Shariff Kabunsuan Festival A display of Muslim religion and culture
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Philippine Festivals

Shariff Kabunsuan Festival A display of Muslim religion and culture
Cotabato City : Dec 19
Text by: Annie D. Buenavente
Photos by: Melo Villareal


As people were busy getting ready for the holiday season in Metro Manila last December, the Cotabatenos were upbeat in the preparation for the colorful and festive celebration of Shariff Kabunsuan Festival.

cotabato sharif kabunsuan It was a peak month for airlines and shipping lines as hundreds of tourists both foreign and local tend to visit their families and relatives for the holiday season in the provinces. The Department of Tourism Region 12 Office advised visitors that Philippine Airlines, hotels and inns were fully booked for the event.

Shariff Kabunsuan Festival is a very significant event in Cotabato City people look forward to every third week of December to commemorate the arrival of an Arab-Malay missionary from Malaysia who spread Islam civilization in Mindanao.

Various activities were lined-up for the weeklong festivity such as cultural presentation, Alimango Festival, Culinary Arts Competition featuring Muslim delicacies, cultural musical showdown, Kulintang Ensemble Competition, Philippine Legend Acrobatic Show, Inaul Fashion Show, and Photo Exhibit Contest.

The prominent Inaul Fashion Show was attended by several local designers in the region who featured Maranao's clothes and bridal gowns, and malongs in various designs and colors.

Not to be missed in the celebration were the highlights of the festival like the Kuyog Street Dancing Parade, the Guinakit and re-enactment of the arrival of Shariff Kabunsuan, Banca Race, Kuyog Showdown and Pagana sa Maguindanao.

cotabato sharif kabunsuan The "Kuyog" refers to the exciting cultural street dancing revelry participated by hundreds of elementary and high school students held at the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College (CCSPC). Ten contingents vied for the Best Street Dancing Performance. The dancers performed along the city's major thoroughfare despite heavy rains.

"Guinakit" is the colorful fluvial parade of gaily decorated bancas along the Rio Grande de Mindanao.

It was a hazy morning with rainshowers and people as well as bystanders almost filled the wharf waiting for the Mayor and his wife to arrive as early as eight o'clock in the morning. Drum beatings reverberate in the air, the sound getting louder and louder as the banca slowly moved along the stretch of Rio Grande River. The banca was jampacked with Shariff Kabunsuan followers. The beatings of drum did not stop until it get back to the wharf to unload the passengers.

Capping the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival is the "Pagana Maguindanao,' a traditional way of dining among Maranaos and Maguindanaons in honor of special guests. Hon. Datu Muslimin Sema, and his wife Catherine Bai Sema hosted a solemn gathering for the guests attended by Undersecretary Oscar Palabyab of Department of Tourism as guest of honor and hundred others. During the occasion, the visitors are served with traditional Muslim cuisine like tinadtag, plil, putrid mandi, sininang baka among others followed by a cultural presentation. As part of the tradition, the guests were barefooted as they sat on the floor for dinner and enjoy the lavish meal after a thanksgiving prayer. The host usually gives token to the honored guests after the dinner.

cotabato sharif kabunsuan Cotabato City had witnessed more history than any other place in Mindanao. Its history dates back to the 16th century when Shariff Kabunsuan, an Arab missionary from Johore landed along the banks of the Masla Pulangi, now known as Rio Grande de Mindanao and introduced Islam to the natives. It was faith that leads to the establishment of the Sultanates of Maguindanao, Rajah Buayan and Kabuntalan. With its golden age ushered in by Sultan Dipatuan Qudarat during 17th century, Cotabato developed as the first capital of Mindanao.

The introduction of the Christian faith in 1870 by the Jesuits and the ruling of Sultan Makakua gave rise to the birth of the modern-day Cotabato with the construction of roads and bridges and wharves.

Today, Cotabato City-the only Tagalog speaking city in Mindanao, the only place where both seeds of Islam and Christianity grew and flourished is host to three regional administrations, namely Region 12, ARMM and SPCPD.

cotabato sharif kabunsuan Cotabato boasts of historical sites where tourists can visit namely, the Takumi Butai Shrine, Kutwato Cave, Shariff Kabunsuan marker, Old Capitol Building at PC Hill, City Hall, Immaculate Conception Church at Tamontaka, Rio Grande de Mindanao, Maguindanao Motif, PC Hill and Timako Hill.

Kutawato Caves, is a network of caves and tunnels found at the foot of Tantawan. The only caves in the entire country located in the heart of the city with four major entrances offering various natural attractions like rock formations, salt water ponds, and underground river.

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto Tamantoka Church is situated in a site considered as the first area of the Jesuits in 1871 during the conversion days. It is a living witness to the harmony that exists among Muslims and Christians. The statue of the Lady of Lourdes Grotto is a replica of the original in France and is believed to be miraculous.

Takumi Butai Memorial Shrine was named after Takumi provincial Commander of the Japanese Imperial Army for the Empire Province of Cotabato during the World War II.

One cannot forget that the longest river is found in Cotabato, estimated to be 182 kilometers long and 96 meters wide. It is not only of aesthetic value but also of economic importance. This is where the Feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia, Shariff Kabunsuan Festival and the annual Guinakit or river festival is held.

cotabato sharif kabunsuan Local tourists usually trooped to Cotabato City, also dubbed as the Land of the Crabs, to get their best buys of crabs and prawns in the market at a low price.

One of the significant festivals in Cotabato is the Feast of Eid'L Fit'R celebrated every end of the fasting month of Ramadhan. The festivity is filled with merrymaking equal to the Christian New Year celebration complete with fireworks and feasts. Followed by the traditional "pistahan" into a holiday for both the spirit and the body. Features a nightly variety show, agro-trade exhibits, a Filipiniana dance parade and the Marian Procession.

Likewise, other festivals being celebrated in the city are Araw ng Kutabato every 20th of June, Immaculate Conception Day, the City's Patronal Fiesta celebrated on Dec. 8, Shariff Kabunsuan Festival every 19th of December and Our Lady of Penafrancia Fiesta, a replica of the fluvial procession in Naga City.

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