Shariff Kabunsuan Festival : Celebrating Cultural Diversity

Colorful and elaborately decorated boats will navigate along Rio Grande de Mindanao on Dec. 19 to commemorate the entry of Islamic missionary Shariff Kabunsuan to spread Islam in southern Philippines centuries ago.

Cotabato Sharif Kabunsuan Festival
Cotabato Shariff Kabunsuan Festival

The celebration, called “Ginakit,” is expected once again to brighten the usually murky and now heavily silted waterways, as the Muslims celebrate the start of Islamization of Mindanao called Shariff Kabunsuan Festival.

With the theme “Celebrating Cultural Diversity,” this year’s observance of a festival honoring the arrival of the man credited for spreading Islam in Mindanao is designed to be simple yet very meaningful, Bai Sandra Sema, wife of Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema said.

Bai Sandra, chair of the city tourism council, explained that only few major activities will be held, namely the civic-cultural parade, “Lilang-lilang,” Ginakit Fluvial parade, and Pagana (thanksgiving).

The Kuyog Street Dancing and Inaul Fashion Show will be missed this year in deference to the plight of thousands of Moro internally displaced persons in nearby towns.

Instead, it will be held on the 50th Araw ng Kutabato celebration next year.

The Ginakit fluvial parade will have P100,000 cash prize waiting for the champion and P75,000 for the second place and P50,000 for third. Expected to attend are 20 well decorated and very colorful boats.

Bai Sandra said a well-scripted, well-choreographed reenactment of the arrival of Shariff Kabunsuan will be performed by The Association of Maguindanao Artists (TAMA) as “lilang-lilang” or entertainment prior to the judging of “Ginakit” entries at the city wharf.

This city’s Shariff Kabunsuan Festival was adjudged as Best Tourism Event in the Philippines (city category) during the 7th ATOP (Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines) Convention in Koronadal City.

The award was personally handed over by Tourism Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano to Bai Sandra.

ATOP recognized the historicity of the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival as its distinctive feature against all the major festivals in the country.

It has features that are not shared by other festivals in the country.

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