General Santos, located on the shores of Sarangani Bay, is the largest city in the region, but is governed independently from the province. The province of Sarangani used to be part of South Cotabato until it was made an independent province in 1992.
Centuries ago, the area that would be the South Cotabato was sparsely inhabited by Malay pioneers which later evolved into various ethnic groupings that still exist in the province today. The Spaniards launched expeditions to subdue the area throughout the colonial era but they never gained control of the region until the middle of the 19th century after the Spaniards established a military post at what is now Barangay Tamontaka, one of the earliest Christian settlements founded south of the Philippines, in present-day Cotabato City. Spaniards already took with them Chabacanos and Chabacano-speaking Muslims from Zamboanga and Basilan and Cebuanos.
South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces as part of Davao province, ca. 1902, American era
The area of what is now South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces used to be part of Davao province until 1914, when the reorganization of the districts in Mindanao took place, thus it became part of the then-undivided Cotabato province. Settlers, who would lay the foundation of what would become a progressive province, started trooping down 1914.
The significant thrust occurred during the term of President Quezon in late 1930s. General Paulino Santos led the first of wave of settlers that time. After World War II, the final exodus of settler from Luzon and Visayas poured into the area's virgin land.
In the early 1960s as population, trade and industries grew in southern part of Cotabato, a clamor of local self-governance arose. Thus, on July 18, 1966, South Cotabato was separated from Cotabato as an independent province. At that time, the province consisted of 11 municipalities, namely: Banga, South Cotabato, General Santos (now a city), Glan, Kiamba, Koronadal, Maitum, Norala, Polomolok, Surallah, Tantangan, and Tupi. These municipalities were established long before the creation of the province. Other component municipalities were formed after it fully functioned as a province.
In 1992, the province of Sarangani was formed out of South Cotabato. Seven towns in southern and coastal section of the province (Malungon, Alabel, Malapatan, Glan, Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum) became part of the new province, leaving South Cotabato with 11 remaining municipalities.
South Cotabato is located on the southern part of the Island of Mindanao, bounded by the province of Sultan Kudarat in the north and west, province of Sarangani in the east and south.
South Cotabato has a total land area of 3,935.95 square kilometres (1,519.68 sq mi). When General Santos City is included for geographical purposes, the province's land area is 4,428.81 square kilometres (1,709.97 sq mi).
It is generally flat dotted with some hills and mountains.
South Cotabato belongs to the fourth type of climate, that is rainfall is more or less evenly distributed throughout the year. The average number of rainy days for the year 2004 is recorded between 122 to 180 days with the months of May, June, July, August and October having the most occurrence.
Air humidity generally follows closely the rainfall pattern. Humidity is highest during the period of June to October with 88% being recorded at the Tupi seed farm. The months of February and April have the lowest air humidity recorded at about 72%.
Maximum daytime temperature throughout the province is in the range of 36 to 38 °C (97 to 100 °F), falling to 23 to 32 °C (73 to 90 °F) during the night depending on the elevation. The hottest period is January to April while July to December being the coolest.
South Cotabato enjoys a mild, pleasant climate with no pronounced dry or wet season, and is practically typhoon-free.
Excluding General Santos City
Source: National Statistics Office
The population of South Cotabato (excluding General Santos City) was 827,200 in the 2010 census, making it the country's 29th most populous province. The population density is 210 inhabitants per square kilometre (540/sq mi).
When General Santos City is included for geographical purposes, the province's population is 1,365,286 people, with a density of 308 inhabitants per square kilometre (800/sq mi).
The people of South Cotabato have diverse heritages. Ilonggos from Panay and Negros in the Visayas settled the municipalities of Norala, Banga, Surallah, Sto. Niño and the province's capital, Koronadal, The province's major communication media is Filipino, English or Hiligaynon. On the other hand, people from the Ilocano speaking regions of Luzon settled in Tampakan, Tantangan and Tupi, and the Ilocano language may still be heard spoken in these towns. The Visayan language, Cebuano is also the main ethnic ethnolinguistic group of the municipality of Polomolok and is one of the main ethnolinguistic groups of Tupi (along with Ilonggo and Tagalog, which slightly differs from Manila Tagalog). Both towns are near to Cebuano-speaking General Santos City. Chavacanos are even found in some areas of the province.
As a result of several decades of migration from Visayas and Luzon, South Cotabato became a Roman Catholic predominated province with 77% adherence while Islam is a significant minority religion. Other minorities are various Christian Churches which can be found in some urban parts of the province.
The Maguindanao tribe is the major Muslim Filipino tribe in the province. Although many of them still wear their traditional costumes and practice their native customs, others have come to adapt the more liberal practices of their Christian neighbors such as wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts, eschewing the use of the headscarf, and attending dances/mixed gatherings. Other indigenous Filipino tribes are the T'boli and B'laan tribes in Lake Sebu and T'boli municipalities, famous for their brassworks, beadwork and t'nalak weave. The people of these tribes wear colorful embroidered native costumes and beadwork accessories. The women of these tribes, particularly, wear heavy brass belts with brass 'tassels' ending in tiny brass bells that herald their approach even when they are a long way off.
The people of South Cotabato still retain many of the practices and traditions of their particular tribal heritages, although infused with a flavor that is distinctly Mindanaoan and the product of cultural interaction between the immigrants and the indigenous peoples of the area. One vivid example of this is the predominant use of the native 'malong', the colorful, tubelike garment used as a skirt by the indigenous tribes, in place of a blanket or sleeping bag.
The people of South Cotabato are multilingual, able to communicate in Hiligaynon and/or Cebuano, as well as in both Tagalog and English. Other languages spoken are Ilocano and Maguindanao. The indigenous tribes, in addition, use their own tribal languages. A situation wherein several people, each speaking solely in his own language and are still able to communicate with the others, is not unheard of.
The native Maguindanaon of South Cotabato have a fascinating culture that revolves around kulintang music, a specific type of gong music, found among both Muslim and non-Muslim groups of the Southern Philippines.