Sat. May 25th, 2019

Cotabato’s 2-km. ‘baiwalk’ boosts tourism, Moro heritage

Aerial image of the “baiwalk” taken by a drone of Cotabato journalist Ferdie Cabrera, showing beautiful sunset over the panoramic two-kilometer riverbank lane.

COTABATO CITY – Civilian and security officials have inaugurated a two-kilometer riverbank erosion control project here, hailing it as an added landmark in this community of coexisting tri-people – Muslims, Christians and Lumads.

“It is like a single hunter’s stone hitting three birds at the same time,” Maguindanao (2nd District) Rep. Bai Sandra A. Sema told the Manila Bulletin over the phone Monday morning, referring to the structure.

By three birds, Rep. Sema was denoting about concerns for protection from soil erosion, promotion of local tourism industry and conservation of the Bangsamoro history.

Residents and even journalists were as ecstatic as Rep. Sema, Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, head of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, and dozens of other dignitaries during the inauguration of the two-kilometer lane last March 6.

The completion of the project was a “dream come true,” according to reporters here of the Catholic-run Notre Dame Broadcasting Corp. (dxMS) and the Radio Mindanao Network (dxMY), who all admitted having brought their families to the riverbank lane even prior to its formal opening, for “serenity” sake.

The project construction started in 2016 under the supervision of the Department of Public Works and Highways, said Sema, who confessed spending months in proposing and lobbying for it along the historic Tamontaka River here.

“Erosion was a problem then among residents in Barangay Tamotaka because stream waters had eaten up sections of both sides of the riverbanks, and displaced many households,” Sema recalled.

She said she tapped local architects to design a three-pronged concept for a project that would meet erosion, tourism and historical concerns at the same time.

“True to their (architects’) visions, the structure is now completed as planned. It protects erosion, boosts local tourism and preserves our heritage,”

The Tamontaka riverbank lane is similar to Manila’s “baywalk” where residents and visitors spend time daily to watch sunrise and sunset in serenity.

But it is called “baiwalk” to connote a combination of the female Moro royal title “bai” and “serine walk” for its visitors, project designers said.

“Baiwalk” is about a five-minute hike from the panoramic Cotabato Grand Mosque, a 60,000-seater Islamic shrine at Barangay Kalanganan serving as a tourist spot in this city. The shrine, designed by architect Felino Falafox, is also called Sultan Bolkiah Mosque because it was funded with US$48 million by the Sultan of Brunei.

Its location, the Tamontaka River, is associated with the Bangsamoro cultural heritage, notably the fierce resistance of Moro warrior led by the legendary Sultan Kudarat against invading Spaniards personally led by Sebastian de Corcuera, the then Governor-General of the Spanish East Indies, in 1630s.

The same river was a known transit-point for Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) warriors fighting soldiers in this city during the “repressive days” of the Marcos martial law era, local historians said.

Former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, husband of the lady lawmaker, used to led the MNLF fighters as head then of the front’s Uttara Revolutionary command. He mayor joined his wife, Gen. Sobejana and other dignitaries at the “baiwalk” inaugural ceremony on March 6.

Rep. Sema said visitors coming in droves for the just-created Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) government in this city can also drop by at the riverbank park. She is incidentally one of major sponsor in Congress of R.A. 11054, which was enacted in July last year for the creation of BAR. (Ali G. Macabalang)

Ali Macabalang

Ali Macabalang, Senior Correspondent of The Manila Bulletin, Tempo newspapers and various private and government media entities in different positions, one of very few Filipino Muslim scribes that newspapers readers may have noticed their bylines in various stories on different issues.