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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.


57th Araw ng Cotabato


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