The southern section of the Philippine archipelago in Mindanao inhabits tribal groups that share a common Southeast Asian culture, yet has its own cultural identity. Along with the Maguindanao and Illanun are the Maranao, one of the popular indigenous Muslim groups native to the island of Mindanao.
Almost all of the Maranaos are Muslims, but some of those living around Lake Lanao have committed to an adaptation of Islam that is connected to the pre – Islamic traditions. As the Islam in Mindanao spreads over the native people, a distinguishing term was then used for those who were Muslim and who were not. Those who became Muslim were called “Moro” and those who didn’t bear the tag “Lumad.”
The Maranao were actually the very first inhabitants of Lake Lanao, and until today, they are still present in the region. The title Maranao means “People of the Lake” or “Lake dwellers,” as a description of them, being the native people in Lake Lanao. To give insight, the lake is located in North Central Mindanao with an altitude of 2,300 feet above sea level and is counted as one of the most alluring tourist attractions in Mindanao.
According to a Maranao folk tale, the Lake Lanao was created through a group of angels, under the ascendancy of Archangel Gabriel, who transferred huge groups of people from a place named Mantapoli to prevent the world from moving upside down. They carried the place very gently like a carpet, bringing the houses, the properties, and the people. It was brought to the center of the Earth, by Allah’s command. The hole was filled with clear blue waters which rose rapidly and threatened a flood to the area. The four winds immediately came to rescue and created an outlet. Now, that outlet was named Agus river, and the hole became the Lake Lanao.
The native Maranao have a unique culture that goes around a specific type of gong music called the Kulintang found both on Muslim and not – Muslim groups. Traditionally, the Kulintang is a woman’s instrument composed of a row of horizontally – laid gongs.
Almost all Maranao families specialize in woodcarving, tapestry weaving and other fine arts of silver and gold smithing. Maranao crafts are very much distinct and are the easiest recognizable art among other Philippine cultures.
The Maranao tribe is one of the best examples of a Filipino since they are adapting to modernity without completely losing their ethnic identity and escape present modernizing influences. Treasuring the thousands of years their ancestors have lived, they strive to live in their own domain so as not to lose their tribe.