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» » » » » » » » » » » Top 15 Reasons Why You Should Visit My South Cotabato

JR Lopez Gonzales 11:41 AM 3

The province of South Cotabato, located in the Mindanao Island at the southern end of the Philippines, abounds with natural wonders and is one of the fastest-growing economies in the region. Despite the province’s smeared reputation brought about by both hasty generalization and irresponsible journalism, this place that nurtured me for more than half of my life, is rising from the ashes.

The province is already threading out from those setbacks and is now becoming one of the natural attaractions. With its vibrant economy, grand sceneries, and picturesque landscapes, the province is a natural haven for intrepid adventures.

I can only suggest that you take the soonest possible opportunity and plan a trip to leave some of your footprints in this province of mine. And for you to have an idea why it’s the place-to-be, I’ll be sharing you my Top 15 reasons why I love South Cotabato (which apparently means why you should, too):

15 – It’s More ‘Sun’ in South Cotabato
South Cotabato is 'Sun'-kissed. [Photo courtesy of PinoyExp]
While it is true that the whole province has strong mobile phone connectivity to all telcos, Sun Cellular has one, if not the strongest, signal in South Cotabato which enables users to bask in the brightness of Sun’s network!

After strengthening its network expansion program, PLDT’s Sun Cellular launched Postpaid Plan 250 initially available in the Mindanao Island. With that, more South Cotabateños can now interact with more than 14 million Sun subscribers!

14 – Serene South Cotabato
Take about tranquility. Idyllic Lake Sebu twilight taken by me last year.
South Cotabato with its ten municipalities and Koronadal City, is a friendly peace-loving province. The big city hustles and bustles are left far behind in this part of the Philippine Archipelago.

Whether it’s for business, or pleasure, or both, the province offers a wide array of accommodations for local and foreign tourists alike. Hotels, inns, and lodging houses are scattered all around the provinces for tranquil stay minus the big city worries.

13 – Oooh Wee, Typhoon-free!
We're located down south. [Photo taken from Wikipedia Map Locator]
South Cotabato is a typhoon-free province – a stark contrast to most of the islands in this tropical country.

Here in down south, we enjoy a mild and pleasant climate with no pronounced dry or wet season having an average rainfall of 2500 mm distributed evenly throughout the year. All of its subdivided areas: the Allah Valley, Koronadal, and the Coastal Plains rarely experience earthquakes, too.

12 – Getting there is easy
'Skylab'. Not the space station. [Photo from Polomolok Flyer]
To get to my South Cotabato paradise, your options are to travel by air, sea or land. The fastest and most convenient though, is to take a plane to General Santos City, with daily flights from Manila for about 2 hours. From Gensan, you can take either bus, a taxi, or rent-a-car and travel 39 kilometers to the city capital of Koronadal.

Be surprised to find the varying modes of transportation within the province. Jeepneys, tri-sikads (trickshaws), multi-cabs, and buses are abound in the streets although the tricycles is the “King of the Road” while the “skylabs” (motorbikes with extended seats) is the “Kings of the Rough Road”. All these provide convenient way to roam around the localities.

11 – Mighty Mountains
Photo Courtesy of Tupinian RD Trabado.
The province’s topography is dotted with long and narrow mountains sprinkled with meandering rivers. First of the two is Mount Matutum in both towns of Tupi and Polomolok which towers at 2,286 meters above sea. This gargantuan beauty has a plume of white crowned peak which offers panoramic view of the surrounding towns.

Another mountain fit for trekking is Mount Melibengoy (also known as Mount Parker) in T’boli town, is a 2.9-km-wide caldera with steep walls that rise 200-500m above Lake Maughan’s crater.

If you’re keen and daring climber, both of these mountains can be scaled during every month of the year.
10 – Bargain Prices in Stores
Malls, such as this, are aplenty in the capital city. [Photo courtesy of Scrapercity]
From the jostled streets along the town markets to the shopping centers, my home province has a lot of stores, stalls, and shops for bargain prices of souvenirs, and handicrafts. Corn husk products are readily available at the Municipality of Banga. Native products and souvenirs can also be seen at stalls in the town of Lake Sebu. You can also purchase the elaborate pots in the municipality of Tantangan.

Malls around Koronadal City, most notably the KCC Mall of Marbel, is a good place to find local handicrafts and souvenirs, too. With hundreds of establishments and stalls, it is the shopaholics’ haven for chic trends. Did I forget to say they got it all for you and for me?

9 – ‘Cool’ Summer
Paraiso VERDE looks 'blue'. [Photo Courtesy of The Backpack Man]
Bounded by the provinces of Sultan Kudarat in the north and west, in the east and south by the city of General Santos and Sarangani Province, the landlocked provinces makes up for its resorts and pools to beat the heat especially during summertime.

The city capital houses the world-class Paraiso Verde Resort and Water Park. Since 2011, the water park have surprised swimmers with the Mobi Wave Pool, the first of its kind in Southern Philippines and 3 other types of pool. One can also try water zorbing at Cresta Del Rio Splash Resort for aqua adventure while an Olympic-size pool can also be found in South Cotabato Sports Complex in the city. Sporadic water pools are also located in towns for its locals.

