Many of us know that Cotabato City is quite known for “violence” resulted from civil unrest in the region, and visiting this place may not be an option. However, there is more to this city than what we see and hear in the news. Of course, it is understandable if you don’t want to go, but let the Grand Mosque change your perspective.

Masjid Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

Image: Flickr/SIPAT: View from the Edge

Also known as the Grand Mosque, was built and financed by Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei – who, according to rumors, spent half a billion pesos for its construction. It stands grandiosely on a 5000m2 field on a 5-hectare land and its 4 minarets towers 43 meters high. Therefore, making it the largest mosque in the Philippines.

Mutual Tolerance

You know what’s ironic? Other than the Grand Mosque having Christian architects, it is co-maintained and protected by non-Muslim soldiers. The discrimination of individuals based on religion cannot be observed in Cotabato City. Non-muslims and Muslims co-exist and work together in a harmonious way to survive each day.

The Land of Promise

What people fear is the group of bandits that live and roam to lands not their own, who put terror in once a peaceful place. Despite all the fights Mindanao is facing, the people of Cotabato remain strong – individuals who hope about a land of possibilities and promises fulfilled. Muslims are generally peace-seekers and just like any other sectarian group, they pray to seek guidance from Allah and to morally live freely in harmony.

The Worship Ground

Image: asanasadsijames.wordpress.com

Customary in all mosques, visitors and worshippers enter barefooted. Look up and you will see all 4 minarets stand majestically on all corners of the mosque. Each with a crescent moon attached to it which symbolizes the faith of Islam religion.

At the entrance, there’s the mussallah or the prayer room, where over a thousand people in a single worship aggregation can be accommodated. Above it is a small dome, which signifies the vaults of heaven and sky. And outside it is the courtyard, which is a common area where Muslims can meet without disturbing those who are in prayer. Near this area is where the Muslims perform their ablutions before entering the mussallah.

While on the other end of the mosque’s entrance is the quiblah wall, which is facing the direction of Mecca.

How to get here:

Image: lakwatserongmamoy.blogspot.com

There are direct flights to Cotabato City available from almost any major city in the country like Manila, Cebu and Davao. If you are going by land, it is very accessible from many parts of Mindanao. Direct vans and buses are available from Cagayan, Davao, General Santos, etc.

Upon reaching the city, make your way to the downtown where you will find jeepneys going to Awang. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Husky Bus Terminal. From there, you can either take the tricycle or habal-habal to the Grand Mosque. Both of which can be hired to take you on a tour and wait for you.

 Tip:  Since it opened its doors in 2011, it has become the main tourist attraction in Cotabato City. Tourists can be seen everywhere, so we suggest you visit in the morning to avoid the crowd. Also, wear long pants, observe and respect their rules.