The Golden Mosque: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid | Cotabato City

An uncomfortable sensation betrayed my enthusiastic steps out of Cotabato City airport only minutes after stepping off the plane. I've heard a lot of nasty things about this city. The sort that advises you not to go out walking alone and other hysteria propagated by the mainstream media. When Lauren and I eventually ventured outside, we were startled by dozens of marines holding their positions—armed with long rifles, standing on guard with alert eyes concealed behind their black rip-off Oakley sunglasses—with the type of glare you feel at the back of your mind. I nodded to one of them, and a number of them returned my grin. I thought to myself, here we are, in the city that is frequently misunderstood, and I wonder if I will go home with a newfound knowledge of this city, or if I will be one of those who say, "I told you so, the place is dangerous." I recall that moment, when we hailed down a tricycle driver to take us to the Golden Mosque, when we were in a state of wait-and-see.

Mosques in Mindanao

The Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid, often known as the Golden Mosque, is located in Barangay Kalanganan, some seven kilometers from the city center. It is located in the center of a vast land that is divided by the Tamontaka River, which leads to the Moro Gulf, and the Timako Hill. We had seen it from the air earlier, while the plane was circling for a landing. It's gigantic from afar, and much more so when you're standing only meters away from it.

When we arrived, the Mosque was nearly deserted, with only a few construction workers serving as caretakers. They greeted us and invited us inside. We entered the mosque barefoot, as is the custom when entering a Mosque everywhere. The opulent aura of the Mosque immediately grew more imposing. An atmosphere of spirituality pervades the interior. I see a Muslim brother and sister bowing in prayer, communing with God. It is what every house of worship should be. 

Elal Jane Lasola

As a person from another religion, it was a novel experience to discover about how my fellowmen from different faith expresses their devotion. Regrettably, I was unable to witness the actual day of service and prayer. I get a sense of how the men and women fully enrich their spirituality just by being inside the Mosque, similar to my previous experiences of visiting other temples and even old churches.

Mishi Magno

The Golden Mosque is said to have costed $48 million and funded by Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei. I haven't been to many mosques before, but this one reminds me of another stunning mosque in Kota Kinabalu, the one near Likas Bay. 

Jomie Naynes

The sun was shining brightly that day, which proved to be a good omen as the skies turned dark blue. The scattered white clouds provided an ideal backdrop for this magnificent structure. Looking at it from a distance, you can't help but be amazed. The massive structure, as defined by the curves and intricate designs influenced by Arabic architecture, creates a powerful image, particularly in the eyes of this outsider onlooker.

Kara Santos

I felt at ease and at home. My hidden fears of Cotabato City soon faded, to be replaced by a new stream of interests and open-mindedness. We walked into the courtyard under the scorching sun, barefoot, and barely felt the heat of the floor. A magical flow of Zen-ness is created by the wind coming from all four directions. As I imagine it does for the faithful who flock to this mosque on each day of assembly.

Gay Emami Mitra

Still standing outside and preparing to leave, I returned my gaze to the minarets as a flock of birds flew by, a few gently gliding on the dome-shaped towers and a lone bird landing on one of the crescent moon. The air was filled with a blissful calm. The only sound I could hear was the wind blowing and my girlfriend Lauren's angelic voice telling me how beautiful the place is.

Emily Rose Rosales

A Chinese family soon arrived and went inside to tour the mosque. Lauren and the patriarch had a brief conversation. Despite the fact that they live in Cotabato City, he told her it was their first visit to the Mosque. They are afraid of being kidnapped when they travel along the coastal highway. I told Lauren that we'd never know if such fears were rational or not because we don't live in Cotabato City; the important thing is that we never let fear consume us.

Eileen Campos

As we rode the tricycle back to the city, Lauren with her ever studying eyes pointed to me the various churches from different denominations built around Cotabato City. It was obvious to us that day that religious prejudice is non-existent in Cotabato City. Some of the fears I had like being targeted for being a Christian in Cotabato City is unfounded. 

Eileen Campos

As Jaffar, our new friend whom we met two days later, pointed out, Muslims and Christians coexist peacefully in this city. Crime does occur in other places, and it doesn't hurt to be extra cautious and alert, but such generalization of fear is unwarranted. A quick visit to this mosque has taught me that the only thing to fear is fear itself. Especially in a place where the crescent moon towers over everyone, reminding them that it is the symbol of peace. 

Mujee Gonzales