As early as 1475, a settlement near the mouth of Rio Grande de Mindanao was already a thriving trade center. The settlement, the forerunner of Cotabato City, was the strategic gateway to the resource-rich hinterlands of economic power, the center where cultures mixed and mutually enriched each other such that it was coveted, and more often violently. Sultan Kudarat reigned during this time. In the intervening years, growth was in trickles. This was largely due to a stifling combination of constant warfare and nature’s restlessness in this flood and earthquake prone delta. In 1871, a strong earthquake visited the area and caused the leveling of almost all structures.
In the nineteenth century when Sultan Makakua ruled, roads and wharves were constructed that gave rise to the birth of modern day Cotabato. External conflict too, claimed a costly toll starting in the latter half of the 16th Century, when Spain attempted to colonize Mindanao and its people. In 1913, migrants from Visayas and Luzon bound for agricultural colonies in Mindanao streamed to their intended destinations. In 1924, the nation’s Chinese community, recognizing the needs and potentials of the town of Cotabato with an area of 1,680 hectares had a population of 5,870 and over 200 buildings made of permanent materials and established their own community here.
In 1945, with the withdrawal of the American forces from Philippine soil, the vast untapped resources of Mindanao became the focal attention of the national government in the face of gigantic economic challenges as the new nation emerged. Under the late President Manuel Roxas, an aggressive propaganda program was designed to attract settlers to Mindanao under the slogan “Mindanao is the land of Promise”. Many landless families in the Visayas and Luzon responded to the call. The influx of migrants from Luzon and Visayas islands who intermingled with the Christians and Muslims in the area (together they now comprise the present Cotabateños) was not without accompanying social and cultural problems for it was only natural that the growing society and diverse cultural heritage, customs and traditions and idiosyncrancies developed some tensions. But on the whole, it has opened up previously uninhabited and rich hinterlands.
After the Second World War, the town started rebuilding from the ravages of war. No sooner has it felt the initial gains from its laborious efforts of development when another tragic setback was encountered on February 5, 1949 when the entire commercial district went up in flames. The years in the 1940s were marked with increased rates in criminality, especially burglaries. The post-war years proved to be difficult.
From 1945 to 1950, revenues generated totaled to only P 217,812.00. However, it improved the following year, yielding P247,160.36. Before the end of the decade, Congressman Salipada Pendatun felt that the town could now stand on its own and progressive enough to merit the status as a city, and accordingly filed a bill in Congress for the change in status. On June 20, 1959, President Carlos P. Garcia signed in law – Republic Act 2364 which made Cotabato a chartered city. Even then, there were those who doubted whether the infant city continue raking in enough income to support its local government and its people. The challenges was met when in the ensuing year, Cotabato City realized an income of some P120 million.
From the time of its creation, reign of government changed from one hand to another. The first duly elected Mayor of Cotabato City was Datu Mando U. Sinsuat, Sr. who served for the following terms: 1947 to 1951 and from 1952 to November 16, 1967. His was the longest administration. He was defeated in his bidfor reelection in 1967 by Teodoro V. Juliano who served as City Mayor from November 17, 1967 to February 28, 1980. Again, Mayor Teodoro V. Juliano served. Again, Mayor Teodoro V. Juliano served from March 1, 1980 to March 5, 1984 and again from May 12, 1984 to March 19, 1986, the City’s leadership changed hands with the election of Mayor Juan J. Ty. The youngest Local Chief Executive to take the reign of governance so far to administer the city’s local government was Ludovico D. Badoy. He first served as Officer-In-Charge from March 30, 1986 to December 2, 1987. Mr. Arthur P. Bueno and Dr. Lydia Mercado were likewise appointed as Officers-in-Charge after Badoy and served for one (1) month and three (3) months, respectively. Mayor Badoy was officially elected as City Mayor during the elections in May 1988 up to 1992. With the passage of the Local Government Code 7160 in 1991, his third term ended in 1998. All these elected/appointed officials had significantly contributed to the city’s present state of development during their administration.
Historically, it could be said that settlement in Cotabato City became a pronounced phenomenon some five hundred years ago when Dipatwan Qudarat reigned. During this time, Cotabato City was the seat of power and it developed as the capital town of Mindanao in the 17th Century.
