PROMOTING AGRI-PRODUCTS. Exhibitors at the agri-trade fair from various parts of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) display their native products as part of the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival that opened in Cotabato City on Thursday (Dec. 15, 2022). The festival will be highlighted on Dec. 19 with the commemoration of Shariff Kabunsuan’s introduction of Islam in Mindanao through the Rio Grande River in the 16th century. (Photo courtesy of from Bangsamoro Information Office -BARMM)

COTABATO CITY – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has opened an agri-trade fair here to mark the weeklong celebration of this year’s Shariff Kabunsuan Festival in the region.

In a statement Friday, Minister Abuamri Taddik, of BARMM's Ministry of Trade, Investments and Tourism (MTIT), said the trade fair forms part of the celebration of the festival commemorating the arrival of Shariff Mohammad Kabunsuan along the banks of “Masla Pulangi” – now known as the Rio Grande de Mindanao – in the 16th century to introduce Islam in Mindanao.

“The activity is one of the many activities in the run-up to the festival that will culminate on Dec. 19,” he said.

He said the MTIT has partnered with the region’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR) for the launching of the agri-fair here Thursday.

Participants in the fair are exhibitors from Maguindanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, the BARMM Special Geographic Area (SGA) in North Cotabato, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

The agri-trade booths are comprised of micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs (MSMEs) as well as local producer groups from the different BARMM provinces assisted by MAFAR.

Taddik said the agri-fair does not only promote the agricultural and other local products in the region but also hopes to strengthen the unity and camaraderie among the provinces.

In a separate interview, BARMM Senior Minister Abdulraof Macacua said Shariff Kabunsuan brought along three things - religion (Islam), trade, and culture – upon his arrival in Mindanao.

Commerce and trade were vital in spreading Islam since missionaries to come from one place to another, he added.

“Trade is very important, but it should be in line with the teachings of religion as well as the culture which determined our identity,” Macacua said.

One of the exhibitors, Georgina Carpio, president of Sardine Coop from Maluso, lauded BARMM for inviting her group to the trade fair.

“Whatever income we will have here will be shared with our cooperative members who are mostly poor fisher folks,” Carpio, whose group is producing preserved marine products, said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Mohammad Matabalao said the festival is not only a celebration of heritage but also unity among Filipino Muslims.

“I have been very hopeful to see the city government and BARMM work together to celebrate our identity and heritage that co-existed peacefully, socially, economically, politically, and even culturally with other areas,” he said. (PNA)