Cotabato derives its name from the Maguindanao kuta wato (from Malay – “Kota Batu”), meaning “stone fort”, referring to the stone fort which served as the seat of Sultan Muhammad Kudarat in what is now Cotabato City.Islam was introduced in this part of the country in the later part of 15th century by Sharif Mohammed Kabungsuwan, a Arabo-Malay Muslim warrior-missionary. Sharif Kabungsuwan invaded Malabang in 1475, facing armed resistance from the non-Muslim natives, nevertheless successfully vanquishing and subjugating them to his (Islamic) rule through the might of his Samal warriors.
Christianity was introduced in 1596, but the Spaniards were unable to penetrate into the region until the second half of the 19th century. The district of Cotabato was formed in 1860. What is now Cotabato remained outside the area of Spanish activities.
Modern historians have pointed to the Cotabato delta as the Medieval location of Toupo, the successor of the Maguindanao/Cotabato Sultanate.
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