Ancient burial sites in the Kulaman plateau, near Lebak, were discovered in the 1960s indicating that the area had been inhabited since the beginning of the Christian era. A people believed to be similar to the modern Manobos created the unique limestone burial urns as well as other remnants of their technology. The Tirurays and the Manobos have inhabited the highlands of the province while the Maguindanaos occupied the coast and the river plains of what comprised the territory of Sultan Kudarat.
For most of its history, the Manobos and Tirurays of the Kulaman highlands had been tributary to the Maguindanao states. Spanish attempts to wrest control of the region began in the mid-19th century. In 1861, Enrique Carrillo, governor of Davao, penetrated the Buluan River area as far as Mailad and established a fort. By 1871, Lebac, part of the coast of the province, was made a military district of Cotabato.
The territory comprising Sultan Kudarat was largely forested until the 1920s. Following the establishment of large lumber companies, much of the province’s timber was cut down. On cleared territory, Visayan migrants settled in large numbers. Visayas, especially Hiligaynons, now comprise the majority of people living within the province.
Sultan Kudarat was part of the province of Cotabato delineated in 1914 by the American government. In 1973, by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 341, Sultan Kudarat was created from out of the old Cotabato province. Sultan Kudarat became part of the autonomous region in Central Mindanao following the Tripoli Agreement but in 1989, in a plebiscite to determine the extent of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the majority voted against inclusion.
People, Culture and the Arts
The area now occupied by Sultan Kudarat was a well-established settlement before the arrival of the Spaniards in the Philippines. It is also the home of the Muslim Maguindanaos. Other major tribes, which have settled in the area are the Muslim Iranuns, the animistic Tirurays, and the Manobos. Thus, three community groups inhabit Sultan Kudarat--the tribal Filipinos, Muslim Filipinos, and Christian Filipinos. This is not unusual since Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, and Cotabato and most of Mindanao for that matter, used to be joined under the authority of the most popular Maguindanao leader, Sultan Qudarat. Today, the Maguindanaons constitute one of the largest groups among the Muslims. Most of them live in the area now occupied by the three provinces of the old Cotabato. Although still in great number, the Maguindanaons and other cultural groups like the Iranuns, Tirurays, and Manobos are now outnumbered by Christian migrants from the Visayas and from Luzon. The languages of this province are Bisaya, Ilocano, Maguindanaon, and Tiruray.
Sultan Kudarat is still remains one of the unexplored destinations of the Philippines. Its forests are the home of hundreds of different species of orchids, the most popular among them, the Waling-waling. Discovered in 1882, the Waling-Waling is one of the most sought after and considered a rare and prized specimen for its beauty, by avid collectors from all over the world.
Trade and Investments
Sultan Kudarat is located on the southwestern part of Mindanao and occupies an area of 6,225 square kilometers. Sultan Kudarat has a population of 435,454 and a local labor force is pegged at 235,546. The province has a forest land of 360,739 hectares while 188,498 hectares are devoted to agriculture, 30,575 hectares for pasture lands and 1,572 hectares for fishponds. The inland fishponds augment the coastal fishing grounds, which are considered the richest in the region. The province is known to have metallic mineral deposits.
The province of Sultan Kudarat is very accessible by land, while some of its municipalities may be reached by boats. The local road network is 1,920 kilometers long and reaches most of the barangays. The province has an airstrip owned and maintained by a private company. The power supply comes from the Maria Christina hydro-electric plant, in Lanao del Norte and redistributed by a local electric cooperative. The water supply is distributed by levels I, II and III water systems. The province has post offices and telegraph stations in all the municipalities and a telephone system operating in Tacurong. Banking and financial needs are provide by a host of rural, commercial and development banks.
The production, processing, and trade of resources in Sultan Kudarat anchors most of the investment opportunities in this province. The vast and rich agricultural lands allow investors to practically produce all kinds of crops or trade the marketable surplus of rice, corn, coffee, vegetables and coffee. The abundant harvests of tuna from coastal fishing grounds, as well as the potential harvests of prawns, crabs and tilapia from inland fishponds, could easily sustain trade and processing activities in these marine products. Other major industries include African oil palm processing plant, feed milling and rice bran oil extraction plant and refinery.
Development Initiative Highlights: