A festival for the peace process | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

The author, a Roman Catholic, poses before the Grand Mosque Sultan Bolkiah in a Cotabato City suburb, named after its donor, the King of Brunei. (PHOTO BY MUSTAPHA ALA, JR.)
The author, a Roman Catholic, poses before the Grand Mosque Sultan Bolkiah in a Cotabato City suburb, named after its donor, the King of Brunei. (PHOTO BY MUSTAPHA ALA, JR.)

“Help us promote Bangsamoro,” exhorted the spokesperson for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to visiting national media.

Glad to oblige. For starters, we can discuss the recent five-day Shariff Kabunsuan Festival in Cotabato City, a major event. It was held to commemorate the life and teachings of Shariff Kabunsuan, an Arab missionary who introduced Islam to key areas of Mindanao in the 15th century, well before the Battle of Mactan in 1521.

“They’re celebrating the Battle of Mactan,” one partisan observed. “But what happened after that? The Spaniards returned and stayed for 300 years. What we should celebrate is the life of Shariff Kabunsuan.”

The rajahs, some friendly, others hostile, prepare to greet the missionary who wants to convert them to Islam

Well, the Bangsamoro did exactly that, by being a major supporter of the festival for the first time, the issues between BARMM and the city government, headed by Mayor Bruce Matabalao, having been threshed out. Cotabato is a city where the 70-percent Muslim majority live in harmony with the 30-percent Christian minority.

“We celebrate even Christian holidays,” said Marianne Lou S. Frondoza of the City Tourism Council. “We do not consider Christians a minority. Pantay-pantay tayo (we are equal).”

An actor (right) plays Shariff Kabunsuan, who arrives in a festive float to introduce Islam to key areas of Mindanao in the 15th century

The theme of the festival was “One Heritage, One Culture, Endless Possibilities.”

Your story, our story

Addressing the visiting media from Manila, Rosslaire A. Sinarimbo, director general of BARMM’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism, said at a press conference, “You in the North have your own story and we here in the South have our own version. We have our own Bangsamoro and we are proud of that. We want this autonomous government to work, so that there will be no more fighting.”

The chief minister of BARMM, Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, observed that “the peace agreement is a good start, now we must move forward and make sure that it will work.”

The grand champion of the dance competition was the contingent from Tulunan town, North Cotabato

One of the highlights of the festival was a colorful, grand reenactment of the coming of Shariff Kabunsuan to Central Mindanao to proselytize and bring Islam to the islanders, who were pagans and animists before the coming of the Spaniards, according to national historians.

Spectacle was added to the historical pageant, staged at the Cotabato State University before a big crowd led by city and provincial officials. The actor playing the missionary, clad in a white robe and light blue garment, arrived in a festive float, the kind you see in parades, to a welcome from the islanders.

Designers and models during the curtain call at the Inawl (woven cloth) Fashion show

There was the beating of drums and dancing by lovely maidens. Conflict, however, arose among the two rajahs, who were brothers. One group welcomed the missionary while another resisted, and retreated to the mountains. Thus were the foundations of Islam laid down in Mindanao centuries ago.

Dancing showcase

The dancers from Tulunan, North Cotabato, show their winning form

One of the most anticipated events of the festival was a dancing showcase competition from neighboring provinces. Again, there was the beating of drums which quickened one’s pulse; in front of the grandstand the joyful dancing of the drummers in unison, in between the pauses while beating the drums; the massive props; the elaborate costumes and whiplash choreography; and the screams from the grandstand when it was time for a hometown contingent to perform.

The contingent from Tulunan town, North Cotabato, emerged the grand champion and romped away with the prize money of P300,000. Participants in the competition each received P50,000.

The fluvial parade makes its way around Tamontaka River along the Rio Grande de Mindanao

The five-day festival was filled with varied activities, including a trade fair, reading of the Koran, cultural and heritage booths, a woven cloth fashion show, culinary showcase, spoken poetry and a dance appreciation workshop, climaxed by a fluvial parade along the Tamontaka River, which flows out to the Rio Grande de Maguindanao, and a grand pagana (food offering) in the People’s Palace.

Bai Sandra Sema of the Cotabato City and Tourism Council summed up the proceedings before the national media: “This festival is our contribution to the peace process.” CONTRIBUTED

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.