During pre-Spanish times the territory now known as the
Cotabatos was very sparsely poplulated. It had only scattered settlements of Maguindanao Muslims, several mountain tribes and Chinese traders co-existing peacefully in the area.
During the Spanish regime, the native inhabitants resisted all efforts of Spain to colonize them. Because of the frequent encounters with the Spanish military, the place remained
sparsely settled for centuries. It was only in the early 1900's that Cotabato began to show a semblance of a new awakening.
In 1913 the American government opened up vast tracts of land to migration from
the northern islands of Visayas and Luzon. Migrations in large numbers poured into the province over the years and continued up to the late 1960's. Today most of the
inhabitants are Christian migrants from places outside of Mindanao.
As a single province Cotabato quickly developed and became known as the rice
granary of Mindanao. It had much surplus of rice. There was also much fishing around Illana Bay and the Moro Gulf, bringing in species of mackerel, tuna and
anchovies, supplemented by fresh-water varieties from fishponds and lakes.
The rich harvests were attributed to the Rio Grande de Mindanao, a river that
crosses Cotabato at various points, leaving silted soil that produces rich rice lands. The weather in Cotabato is another contributing factor – the province lies outside
the country's "typhoon belt," so there is no damage to crops due to seasonal tropical storms.
Rubber plantations abound in the area, and before a log ban was imposed by the
Philippines Government to preserve Philippine forests, logging was a major industry. The native Muslims and Tirurays continue up to this day to weave cloth from handlooms to produce the richly designed malong
, a Muslim garment for women. They also weave baskets, bags, and hats called salakots which are used by farmers while planting.
In 1967, the large single province of Cotabato was subdivided politically into two provinces: Cotabato Province forming upper half and Cotabato del Sur the lower half. More subdivisions followed.
On August 11, 1950, while the Cotabatos were still one province with Cotabato City as the capital, the Prelature of Cotabato was established, coming under the
jurisdiction of Cagayan de Oro. When it was elevated to a diocese in 1976 it remained a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro. After the subdivision of
the Cotabatos, the Prelature of Marbel was established in Cotabato del Sur.
On November 5, 1979, the Diocese of Cotabato was elevated to an archdiocese. It
now comprises parts of the three provinces of Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and Cotabato City. The Diocese of Marbel and the Diocese of
Kidapawan are its suffragans. The archdiocese is headed by Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, who was installed as Archbishop of Cotabato on ______.
The archdiocese now covers a land area of 8,889 square kilometers and a population of 1,545,291, of which 52 per cent are Catholics. It has 24 parishes
served by 67 diocesan and religious priests. There are also 11 religious brothers and 141 religious sisters working in the archdiocese.
Among its educational centers are 1 major seminary, 1 minor seminary, 1
university, 3 colleges, 9 elementary and high schools under diocesan supervision, and 17 under religious congregations.