Muslims Celebrate Shariff Kabunsuan Festival In Mindanao

December 14, 2007 at 11:27 am | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 14, 2007) – Thousands of people are expected to flock in the southern Philippines Saturday to witness one of the grandest Muslim festival in Mindanao, the annual Shariff Kabunsuan Festival.

The festival would be held in Cotabato City where organizers have prepared an array of programs that included cultural presentations and the first-ever Search for Mutya ng Shariff Kabunsuan.

With more government agencies collaborating, this year’s festivities promise to be grander. The City Tourism Council and the City Government of Cotabato, traditionally the main organizers of the event, are joined by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Region 12 Department of Tourism, as well as the newly created Provincial Government of Shariff Kabunsuan.

The wife of Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, Bai Sandra Sema, who is the chairperson of the local Tourism Council, said the Search for Mutya ng Shariff Kabunsuan is expected to be contested by lovely young women from the 10 municipalities of the province as well as those sponsored by private organizations.

“Each year, we tried to introduce innovations to make the festival not only stylish and enjoyable but more so in the hope of making it truly meaningful to all residents here,” the mayor said.

The province is named after Shariff Mohammed Kabungsuwan, an Arab-Malay Islamic preacher who introduced Islam to central Mindanao in the 16th century. In the past 9 years, the Sema couple has pioneered events that have become the city’s pride, particularly the Inaul Fashion Showcase which is now in its 5th run.

The prominence of this native fabric has been greatly elevated by this fashion show. There were also “cultural experimentations”, such as last year’s Grand Kanduli and the Festival of Lights which, unfortunately, will be missed this year but whose loss will be well compensated by the Kuyog Street Dancing Competition that promises P100,000 to its champion.

Never to be excluded though is the fluvial parade of richly-decorated boats (ginakit) along the historic Rio Grande de Mindanao on December 19.

Sema said they will re-enact the coming of Shariff Kabunsuan.

“The civil-military parade on that day will be choreographed as to make it a realistic salubungan at the city wharf,” the city’s first lady said. The Shariff Kabunsuan Festival was said to have started in the late ‘70s. In an article written for the Cotabato City Guidebook, the noted Maguindanaon scholar lawyer Michael Mastura hinted about the origin of the festival.

In page 26 thereof, Mastura wrote that a “colorful pageantry, though celebrated only once, was the festivity to complement the inaugural day of the region with the coming of Sharif Kabungsuwan (sic) re-enacted on the Pulangi River.”

The region mentioned referred to the original administrative Region 12 created by PD No. 742 on July 7, 1975. Though the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival is held in honor of the man credited with establishing Islamic faith and culture in Mindanao, it has evolved through the years as the common heritage of the tri-people in Cotabato City and nearby areas.

The mostly Christian Tedurays of Upi town trace their origin to Mamalu, one of the two reigning rulers in Mindanao upon the arrival of Shariff Kabunsuan in the early 1500s.

Tabunaway, brother of Mamalu, embraced Islam while the latter gracefully declined the faith. Wise persons say it was an epic event of religious tolerance lasting till today, and one truly deserving of great remembrance.

Shariff Kabunsuan is created by Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 201 comprising the municipalities of Barira, Buldon, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Parang, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura and Uri, all of the first legislative district of the mother province of Maguindanao.

Cotabato City and the remaining municipalities of the second legislative district of the Maguindanao remain with the said province. However, the last paragraph of Section 5 of Muslim Mindanao Autonomy (MMA) Act No. 201 provides that “except as may be provided by national law, the existing legislative district , which includes Cotabato City as a part thereof, shall remain.”

Shariff Kabunsuan is the country’s 80th province and the sixth in the ARMM. It is the first province not made by Congress, as it was made through invoking the powers of Republic Act No. 9054 or the Expanded ARMM law. (Dong Cusain and Mark Navales)

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