadyang sa Cotabato lang naririnig — matigas at malakas.

Ngunit, kahit anong tapang ng dating ng mga tao rito ay sya rin namang hilig nya sa pagkain. Dito makikita ang pinagmamalaking sugpong malalaki at matatamis, bagong huling mga isda at alimangong mas marami ang taba kaysa sa laman. Nilalagyan ng gata at sili ang mga ito para labis ang gana ng lahat kumain. Dahil sa kakulangan ng mga mapasyalan lugar, sa mga hapag kainan dinadala ng bawat isa ang pagkahilig nya sa good food at the good life.

Malimit na nauugnay ang anghang at gata sa pagkaing ng Bicolandia. Lingid sa kaalaman ng nga taga-Luzon na sa kanayunan ng Gitnaang Mindanao at sa Lungsod ng Cotabato ay sagana sa punong niyog.  Ang mga taga Cotabato ay may angking hilig din sa sili. Marahil dahil na rin sa matinding pagkagusto ng Cotabateno sa anghang kaya’t nilalarawang mapusok ang damdamin ng mga taga rito.

Nananatiling negatibo ang imahe ng aking mahal na lupang sinilangan kahit sa mga kapwa nyang Pilipino. Nung isang araw lang, tinanong ako ng taxi driver kung anong probinsya ko. Cotabato po, sagot ko.  Magulo sa inyo, deklara nya.  Tinanong ako kung Muslim ako at kung ilang beses binobomba ang lungsod. Gusto ko mang sabihin na hindi nagtitinikling sa bala ang mga tao roon, ako’y ngumiti na lang.

Negatibo man ang tingin nila, hinding hindi ko kinakahiyang maanghang ang kinakain ko at mapusok ang damdamin ko dahil ako’y isang Cotabateno.

Sininang Kambing
Lutong Cotabateno

Mga Sangkap:

Kalahating Kilong Kambing
Nahalong palapa (pinatuyong niyog na
may halong pinatuyong sili. Ito’y nabibili
sa mga palengke ng Cotabato at karatig
na bayan)
Kalawag o Luyang Dilaw
Siling Haba
Asin (naayon sa panlasa)

Sa isang lalagyan, haluin ang kalahating palapa sa kambing.
Gisahin ang kalawag, tanglad at natitirang kalahating palapa sa kawali upang palabasin ang lasa at aroma nito.
Ilagay ang hinalong kambing at palapa.
Sa malakas na apoy, haluin sa kawali ng isang minuto.
Ilagay ang gata at pakuluin.
Hinaan ang apoy kapag kumulo.
Lagyan ng asin at siling haba naayon sa panlasa.
Malakalipas ang 15-20 minuto, lalabas
ang langis ng katas ng gata. Luto na ito.

Tandaan: Mas masarap ang pagkaing hinaluan ng pagmamahal.

Follow Hannah in Twitter @AkoToSiPhoebeC


As I write this, our representatives in Congress are voting for the articles of impeachment versus Ombudsman Merciditas Gutierrez.  On TV, I see former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in red dress holding her mobile phone up to her ear as if calling for Garci while waiting for her turn to cast her vote.

I am optimistic that the Ombudsman will be impeached by the 15th Congress, and hopeful that the impeachment of the Ombudsman will usher a renaissance in our public administration and poltical systems.  We need the impeachment in order to repair the dismal condition of our nation’s polity, to bring back decency in government, to reclaim our people’s trust in our democratic project, to regain the lost morale of the honest and hardworking people in the government, and of course, to give Merci the opportunity to defend herself and for the Filipino people to decide on whether the Ombudsman had been remissed in her sworn duty of protecting the Filipino people. 

More importantly, impeaching the Ombudsman raises the bar of public service to new heights.  In light of our recent political history, where Congress seemed to be blocking all roads towards transparency and accountability and the executive department acted with impunity in covering up the alleged sins it had and have been commiting, impeaching the Ombudsman is a breath of fresh air to say the least.

Now it can be told.  The Ombudsman have just been impeached by the 15th Congress with an overwhelming 210 votes.  Forty seven representatives, including the 3 Macapagal- Arroyos voted against the impeachment. 

