The Mindanao I have never known

by Evans Yonson

Barcelona – Just as I was about to return to Barcelona in 2008, one student breached the idea of going to Marawi City in Lanao del Sur. I told my siblings before leaving that I was going to Lanao and all I got was a high-sounding No!!! Marawi is a Muslim city with a population of 132,000 who are mostly Maranaos. I immediately said yes because as a Mindanaoan I believe I should see for myself what Marawi City really is. I know a lot of Maranaos (people of the lake) from my childhood and they are very warm people. The Maranaos can speak Cebuano, Tagalog, and English beside their own language also called Maranao.

We arrived Marami City rather late at night. We had to grope in the dark streets of the Mindanao State University (MSU) campus. MSU was created in September 1961 and has since then became one of Mindanao’s famous universities in the fields of science research and education.

It's from what point on earth you see the moon that makes the difference. Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, Philippines, October 2008.

Since we really couldn’t sleep that night with no electricity,  we chatted the night away with rhum and cola. We barely had a couple of hours when the first adhan (call to prayer) was recited by several muezzins from various minarets surrounding the campus. The adhan is done five times everyday summoning Muslims for fard salah (mandatory prayers). The rhythm of the adhan made this visit a very meaningful.

At the break of dawn, the first adhan for the daily salah has been done. Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, Philippines. October 2008.

The house where we stayed for the night had a very commanding view of the Lake Lanao (from Ranao meaning lake). I couldn’t afford to be sleepy when what was infront of me is the majestic lake. It is the lake that supplies electricity almost throughtout the island of Mindanao. And how I could dare miss this one.

Lake Lanao is simply bewitching in this early October morning.

The road to the lake. Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, Philippines. October 2008.

If you’re in any remote town or city in the Philippines, the best ways to find the market is to follow the direction where people are going to or simply let your nose do the work. The market is the best place to appreciate the local culture especially among the Maranaos, who are known as the Muslim merchants. In any place in the Philippines, most businesspeople in the market are Maranaos and they can easily speak and adapt their host town’s or city’s local language/dialect. But their accent can easily be identified.

Fresh fish from the ranao, grilled and sold at the public market is a staple. Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, Philippines. October 2008.