Mindanao—the second largest island in, down south of the republic…very far yet so close to my heart. For most of the urbanites, it is a place that most should avoid because of adjectives associated with it: war-torn, poverty-stricken and home of the “terrorists.” Indeed, the notion of the island has evaded so many people to visit this great island in the south. However, in my own perspective, we have to take a second look onto this island. Mindanao has so much to offer, so much to see, so much to experience yet so neglected and feared by many.
Mindanao was (and for some, still is) “The Wild West” of the Philippines, as what they said–a tapestry of stories of three seemingly opposite cultures, vastly still unexplored and full of potential.
Eid’ Mubarak to all our Muslim brethren!
For Maranaos and Filipinos alike, Marawi City is the center of education, especially when it deals with Bangsamoro culture and Islamic studies (with numerous madrasahs in the area).
In the sprawling Mindanao State University (MSU), King Faisal Center for Islamic, Arabic and Asian Studies served as a vehicle of learning Islamic and Arabic studies, most especially in the Muslim-dominated regions of Southern Philippines. It started as a unit of College of Liberal Arts, it became a separate academic unit and established its own center inside the campus. …continue reading
The town of Tugaya in Lanao Del Sur province is known as the center of Maranao craftsmanship. Majority of the people in the town are engaged in arts and craft industry, particularly creating intricate wood carvings such as baul and debakan drums that are sold in the markets of Davao, Manila, and overseas. However, aside from wood, Tugaynons have another specialty—they are also metal benders—creating intricate works of art with the use of fire and earth—brass works! Kabu, kanyon, and kris are the things Tugaynons are known for.
The community of Bubong is known for brass-making, with the large intricate brass jars called kabu and canons as its main products. The kabu is well known all throughout Mindanao as a decoration of royalty. These large brass jars varies size—from size of plant pots to human sized behemoths. Since these are made entirely of metal, it is considered as a collector’s luxury item. One kabu may reach as expensive as several thousand pesos or even a million—exported to big cities such as Manila and Davao, and even overseas. All of these were craftily made in this sleepy town beside the lake.
Lake Lanao is the second largest lake and perhaps one of the deepest in the Philippines. Found in Lanao Del Sur Province in north-western Mindanao Island, it has become the bastion of Maranao civilization. It is at the heart of the Maranao homeland and culture—the prime source of food and even the formation of their culture. Not only Lake Lanao is important to the Maranao homeland, but also to the entire island of Mindanao, as it is the primary source of power for the Agus Hydroelectric power plants, that power almost the entire island. The lake itself is one of the 15 ancient lakes of the world. Yet despite all of these accolades, she sits serenely in the volcanic basin of Ranao, with lots of stories spanning more than a million years.
While four major tributaries feed water to Lake Lanao, it has only one outlet—Agus River. That same river powers entire Mindanao with strings of power plants—including the famous Maria Cristina Falls in Iligan City and Tinago Falls.
It was raining when we came back at Marawi City that November afternoon. It was cool but somehow the atmosphere was melancholic. Among other things we would like to see in the Maranao world, it is the traditional living quarters of the royal families called torogan. It’s a good thing that there are a few that survived time and elements just near the city, in the district known to locals as “Tuka” which sits beside the placid Lake Lanao.
A lot of people have been to Lanao Del Sur, but they are just either at MSU or Marawi City itself. They never dared explore the towns beside the placid Lake Lanao for so many concerns and reasons. However, I was allured by the town of Tugaya in some journals and websites I read. It is said to be the bastion of arts and craft of the Maranao people. Curiously, it is a town full of talented craftsmen that is famed all throughout Mindanao for its fine products, may it be brass ware to clothing and tapestry, which has been handed over from their ancestors for centuries. Because of it’s fame, it was even nominated by the National Center for Culture and the Arts for UNESCO World Heritage List in early 2000s. Now, it made me more curious—hence it became my primary goal in visiting Tugaya.
While Tugaya in Lanao del Sur Province is known for being the arts and crafts center of the Maranao world, at the heart of its town center is the Dilimbayan Central Mosque. Set in a sloping steep yet green landscape and a few meters away from the placid Lake Lanao, Dilimbayan Mosque is the largest religious structure in the entire town and can accommodate hundreds of worshipers in one instance.
“Even most MSU students don’t dare to go to ‘town,’” a Maranao friend of mine once said.
Marawi City has been hampered with so much negative publicity in the Philippine mainstream that for the people of the lowlands, the only thing that makes them go there would be enrolling or visiting at Mindanao State University—never mind the rest of the city! People are too scared to venture out to the streets of the Maranao city.
From Iligan to Marawi, it usually takes an hour by van or FX (Asian utility vehicle). Passing by the towns of Balo-i, Pantar and Saguiran, you can’t help but notice banners everywhere. Politicians for early campaigning? Nope. Mostly congratulatory coming from the families of the achievers. Yes folks, banners and steamers are not an election campaign exclusive in Marawi and the rest of Lanao del Sur. It’s an everyday part of life, just like urbanites in Manila see the billboards at SLEX and EDSA. Manila-based outdoor and billboard advertisers may think of setting up a branch here, market demand here is high!
“Alhamdulillah (It’s the Arab equivalent of “Hallelujah!”) and Congratulations!” everywhere—from board passers, bar passers, Hajj delegates, weddings, birthdays, and even to coronation of the sultans–you name it and Marawi has a multitude of these banners and streamers. Before the advent of those giant billboards at EDSA, Marawi has all of these fill up Iligan-Marawi Road and most especially every nook within the city. They may even compete with Guinness Record as “The city with most number of congratulatory streamers and banners per square kilometer!” Unlike EDSA though, they are not monstrous in size, but the number of banners can easily overwhelm people who are not used to these.