The supermoon might have been behind all these.  Technically known as the Vernal Equinox, it marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and fall in the southern hemisphere.  It signals the changing of seasons. It also symbolizes balance, as the word equinox means “equal night” because the sun shines directly on the equator, and the length of day and night are nearly equal in all parts of the world.  

As I wish for the dating gawi (old ways) to go away with the new season of daang matuwid (righteous path), I hope just the same that the Ombudsman be given a fair and balanced trial. 

May the Congressmen acting as prosecutors prove us right – that Merci has indeed violated her constitutional duties.

Post script:  My representative, Hon. Bai Sandra Sema voted in favor of impeacing the Ombudsman.  How did your congressman vote?  Click here to know.

Road Trip Through Muslim Mindanao

This may not be the best time for a road trip across Maguindanao and Lanao provinces but what the heck, this might be my one and final chance.

Few weeks ago, I found myself traversing the island of Mindanao starting from General Santos City in Southern Mindanao up northwest to Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur…by land! 

From Gensan, I took an airconditioned Husky bus to Cotabato City for P260.00.  I was early at the Gensan Bus Terminal because I was told that there are only few airconditioned buses  and that it was best for me to take the earliest bus that usually departs at around 8AM.  So I was there a few minutes before 8, excited and ready but the bus that was scheduled to take off was undergoing repair.  Still, like the rest of hapless folks out there, I waited.

The bus arrived at the terminal at past 11AM.  It was the turn around bus from Cotabato City.  It was Friday and there were plenty of passengers.  A few minutes after warming my seat, we were off to our first stop:  Koronadal City.  And because it was Friday and it was the first (and only) airconditioned bus to leave that day, the passengers easily filled the bus.  Some were already standing when we stopped by Koronadal.

Most of the passengers were government employees from regional offices that were once located in Cotabato City.  A few years back, Koronadal became host to these regional offices.  Many of the employees found themselves dislocated by the transfer.  So they take the early day off on Fridays to be home safe in Cotabato City before sunset.  I assume that they also leave noon time on Mondays from Cotabato City and arrive in Koronadal before 5PM.  That means they are at work on their desks from Tuesday to Thursday only.  This makes a good case study on efficient government service but I won’t dwell on that.

From Koronadal we passed through the Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao provinces.  In Sultan Kudarat, there was the vibrant town of Isulan and the surprisingly busy Tacurong City.  Four-lane highway all through-out, wide and concrete without the bumps.  Stalls, restaurants and other forms of enterprise abound along the road.  Signs of progess, I must say.

This draws a sharp contrast to the towns in Maguindanao.  There, it was quiet, eerily quiet.  The houses are closed, most stores are closed, even the transport terminals are on a stand still.  There were lots of government infrastructure in the area, very new but empty– public markets, transport terminals, health centers and the palatial provincial hall and town halls.  Then there are those roofed cubicles (these are housing projects not larger than 2X2 meters that are made of flyboard and a GI sheet for a roof) that lined up the highway. 

At past 2Pm, we arrived in Cotabato City where I stayed for a night before leaving again the next day for Pagadian. 

The trip the next day was more comfortable, thanks to the rented Mitsubishi Strada and to nice guy George, my reliable driver for this second leg of the journey.  We left Cotabato City at 7:30 am after a quick breakfast of the city’s famous balbakwa. 

It was my first time in more than 10 years to take the road to Parang, Maguindanao.  I never thought that the place would remind me of things from my childhood- the bridge in Simuay that once serve as our signpost that says we are near Pahm Resort, our favorite R&R place way back then.  It also reminded me of my many times in Polloc, Cotabato’s wharf where my father who once worked for Sulpicio Lines would never miss a Tuesday night working in the port to oversee cargo and passenger loading to M/V Cotabato Princess.  We passed by a barangay named Making and it suddenly occured to me that I have been to this place before.  It had been otherwise buried in my memory but seeing the place again brought me back to my 6th grade where I attended the regional Boy Scouts Jamboree in Making, Parang, Maguindanao as a senior scout fresh from completing the 12th Asia-Pacific Jamboree in Mt. Makiling, Laguna in 1991.  That was the connection.