8 – Bustling Agro-Industrial Economy
Dole Philippines, the largest pineapple plantation
in the Philippines is in South Cotabato.
South Cotabato is rich with fertile land for growing a variety of crops thus aptly called as, “The Breadbasket of the South”. With its urban center Koronadal City, the 3,706 square kilometer-province is home to various agro-industries that pump up the local revenue.

'Green' peace.
The 9-hole Kalsangi golfcourse at Dolefil is a sure treat for golfers everywhere.
The multinational corporation, the Dolefil in the municipality of Polomolok, is the largest industrial firm involved in growing, processing and exporting of fresh and canned pineapple since 1963. It has about 15,507.872 hectares (2004 est.) of pineapple plantation. This is highly visible when you pass by the Tupi-Polomolok road, the pineapples look like green grasslands.

The province’s most planted crop is corn, having more than 100,000 hectares. Rice, the Filipino staple food ranks second having more than 60, 000 hectares, and Coconut oil (copra) which also is a known exported commodity. Nonetheless, the province’s skyrocketing progress is a result of human synergy and the richness of its resources.

7 – Delish South Cotabato Treats
Yum, yum, yum! Me and my sister partakes
the sumptuous Lake Sebu flavors.
All manners of produce, harvests, as well as delicacies can be relished in the province. Various fruits can be bought at cheap prices in Tupi’s Kablon Fruitstands. It is a strip along the Tupi-Polomolok highway that sells a wide variety of fruits and veggies.

Local flavors, which is a mix of various ethnic backgrounds of the diversed South Cotabato can be tasted through its restaurants and eateries, too. Worth mentioning is Punta Isla’s “Chicharong Tilapia” in Lake Sebu.

The province’s associated smells and tastes surely becomes a memorable experience for the unexpecting tourist.

6 – Province-Empowered Eco-tourism
South Cotabato Government is deeply serious for  its tourism development.
Just to show you how serious the South Cotabato Government is in promoting eco-tourism, millions of pesos were poured for the improvement of its tourism destinations (including the initial investment of P20 million for the project and additional procurements in 2010). In a lot of ways, this is a huge help to the working class and the locals in their economic upliftment.

Various spots were developed over the years to cater to both local and international tourists, alike. The top tourist spots are on the following two spots in this countdown.

5 – The Tupinian Tarsier
E.T.-looking tarsiers in Tupi. [Photo courtesy of Neal Carlo Solon]
While this may come as a surprise to many, one of the tourist spots in the province that is wildly getting attention, is the Tarsier Sanctuary in Tupi. Having been featured by various national TV stations, the Tarsier Sanctuary in Barangay Linan houses various tarsier locally called as ‘tukay mal’ – a smaller tarsier specie from that of Bohol’s.

4 – Magnificent Lake Sebu
One of Lake Sebu's seven magnificent falls.
[Photo taken from SouthCotabatoNews by Julz Mella.]
The municipality of Lake Sebu, about an hour’s drive from the capital city, occupies the top spot with regards to South Cotabato tourist destinations.

Considered as the province’s "summer capital", various nature beauties is located in this cool part of the province. Various activities are present: rock-wall climbing, rappelling, and kayaking along its picturesque lake. One can also have a boatride around the lake.

The town’s tourism jewel is the Seven Falls – a series of septuple interconnecting falls that can be scaled by amateur nature lovers. For those who want extreme adventure, head off to its “Seven Falls Zipline Adventure”. No words can describe the thrill and beauty, so I’ll share this with a video by my own brother in our escapade on the summer of last year:

3 – The Melodious Hiligaynon Accent
In case you wonder what's with the singing.
[Photo taken from]
Being based here in the largely Visayan-populaced Iligan City for more than seven years now, I would always miss the ‘singing’ intonation of the Ilonggos in my hometown.

Most migrant settlers of the province whose lineage are originally from the Visayas and Luzon came to settle in the fertile lands of Cotabato in the post-World War II era. Hiligaynon, the major dialect in the province is reported as the mother tongue of 56.64% of the population.

It carries along with it the sing-song and genteel inflection of the South Cotabateños that is simply sweet-sounding to non-speakers heard over the radio stations. In case you wonder what's with my singing, yes I'm an Ilonggo myself.

2 – South Cotabateños’ Harmony in Diversity

Chroniclers say that centuries ago, long before Legaspi’s expedition reached the Philippines ni 1656, the T’bolis and the B’laan, two of the known peace-loving lumad tribes of Mindanao, have occupied the valleys and mountainous ranges of the present-day province.

The Tupinian B'laans parade proudly at the annual "Agten Tufi"
[Photo from the Municipality of Tupi Website]
With a booming population of 813,354 people, the province is the haven for diversed cultures and tongues. The province is home to the Christian migrant settlers, the lumads (composed mainly of the indigent tribes of B’laan and T’boli), and the Muslims (Maguindanons).

