The lone Islamic City in the country , Marawi, marked its 28 years last Tuesday as a chartered city celebrating the modern and the past. Showing it has much to offer to ward off perception of lawlessness here, the local government held colorful rites to commemorate its founding. Gongs resounded, kulintangs played as residents wore blazing traditional yellows, reds and violets to join the city government’s parade around the city.
Marawi, home to some 130,000 residents, is one of the component units of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Nestled in a plateau 833 meters above sea level, the place is little known to tourists but is a haven for cultural advocates and Muslim religious travelers. The climate here is invigorating and fine grazing land stretches into the distance.
Home to the Maranaos , or lake dwellers, Marawi hosts the majestic Lake Lanao, the country’s largest freshwater lake. The lake is surrounded with myths and legends with a commanding view from the Mindanao State University (MSU)-main campus.
The Darangen, one of the longest Filipino epics with 72000 lines, is inspired by the lake. The epic is one of 43 UNESCO masterpieces of oral heritage.
The city is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and mountain. Signal Hill, Arumpac Hill, and Mt. Mupo are considered beautiful and mysterious. Angolo Hill serves as a natural watch over tower to the waters of Lake Lanao. Mt. Mupo is known for its untouched trees, beautiful and perfect cone.
An image of a mountain shaped like a sleeping woman, called the Sleeping Beauty , catches visitors in awe.
Maranaos are said to be the most devout among the Moro tribes, with every barangay having two or more mosques. Marawi City also hosts the most number of mosques and Islamic schools or madaris, with the oldest Islamic university in the country here.
Dansalan, Marawi's old name, was explored by the Spaniards as early as 1639. It is said that at the time, Marawi was already the citadel of Malayan-Arabic Culture in Mindanao.
Meranaw folklore holds that Islam came to the area via the northern coast and brought by a certain Sharif Alawi. In the 17th century, the Meranaws were allied with the powerful Maguindanao Sultan Kudarat.
Feeling the pulse of strong refusal among its inhabitants to adopt Christianity, the Spaniards abandoned the project of colonizing the area.
On May 24, 1904, Dansalan was proclaimed a regular municipality by the American Colonial Government. The Philippines was still under the Commonwealth Regime of the Americans when Dansalan was chartered into a city in 1904. The Americans built the first public hospital, the Amai Pakpak and several schools. But many Maranaos then did not want to go to school fearing they would be Christianized.
The Maranaos are serious about their royalty. They have managed to maintain their traditional system of government, a system composed of the Sultan, the Bae A Labi (or Queen), the Datus, the Bae or princess.
Up to the early 1980s, the traditional government held more power than the local government units, but these days the scope of their duties is social concerns rather than administration.
The last remaining Maranao royal house – the Torogan – is a fine example of the lifestyle of early Maranao royalty. And in every home, one finds intricately carved brassware and Arabic-inspired sequined decorations.
The Maranao's flair for the creative is exhibited by their numerous ceremonial artifacts and everyday tools trimmed with the sensuous "okir" (carving) and colorful "nagas" (serpent figures). [Samira Gutoc/MindaNews]