Generally, the city exhibited higher levels of growth both in terms of population and income as compared to the rural areas. Urbanization rate in Cotabato City were among the highest in the country, aside from Iligan City, as migrants from the countryside moved into the area for better employment opportunities. This has, as a result, added to the problems on housing and employment, and at the same time scaled down the rural area’s prospect for more production. This movement of people to the city is partly explained by the fact that urban residents have higher family income, the city has the center or urban life offers services and amenities which the rural folks hardly have access to. To check this widening gap between the city core and rural areas would require that planning for the next couple of years would have to focus more on rural development by providing basic social services and locating specialized services in identified nodal points for development.
Cotabato City remains as the biggest and fastest growing agglomeration in Central Mindanao. It continues to be the main “suction pump” of the region, pulling in many skilled and ambitious migrants who are pushed by poverty and low employment from the rural areas and secondary urban centers.
Internally, Cotabato City continues to become quite overcrowded in relation to the parts of the region; its density had grown over that of the surrounding ring of administrative units. But the city’s population is gravitating outwards, indicating a “nodal” core and fast developing suburbs. This outward population shift is generally the result of mixed and obsolescent land uses, overpopulation, traffic congestion and other related factors in the urban core.
In the hierarchy of settlements, Cotabato City is the regional government center for Region XII. Today, it is the seat of two administrative regions XII and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Its population has grown tremendously largely brought about by migrants drawn to the city satisfy their needs for education and other services and for economic opportunities.
COTABATO CITY is “a city of rivers and islets”, that is sui generis, distinct from other cities. It is at the delta between two rivers, Tamontaka and Rio Grande de Mindanao, a major commercial artery in the heartland of Mindanao. The city iscris-crossed by creeks and rivers which are the source of both agricultural/industrial and domestic water requirements for some rural barangays. Two areas, the P.C. Hill and Timako Hill are considered elevated areas. The name “Cotabato”, the ancient capital town of Mindanao was derived from two Maguindanaon words, KUTA meaning fortress and WATO for stone. It became a chartered city on June 20, 1959 when then President Carlos P. Garcia signed into law Republic Act No. 2364, authored by then Representative Salipada K. Pendatun. Under the said charter the city is politically subdivided into five (5) barangays. But in 1989, thirty-two (32) barangays were segregated from the original five barangays. Economic activity is anchored on trading from basic commodities to industrial raw materials to agriculture and aquaculture products the city being at the heart of bustling Central Mindanao Region. The city is the hub of commercial and business activity this part of the region and is the major transshipping point of both marine and agriculture products owing to its strategic location. Major source of income is derived from taxes, fees and licenses on businesses, commercial establishments.
Transportation system in and around the city is catered to by Public Utility Jeeps (PUJs) traversing main thoroughfares and secondary streets although the latter is also being serviced by motorized pedicabs. Interior areas going towards subdivisions and other residential areas are served by manual pedicabs. The Cotabato Awang Airport can accommodate planes up to B-737 class. The Polloc Port services inter-island vessels of Aboitiz Shipping, William Lines and Sulpicio Lines to and from Cotabato, Zamboanga, Ilo-ilo and Manila. The local wharf in the city is home to motor lanches servicing the coastal towns of Sultan Kudarat Province, Lanao Del Sur and Going as far as Pagadian City, Zamboanga Del Sur. For utilities, power is handled by a private firm, Cotabato Light and Power Co. who gets power resources from the NPC. Water system is handled by Cotabato City Water District which is a quasi-government institution. Water sources come from natural spring in Dimapatoy, Datu Odin Sinsuat Municipality and deep well from Rebuken, Sultan Kudarat Municipality. Dialect spoken is predominantly Tagalog with typical Cotabato, Illonggo, Ilocano and the regional dialects Maguindanaon, Maranao and the presence of Tausug dialects were brought about mainly by the regionalization of Mindanao.
On September 19, 2001 Executive Order 36 or known as the Reorganization of Administrative Regions in Mindanao was issued by the President comprising forty-five (45) municipalities, with four (4) provinces namely: North Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat; and five (5) cities namely: Cotabato City, General Santos City, Kidapawan City, Koronadal City and Tacurong City as now the newly reconstituted Region 12.With the new setup in Region XII, Executive Order 304, series of 2004 was subsequently issued designating Koronadal City as the new Regional Center and seat of SOCCCSKSARGEN, effective March 30, 2004.
All these years, the Local Chief Executives of the City held their offices at the old City Hall but with the political resolve of Mayor Muslimin G. Sema to transfer the seat of power to a more auspicious and comfortable location, he facilitated the construction of the present City Hall (which is now popularly known as Peoples’ Palace) at the 4-hectare City Government property at Malagapas, Barangay Rosary Heights 10. It was inaugurated on June 20, 2006 in time for the celebration of the 47th Araw ng Kutabato.