Pink Mosque

Looms, legend, and life in Maguindanao

Pink Mosque

By George Ordoña

After the alluring kulintang ensemble airport welcome, we were whisked off to a van on our way to our first halal meal. We were in Cotabato City, a city I have skipped several times on my way to other exotic places in Mindanao. Although geographically part of Maguindanao del Norte, Cotabato is a first-class independent component city and is not subject to the regulations of Maguindanao del Norte. Majority of the inhabitants are Maguindanaons with the rest represented by Christians and lumads. Cebuano, Ilonggo, Ilocano, and English are spoken but the main lingua franca is Tagalog, making it the “Tagalog-speaking City of Mindanao.” Cotabateño, a Chavacano dialect, is also spoken in the city. Do not confuse Cotabato City with the Cotabato provinces (North and South Cotabato).

The author being welcomed at the Awang Airport.

Muslim Majority

Cotabato City has a Muslim majority population. According to legend, Maguindanao was converted to Islam by Shariff Kabunsuan who claimed to be a direct descendant of Prophet Mohammad. It is home to the Grand Mosque, also called Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid, one of the largest mosques in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, which has a capacity of 15,000 people. Completed in 2011, it features 14 gold domes and four minarets. When we visited the masjid, we had the opportunity to don a Muslim garb (thobe for men and abaya for women) at a minimal cost.

Cotabato also has a Christian population. In Tamontaka, the oldest church in Cotabato was built by the Jesuits in 1872. It is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and is the seat of the Archdiocese of Cotabato. It was declared a National Historical Landmark in 2004.



One Sunday morning, we boarded a jeep to downtown Cotabato where we saw a zumba dance with participating Christians and a handful of Muslims. Chartered in 1959, Cotabato had its share of old structures. One of which is the old City Hall, built in 1936, which is now a museum. Designed by Juan Arellano, the museum houses artifacts, heirlooms, photos, and books. We also chanced upon Kutawato Caves which is the only cave system within a city in the country. It has many passageways, one of these connects to Tamontaka Church. This cave was used as a sanctuary, even an armory and garrison during World Waw II. There are four entrances, unfortunately, the one in downtown was closed. Kuta means “fort” and wato means “stone.” Kutawato, Fort of Stone, eventually became Cotabato.

Brass Making

A first for me was witnessing brass making at the workshop of Kalanganan brassware. It was blazing hot when we watched the workers craft a brassware. The place had a semblance of a blacksmith’s workshop but with more fire and more heat. There are 12 steps in making a brassware using sap wood, charcoal, mud, and fine sand with mud. There were many items for sale including a mini kulintang. Also in Cotabato is Water Lily Processing Center and Drying Shed.

Blue Lagoon


Before we ventured out of Cotabato City, we attended an orientation seminar on Bangsamoro history, culture, and practical geography. The Sultanate of Maguindanao, which lasted for centuries, covered a lot of territory including parts of Davao and Zamboanga. From 1914 to 1973, the Province of Cotabato existed and was composed of present-day Cotabato, Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, Saranggani, South Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat. After the dissolution of Cotabato Province, emerged Western Mindanao and Central Mindanao. From these provinces arose ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) which morphed into BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) in 2019.

BARMM is now composed of six provinces: Basilan (except Isabela City), Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, Sulu, Tawi-tawi and 63 barangays in North Cotabato (Special Geographic Area). In 2022, Maguindanao, through a plebiscite was divided into Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur. Bangsa means “race or nation.” Moro is the collective term for the various predominantly ethnic Muslims. Moro in today’s definition is inclusive. It could include a non-Muslim who was born and bred in a Bangsamoro area.

BARMM, an autonomous region in the southwestern part of Mindanao, has adopted a devolved system of parliamentary form of government. The two provinces of Maguindanao are two of the biggest in BARMM in terms of population and land area. Maguindanao is truly Mindanao. In fact, “Mindanao” is an approximation of “Maguindanao.” It has a colorful past in Philippine history. This color is translated literally into looms, the most vibrant are found in inaul, the traditional woven cloth of Maguindanao. It is the Maguindanaoan word for “woven.”



The inaul has colorful and intricate geometric designs. It used to be exclusive for the use of the Royal Family but is now available for the common man. Yellow symbolized royalty, red for bravery, green for peace, black for dignity, and white for sadness. We went to Al Jameelan Inaul Weaving Training Center in Datu Odin Sinsuat to observe. Earlier, we were mesmerized by the radiant colors of bundles of inaul offered to us by women weavers of Bulalo, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. Equally gifted and skillful are the mat, bag and basket weavers of Limpongo and Paglat.

We toured the Provincial Capitol and were entertained by singkil dancers in the People’s Palace. We also visited Datu Piang and Upi where you will find many works of artist Kublai Millan. There were also natural spots such as Ranao Pilayan Falls and Blue Lagoon. One prominent structure in Datu Saudi-Ampatuan in Maguindanao del Sur is the Pink Mosque also called Masjid Dimaukom. This mosque was built by then mayor Dimaukom who used his favorite color pink which also symbolizes peace and love.


Back in the city, we tried to do last minute shopping at the Barter Center. On our way, we listened to “Selos” sung by Moro singer Shaira. They call it Bangsamoro pop or B-pop! This is a far cry from folk group Asin’s lamentation “Cotabato” with lyrics “Kapayapaa’y bigyan daan, kapayapaan bayan ko.” Maguindanao has a history of resistance and conflict but that is all behind now. There is a resurgence of hope and a longing for peace and tranquility. Visit Maguindanao now. Adventure awaits you.

Thank you Tourism Promotions Board for all the arrangements and assistance.

JP Ordoña (Manilakad) leads Manilakad Walks in Intramuros, Binondo, Quiapo, and more. Let him guide you to several walking destinations in Manila. Manilakad (Jing Ordoña) can be reached on Facebook Messenger or through text at (+63) 916-3597888 and Viber (George Ordona) at (+63) 960-6975930.