One Muslim leader stands tall in Philippine history for his defense of the Islamic faith and the territorial integrity of Mindanao against Spanish colonizers—Mohammad Dipatuan Kudarat, more popularly known as Sultan Kudarat.

Born in circa 1590 somewhere in present-day Maguindanao, this legendary Muslim chieftain ruled his sultanate from 1619 to 1671 and his reign was considered as a golden age in Mindanao.

He defended Mindanao from Spanish forces and invaded ports in Jolo and Zamboanga, forcing the Spaniards to abandon them. Unable to conquer him, the Spanish governor general signed a peace treaty with him paving the way to freedom in trading and allowing some friars to build churches. He refused to be converted to Christianity, but expressed belief in religious freedom.

He was a virtuous leader who embodied the idea of unity, hramony and freedom among the diverse peoples scattered throughout its Sultanate. By the time of his death, Kudarat was considered apandita, i.e., a learned man in religious matters.

So when the northern portion of the empire province of Cotabato was split into three in 1973 by then President Ferdinand Marcos, one portion could be named to none other than the legendary freedom fighter.

Thus, the province of Sultan Kudarat was born which embraced 12 municipalities with Isulan as the seat of government. Tacurong, the crossroad commercial town of the province, was converted into a component city in 2000.

The Sultan’s golden rule was once more relived as the province recently celebrated the recent Kalimudan Festival to mark its 29th founding anniversary. Now on its 14th staging Kalimudan is coined from the Maguindanaoan word “limud” which means “to gather, to meet and collect” or “limu” which means blessing.

The whole term therefore denotes a celebration of blessings and harmony to put to the fore the bounty of Mindanao as the “Land of Promise” and gather the tri-people of the province—the Christians, the Muslim tribes and the indigenous tribes of T’Bolis and B’laans—in one grand convergence.

The locus of the festivity is Battle of Festivals which also drew delegations from the neighboring provinces of Maguindanao and South Cotabato to share their local culture. Topping the dance showdown is perennial winner Bambad National High School of Isulan with their rendition of Hamungaya Festival.

Governor Suharto Tan Mangudadatu, Al-Haj, said that the 11-day provincial fete which bore the theme “Larawan ng Pagkakaisa, Kapayapaan at Kaunlaran highlighted its being a showcase of unity, peace and progress despite the negative public impression.

A Maguindanaoan Datu, Mangudadatu noted that Kalimudan is an instrument to perpetuate the inter-racial harmony and progress espoused by Sultan Kudarat himself.

He added that with its rich cultural heritage, diverse agricultural produce and unique physical wonders, the province has the ingredients for being an emerging eco-cultural tourist spot in South Central Mindanao or Region 12.

Sultan Kudarat takes pride in its pre-colonial civilization evident in the archaeological implements unearthed in the towns of Lebak, Kalamansig and Columbio. These ancient finds are housed in the provincial museum and tourism office at the stately Capitol complex in Isulan.

Nature lovers can get awed by the diversity of avian life at the Baras Bird Sanctuary in Tacurong City, the magnificent cave systems of Sen. Ninoy Aquino, and the Pangadilan Falls of Columbio.

Water lovers, meanwhile, can frolic in the fine sand beaches of Lebak and Kalamansig, the idyllic Palimbang and Magnao islands of Palimbang, or the rejuvenating cold and hot spring waters of Marguez Resort in Esperanza.

The province is also a potential agri-tourism site with its palm plantations and oil mills in Isulan and traditional muscovado sugar mills in Pres. Quirino.

Mangudadatu concluded that with its natural and human resources, Sultan Kudarat will be a frontier area for tourism and economic development to relive the glory days of the legendary chieftain it was named after.

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