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
Gata
Tanglad
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

Ramadan Reflections

It is with great interest that I’ve observed how Filipinos have come to accept that this country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural and that the name Filipino does not anymore mean Tagalog or Manilenyo or Kristyano.  

ramadan reflection 2

Thanks to the long and hard efforts of those people who have struggled to increase our level of cultural sensitivity that we now learn to accept each of our culture’s peculiarities.  It won’t be long before we can live peacefully and without malice or prejudice with our neigbor’s differences.

Sadly, there are still few unenlightened souls who have been left out to continue living their lives in the Medieval period, and they are the real barbarians in today’s postmodern society.  They are not aware that the cultural divide between Christians and non-Christians, the Manilenyo and probinsyano, the Tagalog and the Bisaya have been torn open.  Whether the tear is narrow or wide, it does not matter, as long as we consciously make it our own individual responsibility to keep it open for the rest of our lives.  As long as we respect ourselves and other people, we can all live in peace and harmony. 

Ramadan Manila

This is my reflection on the ocassion of the celebration of the holy month of Ramadan by our Islamic brethrens.  On my way to work last week, I noticed streamers along Sucat Road in Parañaque and Roxas Boulevard in Manila that thoughtfully convey messages of solidarity in the celebration of the Ramadan.  Only in 2001 and for the first time in our nation’s history, the government has included Eid-Al Fitr (or day commemorating the end of Ramadan) as a national public holiday although PGMA did not send any official message in this year’s Ramadan, in stark contrast to US President’s Barack Obama’s powerful unity message to all Islamic nations.        

Ramadan Paranaque

These are small gestures that hopefully, and in the long run will build lasting cultural understanding among all Filipinos (and all citizens of the world), embracing and celebrating our diversity as peoples of Christian, Lumad and Muslim orientations.

To all our Muslim brothers and sisters, a joyous and meaningful celebration!

National Book Store Turns Local

The newly-renovated National Book Store outlet in Robinson’s Mall Ermita is sporting a different look, and I must say that it is both politically correct and aethetically sound, never mind that the floor layout is still crampy and confusing like a maze.

What made the NBS interior design great is the motif they chose for their store:  the Islamic arts of our brothers in Maguindanao, Tawi Tawi and Lanao in Mindanao.

In our multi-ethnic society, we only find great pieces of indigenous artistry inside museums and during trade fairs or cultural activities in school .  But a deliberate attempt to infuse these designs and artistic genius to our everyday modern living is not a matter of course. 

NBS’s public display of this great design allows the mainstreaming of the real Filipino art, more specifically, the art forms from Muslim Mindanao.  Hopefully, such act would lead to greater understanding, acceptance and celebration of our diverse cultural traditions.  In this way, our culture becomes alive and relevant, and ends to be just another artifact from ages ago.  Understanding leads to tolerance, tolerance to peace.

Kudos to the National Bookstore!  Give us more of the same.

Note:  pictures to follow (NBS might not allow me to take photos)

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.

  

Lalawigan

 

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.

 

Pilipinas

 

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.

 

Renaissance

 

new-city-hall

 

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.