With its opening last March 2011, this masterpiece designed by
Kublai Ponce Millan is now one of Surallah's landmarks
For backgrounders, while I already mentioned the “melodious” accent of the Ilonggos, other settlers also found the province to be their safe abode. The people from the Ilocano speaking regions of Luzon settled in Tampakan, Tantangan and Tupi (Barangay Palian), and the Ilocano language may still be heard in these towns. Cebuano on the other hand, is also the main language of the municipality of Polomolok while a creole of Tagalog and Bisaya is the lingua franca in my hometown of Tupi. It is so diversed that there are over 20 different dialects spoken according to the report of the National Statistics Office.
The great natives of the South.
[ Photo taken by Tupinian Atty. Nonoy Rojas during the 2012 T'nalak Festival].
Even the localities’ names are reflections of the rich ethnic cultural history, most names of the towns are ethnic in origin. Polomolok (flom molok, “hunting grounds”) Tupi (tufi, “chewable vine”), Koronadal (kolon datal, “Cogon grass plains”), and Tampakan (tamfaken, “spring”) all derived its name from B’laan dialect. Visiting the province would enable one to witness the intertwined cultures of the local villagers.

While the lumads in Lake Sebu and T'boli municipalities became the minorities, their cultures are still richly preserved in through the their age-old brassworks, beadwork and… the t'nalak weaving which brings us to my number reason why you have to visit my province:

1 – The Fun-filled T’nalak Festival
T'nalak dancers show their grace and skill at the annual streetdancing competition.
[Photo courtesy of Tupinian photographer Atty. Nonoy Rojas]
The T’nalak cloth is created and woven by the T’boli women. The individual threads symbolize the meshing of culture and unity of the various races in the rich province. Durable and light, these ethnic designs were believed to have come from the dreams of the weavers such as the living legend and Philippine National Artist for 1998, Lang Dulay.

These intricate and colourful way of weaving the abaca (Manila hemp) is the icon of the joyous festivities in the whole province fittingly called as the “T’nalak Festival”. The grandiose festival is usually set every second week of July, the T’nalak  Festival shows the vibrant heritage of South Cotabato and its tri-people.
Simply Beautiful.
[Photo taken by Tupinian Atty. Nonoy Rojas during the 2012 T'nalak Festival]
The Festival runs for days, a definite example of the Filipino’s predilection towards merry-making. Events include the classy Mutya ng South Cotabato pageant, nightly concerts, street parties, sports invitations, to name a few. A multitude of activities are well-organised for the festival includes cultural shows, agri-trade fair, and bazaars, too.

While the festival is replete with enlivening activities, T’nalak Festival’s culminates with the streetdances categorized into three (as in the three ethnic peoples). Madal Be’Lan, depicts the life, culture and traditions of the lumads while  Kasagayan a Lalan is the streetdance for the Maguindanaoans. Thirdly, Kasadyahan sa Kapatagan depicts the life, culture and tradition of the Kristyanos, particulary the predominant Ilonggo, Ilocano, Bisaya and other ‘Christian’ tribes. During the celebration, streets echo with drum beats and choreographed visuals displaying South Cotabato’s culture, unity, and grace.


My South Cotabato’s success and development is a testament to the hardwork and ingenuity of its peoples. The negative “Mindanao stigma” brought by irresponsible journalism is fading out with the rebirth of the stronger threads of unity and peace in South Cotabato. This province is the result of the dreams that were put into motion and delicately woven to the beauty it is now.

The people’s charm, the awe-inspiring panorama, and the serenity of South Cotabato make it one of the top destinations in the Philippines.

Yet this post is not enough to discover the history, sceneries and culture of my home province. This Top 15 post merely graces the surface of the province's beauty, and would still take the rest of my lifetime to wholly appreciate.

It's about time you leave your footprint here on this southern paradise called, "South Cotabato".

Myterious. Enchanting. My breathtaking South Cotabato awaits you.

Photo Credits:

Photos without credits personally belong to the blog author.
"Tupinian Tarsier" courtesy of Neal Carlo Solon. Used with permission. 
"T'nalak 2012 Photos" courtesy of Attorney Nonoy Rojas. Posted with permission.
"Kalsangi Golfcourse" taken from YouTube Video entitled, "I Love Polomolok".
"Skylab" taken from
"Hiligaynon? Ilonggo?" taken from
"South Cotabato Logo and Map" from
"Paraiso Verde" taken from
"Mt. Matutum", photo taken from RD Trabado's Facebook Page.
"Lake Sebu Falls" taken from South Cotabato News website taken by Julz Mella.

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3 comments Top 15 Reasons Why You Should Visit My South Cotabato

  1. Good luck with your entry. I would also like to join the Tnalak festival too.

  2. thank you for your support to erase the stigma attached to mindanao and south "cotabato" particularly. just hope everyone read this and change their perception of southcot as "magulo". crime rate here is much lower than any place in luzon, that I can bet.

  3. Thank you for the kind words, Sir Cesar and Juanderful Pinoy.

    That's why I, in a lot of ways, am grateful for this venue in the cyberspace to air out my affection towards my paradise which has constantly landed in the national papers for the wrong reasons.

    My South Cotabato is a prosperous, diversed yet peaceful province. And they'd only know and realize its beauty when they experience it on a firsthand basis. I know it, because I was born and raised in this wonderful cradle.


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