by Ria Marie Langit
The people (mostly Muslims), who live in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur on the island of Mindanao are usually referred to us "Maranaws" or "Maranaos". The term means "people of the lake area," and they are given this name because their greatest concentration is around Lake Lanao. Some Maranaws are also found in the provinces of Misamis Oriental and on the mountain slopes of northwestern Cotabato Province. These people have also been called "Moros," a term applied to Muslims in the southern Philippines in general.
The language of these people is called "Maranaw" or "Maranao." The difference is only a matter of spelling. The term "Iranon," if used, refers to a speech variant of Maranaw. In 1948, the Census stated that there were 135,241 who were able to speak Maranaw. In 1960, the number of mother-tongue speakers was 150,674. In 1970,this figure increased to 541,838.
Food. Maranaw economy is based on wet-rice agriculture. In fact, Lanao del Sur is virtually self-sufficient until a decade ago, when some of the more aggressive farmers turned to business or to industrial and public employment, leaving behind their paddies to fallow. Those who stayed on the land continued to farm in the traditional manner, utilizing a carabao or a cow to plough and to harrow the fields.
Most Maranaw farmers own at least one or two paddies measuring singly or jointly about a hectare or two. Barring locust and rat infestation, as well as other natural calamities (typhoons are rare in Lanao but, occasionally, the lake overflows), a two-hectare land can yield some 40 cavans of palay ( unhusked rice) per harvest, which gives the farmer a cash return of P600-800. Very often, he sells his produce immediately after harvest because of pressing family needs and a general lack of adequate storage facilities. To supplement the family income, the women in the household engage in the weaving of mats or cloth and in the manufacture of the bamboo tobacco container ( pairaan).
Fishing in the lake, in the river, in the irrigation canals, and in the rice paddies provides the necessary protein supplement to the Maranaws. In one way or another farmers around the lake engage in fishing during their spare time. The primitive methods of fishing are still popular. Fishermen in the lake utilize nets of different kinds and size: the large net called poket, and another type with sinkers on the sides, called biala. In the river the more common gear are the bamboo-woven traps, like the boo for shrimps and the tintang for fish.
Housing. In the traditional community, the torogan used to be the biggest house. It has the biggest hall as well, for the torogan was the logical place for community gatherings of all sorts (i.e., communal festivity or court proceedings). It was also the guesthouse for strangers. Its walls and floors were made of huge slabs of lumber and the posts were whole tree trunks set on flat rocks and often carved into certain shapes (e.g., a series of pot-like forms).
The components of the edifice were assembled by skillful dovetailing of parts and securing them with wooden pegs without the use of nails. The fašade and sometimes the sides or the four corners of the building were appropriately decorated with huge prow-like structures ( panolong ), a single slab of wood beautifully carved on both sides with the floral or dragon ( niaga ) design. In between the panolong, the wall was decorated with a vertical floral motif depicting vines, symbolic of a long life.
In contrast, the ordinary Maranaw's house ( lawig ) of today is made of light materials, the most common of which are bamboo slat, woven ( e.g. criss-crossed ) or flattened.
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Visual Arts and Crafts
Maranaw art is very distinctive. Mats and cloth from Lanao are decked in flamboyant colors. Intricate traditional designs grace the people's gleaming brassware and handicraft. The Maranaws weave not only cloth and mats but also bags, centerpieces, placemats, and unique neckties.
The Maranaws are, by far, the largest manufacturers of brass-wares in the Philippines. The art can be traced to pre-Spanish Chinese contacts. Today, the brass artisans of Tugaya, a lakeshore community in Lanao del Sur, some 20 kilometers from the capital city of Marawi, are utilizing scraps recovered from the bomb casings and ammunition shells of the Second World War and also brass sheets that are commercially sold. These are melted in a crude crucible made of a mixture of clay and charcoal and poured into a clay-mould between which is a wax designed. In other words, the manufacturer of brassware utilizes a technique called the "lost-wax process." The designs (okir) on the brassware are basically the same as those on carved wood.
The carving of wood, horn, and ivory, like brass manufacture, is a man's work. Yet, while almost male in Lanao has some knowledge of this art, only those who has undergone a certain ritual eventually engage in it. The ritual is performed in honor of Tominaman sa Rogon, the mythical patron of art, and this involves a blood-letting ceremony in which a chicken is butchered and its blood sprinkled on the hands and tools of the would-be carver.
The carver's tools are few and very crude when compared with modern carving tools. The basic ones are the curved knife (nawi), the chisel (panasang), the axe (patok), and the charcoal of pencil for lining. For coloring, if this is desired (as is usual for the musical instrument rack, the langkogan or kulintang), plant dyes are used, although chemical dyes are becoming popular nowadays.
The pairaan is a rich sample of Maranaw art. It not only illustrates the dichotomy of artistic inclinations according to sexes but at the same time blends these two dichotomous inclinations (i.e. the geometric-angular designs of women as against the curvilinear-smooth designs of men) into one coherent whole. And, inasmuch as the fern like covered is interpreted as symbolic of the "tree-of-life" in heaven, there is in the pairaan also an indication of the interconnectedness of the Maranaw art with mythical and other folkloric beliefs.
