By Abad Macabanding
Filipino culture generally refers to the culture that is in common with all the cultures of different tribes that make up the Philippines. Due to the diversity in the Philippines, various tribes observe their distinctive traditions and cultures that define their own identities. The Philippines constitutes more than 100 ethnolinguistic nations mostly originated from Austronesian language. The majority of the Philippine population practices Christianity as their official religion, the main religion in the Philippines, though about 10% of its population used to be Muslim Filipinos. This is because Islam came earlier in the Philippines before the colonization era. Definitely, the question lies in our mind – how did Islam come to the Philippines?
Before the colonization of the Philippines, Islam had already been a religion in the Philippines. Around the 14th century, Muslim missionaries came to the Philippines to disseminate the Islam religion. Native people from Sulu were the first people who consented to receive Islam as their accepted religion after the influence of Sheik Karimul Makdum, who was an Arab missionary. Islam purveyed over the entire country until the colonizers subjugated the country and spread Christianity over the gamut of the Philippines. Actually, Muslim Filipinos have never been captured by any colonizers and never altered their religion due to their strong resistance against other beliefs. In this generation, Muslim Filipinos presently live in the southern portion of the Philippines. They compose the region called Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, which is comprisesd of five provinces where the majority of the population are Muslims. Such provinces include Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and Lanao del Sur. Most people living in these provinces are Maguindanaon, Maranao and Tausug, which are the three largest ethnic Muslim groups in the Philippines.
Most Maranaos live in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and Marawi City. They are known as the “people of the lake” because they live around the lake called Lake Lanao, which is hailed as one of the ancient lakes in the world and the deepest and second largest lake in the Philippines. Maranaos are presumed to be the last tribe who embraced Islam as their religion. Colonizers fail to seize the Maranaos due to their strong resistance and violent opposition to Christian influences from the Spaniards. They were able to retain their rich culture despite all the colonizers who went through their territories. Actually, they are famously known for their ancient artifacts, wood carvings, cultural dances, artworks, golden cultural attire and their distinctive cuisine. Maranao culture has been known internationally due to its authenticity and pulchritude. To this day, Maranaos uphold their culture despite the growing technology and modernization of the world.
One of their most popular epics is the ancient “Darangen,” which mainly talks about the love story of Prince Bantogen and Princess Gandingan and is narrated through singing. In 2005, this was selected by UNESCO as one of the masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Moreover, Sarimanok served as the symbol of Maranaos. Built in certain infrastructures and building, it is a legendary bird of Maranao people which symbolizes fortune and good wealth. Sarimanok came from the word “sari” which means garment and “manok” meaning chicken.
Nowadays, Maranaos keep in touch with this generation where new technology and modernization have been developed. Despite this modernization, they still observe most of their traditions.
Polygamy is one of the traditions of Maranaos that is still practiced upon to this day, especially for Maranao males. Polygamy is when a person marries more than one wife or husband. During the ancestral times, Maranao leaders, those who have royal blood, are usually the people who used to adapt polygamy. Due to their influence, many Maranaos adapted polygamy and it eventually became a part of our culture.
Another tradition that is practiced by the Maranaos is called “parental” marriage. In that case, parents will be the ones to adjudicate who will marry their son or daughter. The parents of both sides will have an agreement how much dowry will be given by the parents of groom side to the parents of the bride side. In our culture, dowry is the amount of money given by the parents of the male side before marrying the bride. After the agreement is settled, there will be a “kandialaga,” wherein there will be a one-week celebration before the official “kakawing,” or the wedding ceremony. This is practiced probably because they want to retain the pride of their family, especially when the family came from a royal and big family.
Most of the artworks of the Maranaos are designed with “okir.” Famously known for their artworks, okir is a flowing and geometric design used by the Maranaos to beautify their artworks. Mamandyang, awang or dugout boat, torogan, and their cultural attires were some of Maranao artworks that have an okir-inspired design.Torogan is an ancient house of the Maranaos where the sulutan or datu lived. Mamandyang is a long strip of cloth attached around the corner of the house. Maranaos are very particular in designing their artworks. Their landap and malong, which are tubelike cloths or skirts, are also designed with okir. Even their cultural attires are inspired and designed with okir.
Maranaos have a lot of cultural dances. Most of these cultural dances were derived from their ancient epic, the Darangen. One of the most famous royal dances of the Maranaos is the kasingkil or singkil where the women step in and out of the clipping or clashing bamboos. It was derived by the event in Darangen where the princess was escaping the rolling stones and clipping bamboos that tonongs (evil spirits) did to make fun of her. Kasagayan is another ritual dance of the men where it showcases their preparation for the battle with their swords. Kapagaper is also a famous dance where the Maranao women use fans in dancing called “apir.” Other Maranao dances include kakini-kini (Maranao women’s traditional way of walking), kadsadoratan (a dance that shows graceful walking, turning and balancing covering their faces), kanggarotaya (a dance that uses a knot to show the strength of men) and kapmalo-malong (a cultural dance performed by men and women showing the different ways to use malong).
Most of the Maranao dishes are spicy because Maranaos like spicy foods. Palapa is the main ingredient of their dishes and it is a combination of different spices like scallion bulbs, chili, and ginger. Most of their dishes have coconut milk and powderized turmeric on it, which turns their victuals into yellowish color that makes their food unique from other cuisines. Popular dishes include piaparan a manok (chicken with coconut meat), bakas (tuna fish) and badak (jackfruit).
Maranaos also prepare desserts during celebrations and events. Their most famous desserts is dodol, which is a sticky dessert made with “malagkit” rice, a special type of rice, coconut milk and brown sugar slowly cooked until becomes sticky. Other desserts include barubed, tiyatag, pakbol, pabrot, dalog, palitaw, tamokonsi, browa, amik, tiompe, balolon, tapay and lokatis.
Abad Macabanding is a student at Lanesboro High School. He is one of seven area students participating in the Journal Writing Project, now in its 19th year.