Cotabato’s turn to wow!
It was Cotabato City’s turn to present its unique blend of culture, tradition, and history last January 28 at Wow Philippines’ Best of the Regions Showcase, staged at the historic city of Intramuros.
Upon entering the exhibit halls of the Wow Philippines compound, viewers were not only treated to the arts and crafts of Cotabato City, but also to those of the entire regions of Southwestern Mindanao(or Region XII, comprised of North Cotabato, Saranggani, South Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM, covering Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) as part of the two regions’ month-long tourism event, bearing the appropriate theme, “Kuyog Tano Ko Kalilintad” (Together in Peace).
Spectators were first treated to a Maguindanao dance by the Hinugyaw Cultural Dance Troupe, characterized by special hand movements with the women’s heads held high, denoting the poise and solemnity of refined ladies.
Two of Cotatabato City’s respected women demonstrated the craftsmanship and creativity of Maguindanao weavers using “Inaul,” a handwoven textile which is usually made into the sarong-like “malong,” with Hadja Bai Albaya B. Wampa at the loom (called “tanunan” or “bagawlan”), and at the microphone, Bai Sandra A. Sema, first lady and City Tourism Council Chairperson of Cotabato City. Bai Albaya is chairperson and founder of the Al Jamelah (which means “beautiful lady”), an organization which hires and empowers women as weavers of traditional clothing. Bai Sandra herself was decked in a stylish Inaul dress made from silk thread. Other types of thread used in Al Jamelah include blue bird, cocoon, moon, and cotton.
Males joined the female dancers demonstrating that flexibility of the malong as it can be used not only as a dress but in dozens of ways: as a skirt, a blanket, a headdress, a bed-sheet, a prayer mat, even a “bahag.” This was followed by an Inaul fashion show modeled by some members of the Department of Tourism (DoT) Cotabato City Tourism Council and the reigning Ms. Mutya ng Cotabato. What followed next was the “Singkil” performance, a dance of royal courtship between a prince and a princess. This dance resembles a more complex version of the “tinikling,” with more bamboo poles and other materials used. As with all Muslim dances, the female dancers proudly keep their heads high. While twisting their wrists to move their fans called “apir,” the lady dancers, including the princess, who arrives much later, elegantly weave through bamboos which are in constant motion. The bumping of bamboos symbolize an earthquake, held by male dancers forming parallel, perpendicular, crisscross, and other patterns. The princess also skillfully swirls her pair of apirs, and is accompanied by a servant who holds an elaborately decorated umbrella and obediently follows the path of the princess. A heroic prince who periodically beats his sword on his shield as percussion, repeatedly attempts to get the princess amid the jeers and teasing of the other dancers but finally wins the heart of the beauty, bringing the dance to its dramatic end.
The last of the activities for the day included a cooking demonstration of two delicacies: the “tinagtag” and the “pastil.” Tinagtag is a tasty treat made from finely ground rice mixed with sugar. Its batter is placed in a coconut bowl with small holes (hence the name tinagtag) which sieves the mixture down to a pan of boiling oil. The result resembles a crispy sweet noodle. Just as the tinagtag is traditionally given to visitors in Mindanao, spectators at the exhibit were also given a sampling of the golden brown snack. A free dinner for guests was promised in the form of “pastil.” Very adobo-like in taste, it is shredded chicken rolled into steamed rice. One can just peel this banana leaf-wrapped treat to enjoy this complete meal spiced with onion leaves.
Cotabato City’s tourism officials are confident that the exhibits would make viewers very much aware of what Mindanao’s rich culture has to offer: exquisite and unique traditional designs, beautiful spots, different handicrafts made by different tribes as well as delicious delicacies – all produced in Mindanao.