COTABATO - There was a general festive mood among tourists and Cotabato residents as they watched the grand send-off of week-long celebrations marking Cotabato City's 50th anniversary.
This is reportedly the first time that hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the city's center to commemorate the success of the occasion, which officially kicked off on June 12 in time for Independence Day. "People are so happy, they don't want to go home," remarked Sandra Sema, Cotabato City Tourism Council Chairperson.
Well-known personalities like Senator Loren Legarda, who served as guest of honor, and Senator Richard Gordon were seen mingling during the day's activities.
After speeches by local government officials, the day was strung with sports activities inside the city's crowded gymnasium, where the "Mutya ng Cotabato" beauty pageant was also held. Later, after much pomp, 20-year-old Edan Annecia Merl Dafilmoto was hailed the pageant winner, amid a slew of minor awards.
There was also a local fashion show called the "Inaul fashion show", where Binibining Pilipinas titleholders paraded various clothes made with "inaul", a native woven cloth.
Despite the noon heat on Monday, 30,000 participants from all societal sectors joined in the grand parade. While they were walking, confetti rained down from the sky, courtesy of Tactical Operations Group 12 of the Philippine Air Force. The parade lasted for almost 3 hours, and ended at the People's Palace where they were met by Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema.
The highlight of the evening was a "Grand Kanduli" where 50 cows were slaughtered and served to guests and residents in a food fiesta. Singers Rachel Ann Go and rap artist Andrew E. were also present to serenade the people of Cotabato.
Amid a sudden downpour of rain, many people still chose to remain at the People's Palace grounds up to the late evening, before celebrations officially closed with a 10-minute fireworks display.
On Friday, the city hosted a huge calisthenics presentation featuring hundreds of students from various barangays. A short tribute for all of the city's past governors was also held. Sema said that it was important to remember past government officials because of their role in helping develop the city into what it is today.
On Saturday, there were colorful street dances, where neighboring cities and areas could participate. The winners were the Upi town contingent from Mindanao.
Authorities said that despite the sheer volume of tourists who joined the festivities and the streak of attempted bombings in the area this year, there were no reported security problems since police and military forces were on guard throughout the week. Report by Halima Satol, ABS-CBN Central Mindanao.