North Cotabato

There are two major cities here and they are world’s apart.

Cotabato City is home to the Maguindanaons, who were part of the Maguindaon Sultanate. In this predominantly Islamic city, you’ll find the largest and most beautifully crafted mosque in the country. At the foot of Mt. Apo is Kidapawan, home to at least six indigenous groups. Trekking here is like trekking through five different types of forest all in one mountain—from mossy to pine forests. The higher you get, the cooler it is. Bring a jacket—this place is no tropical beach.

The cultures are varied with several languages spoken, from the Maguindanaon to Manobo to Illonggo. The largest mountain range in the Philippines, Mt. Apo is here, with a jump-off point in Kidapawan, one the of the three major trails, although there are many more undiscovered. Here, you’ll find the largest eagle in the planet: “Haribon” as the locals call it, Pithecophaga jefferyi to scientists and the Philippine Eagle to everyone else. The endangered and endemic Waling-Waling orchid is also found in Mt. Apo.

The great Rio Grande river meanders through here. The longest river in Mindanao that spans 232 miles, it is an essential life source for the cities of Kidapawan and Cotabato and other neighboring provinces. It’s no wonder the government sent homesteaders here in the 1930’s. And it’s not surprising that investments are pouring in.

There are 17 other towns, each with its own distinct culture.