BEAUTY is in the eye of the beholder, as they say. This saying about relativity in the way we see things is indeed true.
Among the different tribes in Mindanao, the Meranaw has been known as the ‘traders,’ ‘business men’ and the like.
Most, if not all, islands in the country have Meranaw traders living and settling there for business purposes.
They have seen the beauty in trading to make the economy of individuals and community grow.
In the field of education, Meranaws are leading in terms of seeking higher degrees of learning.
This may be inspired by the fact that Mindanao State University main campus is in the heart of the Meranaw land. They appreciate beauty in education.
Environmentally, Meranaws are so lucky for having the beautiful sceneries overlooking the Lanao Lake.
Yesterday, a friend posted her captured photo of the Lake showing the beauty in the landscape of Lanao.
I was awed and inspired by the beauty it reflects. Meranaws as termed means dwellers of the lake.
Our lake is the jewel that Meranaws are very proud of. However, to some, this jewel was never ours.
It was never ours especially among my generation because the national government had it as the biggest hydroelectric power plant in Mindanao before we were born.
Technically, as described in the different sources about the lake, Lake Lanao lies between 8° N. latitude and 124° E. longitude.
Its immense watershed is approximately 147,460 ha. It has an area of 354.60 square kilometers and a mean depth of 60 meters, with the deepest part at 112 meters.
It is the largest lake in Mindanao, the second largest in the Philippines, and is considered one of the 17 ancient lakes of the world that is little known and seldom visited by tourists.
This beauty was never cultivated as a tourist spot in Mindanao. This has caused the people to neglect the jewel that is supposed to glitter in the eyes of others.
Instead, many of the visitors coming from nearby cities would notice the neglected beauty of the lake.
They see garbage and human wastes near the lake, eroding land from the surrounding mountains and hills, destroyed habitat, and so on.
Aside from the factual descriptions of the lake, a beautiful folktale about the religious creation of the Lake Lanao exists.
Below is an excerpt taken from the folktale entitled “How the Angels Built Lake Lanao.”
I myself enjoyed reading this simple tale published online by NIU.edu.
“Long ago there was no lake in Lanao. On the place where it is now situated, there flourished a mighty sultanate called Mantapoli. During the reign of Sultan Abdara Radawi, the greater grandfather of Radia Indarapatra (mythological hero of Lanao), this realm expanded by military conquests and by dynastic marriages so that in time its fame spread far and wide...Angels swooped on Mantapoli, lifting it with great care and carried it (including its people, houses, crops and animals) through the air as if it were a carpet. They brought it down at the center of the earth, in accordance with the command of Allah. The very spot vacated by the sultanate of Mantapoli became a huge basin of deep, blue water-the present Lanao Lake.”
This is just a folktale but definitely, Meranaws are so blessed by Almighty that they have this beautiful jewel in their possession.
Some may not see this as beauty today, but for us Meranaws, this lake will remain a beauty that will last forever.
We, therefore, must protect and value this precious jewel as much as we value our being Meranaws.
(Professor Sorhaila Latip-Yusoph is currently the chairperson of the Communication and Media Department, Mindanao State University, Marawi City.)