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Kinship System. There are special practices in the address system when one deals with the royalty and nobility (i.e. the datu and salip). One never or seldom refers to a datu as "Datu X." The normal practice is to use teknonymy, i.e. by reference to his first child. Thus, Datu X should be called Bapaq ni Y. Among the nobility, bapaq is preferred to the more common ama.
Courtship and Marriage. Marriage in Maranaw society is not just a simple romantic one-to-one relationship between boy and girl; rather, it is a fusion by affinal ties of two families seeking to establish socioeconomic and political relations with one another. Traditional marriage has therefore always been contracted through parents, although the practice is slowly becoming modified to conform with the times. It is, therefore, clear why the reckoning of the salsila, genealogical record, occupies a significant niche in the Maranaw mind. In fact, in considering marriage, what the pananalsila 'salsila expert' says or reveals about the lineage of the parties concerned can become crucial in the decision to proceed with the marriage or not. It is part of one's group consciousness or pride (maratabat) to see the individual's marriage establishes strong family relations.
The fact that the Maranaw marriage involves more than just two individuals makes it a big social event from the start. The exchanges of poetic ballads (bayok) and courtship language (kadadaonga) between the parties involved, through go-betweens and spokesmen, become a form of nightly entertainment for the entire village. People congregate and socialize on these occasions. It may not even be too far-fetched to assume that gatherings like this contribute to the development of social cohesiveness within the village or between the two villages to which the two families belong.
If the negotiations on the bride-price (sunggod) goes smoothly, the parties determine the wedding date and the various details of the wedding celebration. As the wedding day (kambitiara) draws near, arches are built and buntings of various sizes and shapes are hung. For at least a week before the kambitiara, kulintang music accompanied bossed gongs and drums create an atmosphere of festivities. Sports, like the kasipa sa manggis (a game of skill, the aim of which is to drop a suspended cube by kicking a rattan ball) is indulged in. And finally, on the wedding day itself, the groom arrives in a very colorful procession, attired in the most expensive wedding costume the family can afford.
The wedding rite (kakawing) itself is simple. The imam holds his thumb up with the thumb of the groom and covers them with a white handkerchief. He recites a prayer from a Holy Qur'an, gives advise to the groom, and asks the consent of the woman's parents. This done, he searches for the bride who has been hidden all this time somewhere in the house. When he finds her, he touches or kisses her forehead, marking the beginning of the couple's marital life.
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Religion and Beliefs
The Islamic religion is well entrenched in Mindanao society and this maybe gleaned from the presence of the mosque in every village. This is also readily seen in their customs. Every Maranaw ----- whether he be a boy, a girl, a woman, or a man ----- wears a white headgear (i.e. a cap, a fez, or a wrap-over turban) if he has undertaken a pilgrimage to Mecca. In every year, the Maranaws fill up their quota of pilgrims to Mecca, who upon their return, are given a pompous welcome with appropriate arches and colorful buntings, amidst the orchestration of gongs and native xylophones (kulintang). The returning pilgrims earns a ceremonial title. If a male, he is called kadi (written as haji)and if a female, she is called hajia.
Yet, in spite of the apparent hold of Islam of Maranaw society, there persists to this day rituals, practices, and beliefs which can hardly be classified as Islamic. Thus, for example, in Maranaw methology the universe if viewed as consisting of this world and the sky above it. The world, in turn, consists of seven layers, the first of which is the earth where human beings lived. This layer is said to be carried by a huge mythical animal (lumbong), variously thought of to be either a cow or a snake. It's companion is a small but playful shrimp. Once in a while this shrimp playfully pinches the lumbong with its claws. Naturally, the lumbong shakes him off, and as a result earthquakes occurs.
The second layer is peopled by long-haired and invisible dwarfs (karibang).the underwater is the third layer, inhabited by nymphs, who sometimes show themselves to man. Thus, Rajah Indarapatra, a famous mythical hero in the region, married a nymph princess whom he found bathing in a spring, said to be located in Poonabayabao, Lanao del Sur. The fourth and the succeeding layers are said to be inhabited by beings lumped together and called pud a kaadun.
In the sky are the sun, the moon, and the stars. The sun is a handsome young man whose name is Somuson sa Alongan. He rides on a chariot that is pulled by angels called midadaris. The moon is called Olan, and like the sun, it rides on a chariot that is also pulled by angels. The sun and the moon are engage in a never-ending race until the day of judgement when the sun will finally catch up with the moon.
Like the world, the sky consists also of seven layers. Each layer is guarded by a huge bird called garoda. Only angels and spiritual beings inhabit these layers of the sky.
On the seventh layer, lies heaven, also consisting of seven layers. In one of the layers of heaven is the tree of life on the leaves of which are written the names of every person on earth. Thus. When one leaf withers and falls, the person whose name it carries will likewise die.
The ancestral spirits (tonong) inhabit the bodies of water (i.e. rivers, lakes), the trees and practically all other plants but especially those found in secluded areas in the forest. Sometimes, they take the form of animals (i.e. as dogs, cows, or carabaos). As a general rule they should be respected and their demands fulfilled. Otherwise, the displeasure of the tonong will be turned against man.
In a world full of spirits and unseen beings, the services of the medicine man (pamomolong) and the medium (pundarapaan) mitigate an otherwise unbearable mental and psychological stress placed upon the believes. Islamic leaders, however, are attempting to phase out these beliefs.
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