By Ali Macabalang
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 Monday morning, referring to the structure.
By three birds, Rep. Sema was referring to the concerns of protection from soil erosion, promotion of local tourism industry and conservation of the Bangsamoro history.
Residents and even journalists were as ecstatic as Sema, Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, head of the Army’s Sixth Infantry Division, and dozens of other dignitaries led 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.
Project construction was started in 2016 under the supervision of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), 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 Cotabato’s version 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 of Sultan Kudarat against invading Spaniards personally led by Sebastian de Corcuera, the then Governor-General of the Spanish East Indies, in 1630s.