Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cotabato City : Wander with Caution

Welcome Marker

When it come to tourist destinations, Cotabato City is off the radar and not on everyone's usual list. One of the main protagonist is the peace situation in the area where conflicts between the government and armed lefties are always on the news. I could not really say that it was all media hype because I experienced to have heard several gun shots when I was there. In fact, there was an incident in the street corner of the hotel where I stayed where an alleged criminal was gunned-down by the police. Plus, military presence in almost every corner of the City would tell you that this is not your typical place... so wander with caution!

On that note, overcome fear and Cotabato City is there for you to explore. Get out of your comfort zone, walk around the City during daytime or hop along in habal-habal and check out the following places:

Sultan Kudarat Monument
Located in Tantawan Park at PC Hill is the monument of Sultan Kudarat. Sultan Dipatuan Kudarat is the seventh sultan of Maguindanao and known by the Spaniards as Corralat. He lead from 1619 to 1671 and was known for unifying Muslim leaders and joined the Sultan of Sulu in fighting the Spaniards. He is recognized as fearless protector of Islam faith.

Tamontaka Church

Tamontaka Church is Cotabato's oldest church, of Spanish architecture and design, and was built by the Jesuits. This is where the old settlement was built in 1872. During the 1976 earthquake, a portion of the church collapsed but the Oblate Fathers restored the ruin parts following the original design.

New City Hall

The New City Hall is a majestic structure located at Malagapas, Barangay Rosary Heights 10, combining ethno-modern architectural with Muslim-inspired roof symbolizing its royalty. The entire bureaucracy of the Executive Department are now housed under one roof.

Rizal Plaza in front of the Old Provincial Capitol
The Old Provincial Capitol is designed from early American architecture and was the seat of then Empire Province of Cotabato. In front of it is the modest Rizal Monument. The Center is now used as temporary military detachment because all government offices that used to be there has transferred to the New City hall. It was surrounded by tiangge and baratilyo when I went there.

ARMM Government Building

The ARMM Government Center houses almost all regional offices of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and has a unique blend of modern and muslim architecture. Within the complex, a guest can visit the regional library, museum and on season can witness cultural spectacles at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Center.


ARMM Logo sits prominently in the main building's facade. The seal features the handle of the kris, slightly drawn symbolizing authority used by the major tribes in the area and a crescent that symbolizes the predominance of its Muslim populace.

ARMM Compound Garden

After too much walking and wandering, one could just take a breather from its colorful gardens and parks that envelope the entire compound.

Kutawato Cave Marker

Kutawato Caves are the only caves in the country that is right in the heart of the city. It’s various entrances; all within traffic is a rarity that can only be had in Cotabato City. These caves were also the source of the city’s present name for “kuta” means fort and “wato” means stone hence the name fort of stone, which later became Cotabato. Too bad, some of the entrances were not properly maintained that some use the cave to dump their trash and worst, their own comfort rooms.

Colorful Malong at the Barter Trade Center

I havee been to other barter trade centers and this is just a simple one compared to the others. One can walk to this area from the highway or main road leading to the ARMM Government Center. They sell the usual stuff like garments, hats, scarves and household utensils. Be sure to ask for discount.

Takumi Butai Commemorative Marker

The Takumi Butai Memorial Shrine was built in memory of Takumi and the Japanese soldiers who died here during WWII. Takumi was the Provincial Commander of the Japanese forces assigned in Cotabato City. Before he died, he requested that some of his ashes be buried in Cotabato City. The shrine was put up by the Lion's Club of Kyoto, Japan in cooperation with the city government of Cotabato. Most habal-habal drivers of Cotabato do not know this monument so you better say it is located in San Sebastian Compound.

Kalentoba, Pistil and Cotabato Delectables

Experiencing another culture doesn't mean bringing your own supply of cup noodles. Taste everything you see especially if it looks interesting. Try their native Pistil and Kalentobo, very cheap but filling. At the end of the day, even if you do not like it, it will make for an interesting story. 

Finally, here are some cheap accommodations worth staying at: 

El Manuel 
111 Quezon Avenue, El Manuel Drive 
Tel Nos. (064) 421-9883 / 421-5552 
Single room is Php 950 per night 

Grand Rio Hotel 
80 Don Rufino Alonzo Ave. 
Tel No. (064) 421-8770 / 09196555167 
Single room is Php 600 per night 

Diamond Hotel 
Corner Makakua and Jose Lim St. 
Tel No. (064) 421-5118 
Single room is Php 600 per night 

Citi Plaza Hotel 
Makakua Street 
Tel No (064) 421-9148 
Single room is Php 750 De Luxe 

128-I-A Sinsuat Avenue, Rizal Street 
Tel No (064) 421-8122 / 421-9088 / 09177260282 
Single room ranges from Php 550 to Php 660 

Hotel Cirilo 
Sultan Makakua Street 
Tel No (064) 421 3583 
Single room is Php 500 

Cotabato City's premiere attarction - The Grand Mosque on my next post.


  1. Sounds like quite an adventure to go there!! Wonderful captures, Oman, as always!! Thank you for sharing! Hope you're enjoying a great weekend!!

    1. Hi Sylvia, not many travel Cotabato City because of the conflict situation there but once you passed the fear, it is one place worth exploring too.

  2. You are indeed adventurous. But I say if you don't venture, you don't gain right? The colorful malongs are delightful. I'd be sure to buy one or two for myself and pasalubong.

    1. Yup, no pain and no gain. My other fave motto is "what does not kill you makes you stronger!"

  3. Interesting place - thanks for the trip around. Thanks for your visit to my blog.

  4. I love a little adventure in my travels and this seems like one of those places. Attention and carefulness must be payed everywhere you go, and yes the media can portray a picture that is far worse then reality. So I agree, one should always go and explore. The only exception are places where real danger is. I like the quiet moments you captured, seems like the place is stuck in time, which makes it even more interesting.

    Mersad Donko Photography

    1. Could not say it any better Mersad. We always have to be cautious in all our travels :)

  5. One of the places I never thought of going but this might just change my mind. Looking forward to your feature on the Grand Mosque.

    1. Thanks Allan, I never thought of going there too but the call of the Grand Mosque is just too strong :)

  6. Been to Cotabato (North) when I was younger as we spent our weekends there. but never got to explore the city as we simply stayed in a house. Great shots Oman! I miss the greenery and fruits of Mindanao. :)

    1. Thanks Ed, me too, I miss mangosteen and marang and sige na nga, durian haha

  7. Very timely Sir Oman. Thanks, for the precautions! Will be there this Wednesday.

    1. Enjoy your stay there Ian and be safe :)

  8. I agree that Cotabato City is one of the most underrated places for travel but given the right tourism mindset, the travel industry here could prosper.