That Cotabato City in Mindanao is fast changing may be noticeable NOT (just) because of the growing number of malls there (though many may say this is a good signifier of “progress”), but of the changes made to the “old” places that used to dot the city. Gone, for instance, are the fruit stands near the plaza; in their places, there are stalls instead of vendors of fake stuffs (DVDs, et cetera). The cinemas along Magallanes St. are no more. Even the “old” city hall (in the middle of the city; by the plaza) is no more, turned into an (to be blunt) “empty” edifice of no real purpose…
But through these changes, there are some of the “old” stuff that managed to survive. And here, the first thing that comes to mind are the BBQ stalls not too far from where the fruit vendors used to be, right by the plaza, which is not too far from the old city hall.
And here is where you can (still) go BBQ crazy when in Cotabato City…
Two words: BBQ galore. To be eaten with kanin (rice) wrapped in dahon ng saging (banana leaves).
It is worth noting, though, that specialties here are limited to accommodate the sensibilities of the Islamic inhabitants of the city. And so be prepared to see mostly: chicken (including the “spare” parts like isaw or intestine, Adidas or chicken feet, atay or liver, and so on) and seafood (e.g. dalag or mudfish, katipa or catfish, and so on).
All these are sold in stalls after stalls that start selling late in the afternoon until the wee hours of the morning.
WHY GO THERE
A “major” reason why you’d head here is because – when it’s already late and the tropa (or your barkada/group) is hungry, there’d be no other place/s to go to in Cotabato City. The vendors here remain functional for as long as their stalls have stuffs to sell, so this then becomes a go-to place when craving for chow late at night (say, after a drinking session).
But this is not to disparage the offerings of the place because – largely depending on the suki (or where one regularly grabs stuffs) there – the preparations can be… yummy. Most of the chicken tend to be bland (that’s the truth), with the flavor coming from the soy sauce where you’re supposed to dip them before putting them in your mouth; but there are some stalls that marinate their goods before BBQing them, so that they end up real yummy…
And the price, of course, is beyond tolerable. Per person, you only have to spend approximately P100 for a complete meal, so you’re no better off if you chose to grab something from nearby fastfood joints.
WHY AVOID THE PLACE
This isn’t a fancy place; it’s more like a tambayan (place for hanging out) or even inuman (though they don’t serve alcohol there). So if you’re after something fancier, then this isn’t a place for you (though again, at ungodly hours, good luck finding any such place open when in Cotabato City).
And then, of course, the (aforementioned) limited goods may disappoint, too.
IN THE END
But if you’re in the mood for some BBQ; and while grabbing that, see where the locals in Cotabato City grab theirs, then here is where you should head.
Particularly really late at night (or early in the morning) when just about the whole city is dead, and this place remains well-lit and dinadayo (frequented)…
The BBQ stalls are located not too far from where the fruit vendors used to be, right by the plaza, which is not too far from the old city hall. All jeepneys going to and from ORC pass through these stalls; while other jeeps (e.g. those going to NDU) also pass nearby areas. As is the case when in the city itself, everything is accessible by walking.