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Title: Maranao  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: History of painting, Mindanao, Metro Manila, Ravana, List of archaeological sites by country, Zamboanga del Sur, Misamis Occidental, Bukidnon, Basilan, Lanao del Sur
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Maranao (Maranao: ['mәranaw]; Filipino: Mëranaw[1]), also spelled as Meranao and Maranaw, is the term used officially by the Philippine government in reference to the southern tribe who are now the people of the lake called Ranao in the Iranaon language, a predominantly Muslim region in the Philippines island of Mindanao. They are famous for their artwork, sophisticated weaving, wood and metal crafts, and their epic literature. The word Maranao, also spelled Maranaw is a misnomer as it does not have a sense in reference to nouns such as people, place or thing. The prefix MA- means 'to be', i.e., Maranao means to be lake. The real term is Iranon which when pronounced fluently is Iranon (also Iranun) meaning "People of the Lake,"[2] referring to the indigenous people who inhabited the lands around Lake Lanao whose principal town is Marawi City. The Maranaos are part of the wider Moro ethnic group, who constitute the sixth largest Filipino ethnic group.

The life of the Maranaos is centered on Lake Lanao, the largest in Mindanao, and the second largest and deepest lake in the Philippines. This breathtakingly beautiful lake is surrounded with myths and legends, it is the main source of fisheries, and the main source of a hydroelectric plant installed on it; and the Agus River system that generates 70% of the electricity used by the people of Mindanao. A commanding view of the lake is offered by Marawi City, the provincial capital.


The ancient people in Mainland Mindanao were called Iranun, also spelled Iranon,[3] of the coastal area of Illana Bay (Ilian in Maranao) and Iranaon of the people in Bembaran or Bukidnon and Kiaranda Area, a ragat or ranao, a lake, in local language.

The Iranon is the people of the constant flow of rivers and creeks from the mountains to the coastal areas. A volcanic eruption developed a flat land surface little-by-little. In modern science describes and illustrates this process as results of sedimentary formation and residual remains that forms the low and flat land surface in the coastal areas. The Maranao vernacular called it “ira” which means remains.

Thus, the name of the people in the coastal area of Illana Bay was derived from the root word “ira” plus “ranao” forms the word Iranaon which means people living the residual remains in the coastal areas.

In present days, the Maranao refers the word Iranaon “tao sa ragat” or the people of Lanao who migrated to sea area [others believed that the word Maranao is a combination of two words "Malay" and "Lanao" or the Ancient Lake Lanao thus making it "Maranao" that mean People living around lake lanao] while the Maranaos are people who dwelled around the lake of Lanao. These peoples belong to same genealogy, lineages, culture and history. They are called Maranao in general term.

Culture and Customs


Maranao is an Austronesian language spoken by the Maranao people in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur in the Philippines.[4]


Sarimanok is a legendary bird of the Maranao that has become a ubiquitous symbol of their art. It is depicted as a fowl with colorful wings and feathered tail, holding a fish on its beak or talons. The head is profusely decorated with scroll, leaf, and spiral motifs. It is said to be a symbol of good fortune.[5][6]

Musical Heritage

The native Maranao have a fascinating culture that revolves around kulintang music, a specific type of gong music, found among both Muslim and non-Muslim groups of the Southern Philippines. Biyula is another Instrument for the Maranao people to use, Biyula is a string instrument. In 2005, the Darangen Epic of the Maranao people of Lake Lanao was selected by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.


Exquisite Maranao cuisine and hospitality are palpable.[7] They are known of having a spicy taste in their foods. A condiment made of traditionally cultivated spices, locally known as Palapa is one of their distinguished cuisine symbol.[8] It is made of stewed scallion bulbs or “sakurab” in Maranao. The thinly sliced scallion bulbs and ginger are caramelized by slow cooking and mixed with chillies and little coconut oil.[9]

Maranao recipes are so rich that it talks about life itself! Suffice it to say that the recipes are intertwined with the life cycle rites and rituals of all aspects of Maranao society and culture: from birth to death. In other words, food cannot be separated with daily life activities because food is life itself![10]

The Legend of Maranao Food

According to a scholar, food is one of the panabi-nabian, prophet, a mercy and a gift from Allah. "When the world was created, mankind had no food to eat. The soil was asked to feed mankind but it refused because it does not have enough to feed mankind. And so one of the sons of Fatima, Asa, was buried so that Nabi Adam will also be fed and be able to move. For seven days Nabi Saopak was buried. After seven days, it grew. On the head part grew a coconut, on the heart grew the palay, on the pelvis grew cotton, and on the lower art grew a white chicken. The palay was harvested and fed to mankind."[10]


Maranaos number about 1,142,000. Along with the Illanun and Maguindanao, the Maranao are one of three related indigenous Muslim groups native to the island of Mindanao. In turn, these groups also share genes, linguistic and cultural ties to non-Muslim Lumad groups such as the Tiruray or Subanon. Maranao royals have varied infusions of Arab, Indian, Malay, Javanese, as well as Chinese ancestry.

The language of the Maranao people is also called Maranao. It is a language spoken by approximately 1,142,000 people living in areas near Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte.[4] The language can be traced from the Southern Philippine sub-branch of the Western Austronesian language family, and is closely related to the Illanun language spoken in Sabah and Malaysia. It is also close to Maguindanaon, the language spoken in Maguindanao, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Zamboanga del Sur provinces. They speak Cebuano, Tagalog, and Arabic language, and English as second languages. Practically, all Maranaos are Muslims. A few, especially those living in the hills around Lake Lanao practice a version of Islam mixed with traces of pre-Islamic traditions.


Previous to the occupation of the Philippines by Spanish, and later American and Japanese, the Maranaos had their own kingdom with a Sultan ruler due to the influence of Muslim missionaries.

Notes and references

External links

  • Maranaw
  • Maranao Online
  • Ranaw, Ranao (Lake) terms for Lanao del Sur.
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