Maranaos: United in adversity

ALTHOUGH 173 kilometers away from their real home, the Maranao tribe in Davao City have brought with them their culture and accessories.

Deputy Mayor of Maranao tribe, Gapor Usman Al-Haj said that primary quality of the Maranao is the cohesiveness of the tribe.

“There are thirty-three Maranao communities in Davao City and in every community we have leaders we call them president of the community. Every time the city government has a program, the presidents are called who in turn deliver the message to their communities,” he said

Based on records, Maranaos first settled in Salmonan along Quezon Boulevard, a place they called Barangay Darusalam but is officially known as Barangay 23. It currently has the largest number of Maranaos in Davao. The Maranaos are currently distributed in districts of Poblacion, Talomo, Bunawan, Buhangin, Toril, Tugbok, Calinan, and Marilog District.

The first Maranao Masjid built in Davao City is in Bankerohan.

The “People of the Lake” got their name as inhabitants of the Lake Lanao specifically located in North Central Mindanao, approximately 135 square miles in area situated 2,300 feet above the sea level. They are traditionally traders.

Maranao population is estimated at 853,659 mostly living in Lanao del Sur with the core areas being in Marawi City, Lumba-a-Bayabao and Bayang.

Usman said the Maranaos were involved in the putting up of the Maranao House in Magsaysay Park for the Cultural Village.

“Babae or lalaki ang nagtratrabaho para lang ipakita kultura ng Muslim na nagkakaisa ang Maranao (Men and women all worked to show our culture and unity),” he said.

The Maranaos are known for their Torogan (the sultan's house), an ancient Philippine vernacular architecture that feature wide wing-like extensions called Panolong, which are decorated with Okir or Okil, floral and animal carvings.

The okir designs can also be found in their brasswares and wooden artifacts. The symbol of Maranao art is the Sarimanok, a legendary bird with flowing feathers.

Maranao textiles are also famous for their very ornate designs and colors which reflect the status of the wearer. Landap, an example of the Maranao textile, is a tube skirt sewn with a very articulate design called Langkit.

Kulintang, a set of musical gongs, is a staple feature in Maranao celebrations.

Bae Johaira Sarep, 23, said that they always make an effort so that the succeeding generations understand the meanings of their dances, clothes, and the colors they use.

“We teach children how to dance. We also teach them the various uses of the malong, how to dance the Singkil, how to use the malong and the paypay. Children also learn to speak their language," Sarep said.

This is aside from the Arabic education they get from the Madrasahs in their communities.

For Maranaos, yellow is a royal color and is predominant in their attires.

The Sarimanok, meanwhile, is very much part of their childhood as they are woven tales of this mythical bird.

“It was through the Sarimanok that the Princess reached heaven. It's a myth like the Ibong Adarna, but that's a different story,” she said.

She said that they explain these symbols well to the younger generation adding that some take interest in their culture as they grow old.

With the Marawi siege, Sarip said, relatives have been seeking shelter here from Marawi.

“I have many relatives from Marawi. Many are living with us now. I pity them and I’ve told my relatives to come here since they may go hungry in the area as relief goods might take time to arrive. Our city mayor told us that everyone is welcome here,” she said.

Usman said that around 1,607 individuals from Marawi have evacuated to Davao City.

The Davao City Government has already extended different kinds of assistance to them, from enrolment of the children in the public schools to livelihood.

Meanwhile, Sarep said that she is positive that the culture of Maranaos will be carried on, especially in the city.

“I am positive that our culture can continue here since our city Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio spearheaded the 11 tribes. It is impossible that our culture will be lost while we are here in the city,” she said.


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