Past those towns are roads that lead to Buldon, the former stronghold of Moro Islamic Liberation Front where Camp Abubakar is located.  Remember Erap’s all-out war?  This was the place.

Going further north is the Province of Lanao del Sur.  I say this place is mystical and deserves a lot more of my time to examine and experience its quiet charm.  But all I had was a quick glimpse.  Too bad I didn’t even see the lake.

Lanao del Sur borders Lanao del Norte to the north, Bukidnon to the east, and Maguindanao and Cotabato to the south. To the southwest lies Illana Bay, an arm of the Moro Gulf. Found in the interior of Lanao del Sur is Lanao Lake, the largest lake in Mindanao, where the Maria Cristina Falls, the largest waterfall in the country is located.  Marawi City, the Islamic City of the Philippines is its capital.  Then there are the quaint little towns of Malabang and Balabagan, where former Supreme Court Justice Jose Abad Santos was killed by the Japanese Imperial Army in 1942.  The national highway linking the two Lanao provinces is named after him.

Going further north is Sultan Naga Dimaporo in Lanao del Norte, the last town I guess before finally reaching Tukuran of Zamboanga del Sur.  At past 11 in the morning, we found ourselves taking our lunch at Mang Inasal Chicken house in the newly-opened Gaisano Mall in Pagadian City.

That was a long and tiresome travel.  Bt it was neveretheless priceless.  Most people who have lived in Mindanao all their lives have never ever tried to take this road less travel, literally.  I was glad that this trip went well and ended without incident.  Although I felt exhilarated by the scenic Illana Bay and the coastal towns surrounding the Moro gulf, by the wonderful tunnel that cuts across a hill, by the Muslim children playing and walking in their traditional garb, by the surprisingly new and wide roads that looked like it was only built yesterday, the feeling of fear and the thought of mishap never left me. 

Roads are supposed to connect people and ideas, promote exchange of culture and trade, and become avenues for communication.  I hope that the road that leads to Pagadian City, from this southern city in South Cotabato (and all other road networks in Mindanao) will serve as our people’s expressway for peace, prosperity and development.

Golden Years of Cotabato City

Lalawigan tunay na malaya,

Hiyas na tangi nitong Pilipinas

Kristyano’t Moslem, ay nagsikap

Na ito ay mapaunlad.

Cotabato lupa ng sagana,

Tanging yaman nitong bansa.

Cotabato pugad ng biyaya

Ang pag-asa ng lahing dakila.

Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat,

Ay Cotabato ding matatawag.

Cotabato buhay at lakas

Nitong bansang hinihiyang.

old-city-hall-and-plaza1I came across a blog written by the Capricorn Takeshi describing his round-about of the empire province of Cotabato.  It was a nicely written article devoid of exaggerations and hyperbole that visitors to the heart of Mindanao are usually prone to make.


I was in reminiscing mode after that, and oddly, the Cotabato Hymn (above) came back to my mind first in trickles but later on the lyrics came like a pouring rain, except for the last part, which I tried very hard to remember but really cannot, so I texted my younger brother to supply me with the last two lines.


We hear the song everyday then, before the advent of Cable TV.  Our local TV channel, CTV 12 plays the hymn at 12:00 noon, always after the national anthem, signalling the start of its daily programming.


I don’t know who wrote the lyrics, or who created the hymn.  But I guess the song tells a lot of stories about Cotabato and it carries with it a powerful mantra- of peace, progress, hope, heroism, unity, and prosperity.


First, the stories. 


