BARMM gears up for Shariff Kabunsuan Festival 2021

By Ali G. Macabalang

MTIT Director General Roslaini Alonto-Sinarimbo in a recent interview. (AGM)

COTABATO CITY – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) governance has geared up for a pompous celebration of the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival 2021, lining up activities starting on Monday, Dec. 13 in honor of the Arab-Malay Islamic missionary cum royalty and trader.

Spearheading the festive commemoration is the BARMM’s Ministry of Trade, Investment and Tourism (MTIT) setting five segments of activities to revive the celebration after a two-year lull from 2019 to 2020. National and local officials were preoccupied with the formation of the BARMM governance in the last two years.

The city government of Cotabato, now a component of BARMM, held its own celebration of the 2019 festival, it being the seat of the Maguindanao Sultanate established by Shariff Kabunsuan as its first Sultan in 1520. The past regional autonomous governments had lstaged the celebration of the festivals since the Marcos era, it was learned.

The initial leg of the five-segment celebration kicks off on Monday, December 13, with a weeklong trade fair, tourism exhibit and photo gallery at the BARMM government seat in this city, according to MTIT Secretary General Rosalini Alonto-Sinarimbo.

Sinarimbo said the second segment covers a kambayok and kulintang contest on Dec. 14-15 at the compound here of the Mall of Alnor, with prospected contests slugging it out via rendition of genealogy-based ethnic songs and Moro native gongs and other instruments comprising kulintang.

The third segment will focus on a Habing Bangsamoro Runaway Show on Dec. 17, featuring various ethnic clothes made of hand-woven fabrics including those to be worn and showcased by BARMM government personnel. This will be held at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Center, an edifice inside the BARMM government compound named after the Arab-Malay missionary.

Sinarimbo said 2018 Miss Asia-Pacific and Mutya ng Pilipinas Sharifa Akeel, now wife of Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, will lead the fashion show wearing varieties of colorful ethnic clothes at the event. Akeel did a similar ethnic fashion show in the 2019 “Inaul Festival” of Maguindanao, which attracted national and international designers and artists.

Guinakit fluvial parade, constituting the fourth commemoration segment, will showcase along the Tamontaka River to Bubong in this city of revelers aboard and trailing replicas of colorful mini-boats called gunakit.  This will reckon the arrival aboard guinakit of Shariff Kabunsuan in Maguindanao in 15th century, Sinarimbo said.

She said the fifth segment is called kandulang event on Dec. 19, during which BARMM officials and guests will jointly partake foods in Moro decorated trays (dulang) constituting a thanksgiving dinner for the celebration.

The event will showcase varieties of Bangsamoro foods and delicacies rarely known to other people, she said.

The weeklong celebration will be capped by a convergence of hosts and guests in the vicinity of the panoramic grand mosque or Masjid Sultan Bolkiah in this city, she said.

During the entire commemoration, Sinarimbo said, the MTIT will promote principal products in BARMM, namely palm oil and coconut in Maguindanao, abaca in Lanao del Sur, seaweeds in Tawi-Tawi, and rubber in Basilan, and coffee in Sulu.

Sulu’s coffee was acknowledged for its very high quality in a recent global assessment meeting held abroad, she said.

Sinarimbo said the weeklong celebration, as may be gleaned from the nature of lined-up activities, will reflect the personalities of Shariff Kabunsuan as a trader, royalty and Islamic missionary.

“Shariff Kabunsuan did not only bring Islam but culture, tradition, commerce and trade and love for the natives of this island,” she told an interview over Manila-based DWIZ hosted by veteran journalist Lolly Acosta and this writer as the president of the Bangsamoro Press Corps.

Sinarimbo reminded prospective participants and guests of the celebrations on the BARMM government’s adherence to standard protocols in the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.


According to Wikipedia, Shariff Muhammed Kabungsuwan was the first Sultan of Maguindanao, a royal government he founded after arriving in the province in 1520. He was an Arab descendant of Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w.). His mother was a Malay daughter of Sultan Iskandar Zhulkarnain of Malacca.

His recorded name “Kabungsuwan” in Maguindanao tradition means “youngest” among three children. His eldest brother, Ahmad is said to have established the Brunei Sultanate while his other brother Alawi is said to have set up the Sulu Sultanate.

Shariff Kabunsuwan is generally regarded as the one who principally introduced Islam in Lanao and Maguindanao regions in the early 16th century. He came after Shariff Makhdum, also an Arab missionary, came to Sulu and spread Islam.

He traded in T’buk (old name of Malabang) in Lanaodel Sur where he got married to a Maranao princess Angintabo, a daughter of Rajah Simbaan of T’buk.

He reigned in the Maguindanao Sultanate from 1520 to 1543. He was succeeded by Sultan Makaalang Saripada. He died in 1543 and was buried in Butig, Lanao del Sur. (AGM)


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