That the hymn was written in Filipino (or Tagalog) is not a curious case.  Tagalog has become the lingua franca of Cotabato City.  It was a force of nature, because when people from Christian Philippines (Visayas and Luzon) as it was called then came to Cotabato in the middle of the 20th century, the only common language that they can speak was Tagalog, only because Tagalog was the medium of instruction used in our public school system.  So the Maguindanaoans, Iranun, Illongos, Ilokanos, Warays, the Chinese, Chavacanos, and Visayans must use one language to understand each other.  That stuck, especially in the city, where the real melting pot was.  At the outskirts, migrants grouped themselves together in separate communities, thus preserving the use of their original native languages.




mapCotabato started as an empire, a sultanate to be exact.  It was one of the two sultanates that survived Spanish colonization.  The other one was the sultanate of Sulu.  During the American occupation, the government made it their project to invite Christians to settle in Mindanao as part of the Grand Assimilation Plan.  That was when Mindanao got its Land of Promise monicker.  That was also the time when Cotabato Empire became the Cotabato Province, consisting of the Cotabato District (now Cotabato City), the North Cotabato (which includes towns like Pigcawayan, Aleosan, Midsayap, Kidapawan, etc.), Maguindanao (Parang, Polloc, Simuay, Boldon, Dinaig, Upi, etc.), Sultan Kudarat (Tacurong, Isulan, ), and South Cotabato (Dadiangas, Marbel, etc).


 Kristyano’t Moslem


This is a very powerful line, and it captures the essence of unity in diversity, long-standing peace and progress amidst differences.  But of course, not only Christians and Moslems took time and effort to make Cotabato progressive. Credit also goes to people whose religious persuasion is not either of the two.  I must say that my ancestry is both Christian and Moslem.  My maternal grandfather’s parents are Chinese Moslems.  Along the way, and it might be heavily due to the dynamics of those times, their children chose their own religions.  My grandfather married a Christian and they raised their family as such.  Although I dont have any memory of my grandfather attending a Christian ceremony, I just assumed that he chose to be one– or maybe he chose to be neither.


As an empire turned province, Cotabato displayed political maturity when a triumvirate was created to govern the city.  Leaders from three ethnic/religious origins were chosen to administer the city.  They were Jose Lim (Chinese), Rufino Alonzo Sr. (Christian) and Datu Sinsuat (or was it Datu Pendatun?–Moslem).  That was a unique arrangement to ensure that peace and harmony reign in the city. I believe that was an unprecedented arrangement in Philippine history.  Maybe our current peace negotiating panel can learn from this administrative model?


As a footnote, my family is descendant of the Alonzos.  My maternal grandmother was a Malcampo whose family intermarried with the Alonzos.


Lahing Dakila


Admittedly, it was a tremendous amount of courage and bravery to resist and succeed against Spanish colonization.  That is what dakila meant.  This has never been completely recognized in the history of the Philippines but the Moro resistance against colonization was the most successful ever.  All other attempts against Spanish rule, as we all know, have failed.  And the Filipino indios and ilustrados mounted a revolution against Spain quite belatedly, only after 300 long years of oppression.  It tempts me to add my voice to a long-standing debate on who should our national hero be.  My personal take is that it should be a Moro, someone who have never succumed to foreign rule and most importantly, someone who have been successful in waging a war against conquistadors.




Several times in the song that Pilipinas or nitong bansa was mentioned.  The meaning that I get from this is that Cotabato acknowledged Filipinization.  It recognized that it has become part of a bigger community.  It accepts the role it plays in the post-Spanish Philippines.  It affirms that Pilipinas is her country.






As Cotabato City celebrates its 50th anniversary as a chartered city on June 20 this year, I hope that our present leaders look back at our glorious history and assess the progress that we have made until today.  Cotabato’s history predated not only most of the cities in Mindanao but also of the whole country.  What do we expect from a golden aged city?  Progressive maturity or useless antiquity?  Development or regression?


All of us who have memories of growing up or has lived in Cotabato City has had experienced its cosmopolitan simplicity and urban complexities.  I remember that there was even a time when Davao CIty is considered ‘provincial’ by Cotabateños.  Well, that was too long ago.


My fervent hope is that we bring back the golden years of Cotabato City especially today that it has reached its golden age.  The time is perfect for a renaissance, a cultural and political revolution to usher in dramatic changes in the ways we live our lives and define once more, albeit in a post modern context, what a multi-cultural community can do.   


Disclaimer:  The historical data contained in this article was not validated.  These are merely based on my remembrance of a piece I’ve read from an article written by Datu Michael Mastura.