The Aga Khan Museum at Mindanao State University

The rustic charm of Marawi

By Jojie Alcantara

LANAO del Sur is the land of the Maranaos, or “people of the lake,” among the most devout of Muslim tribes as well as the most artistic, as evident in the people’s most natural way of life.

Lanao del Sur forms the western portion of Northern Mindanao, bounded on the north by Lanao del Norte, on the east by Bukidnon, on the west by Illana Bay, and on the south by Maguindanao and Cotabato.

The life of the Maranaos centers on Lake Lanao which, at 2,300 feet above sea level, is the second largest and deepest in the Philippines.

Breathtakingly beautiful, it is surrounded with myths and legends. A commanding view of the lake is offered by Marawi City, the provincial capital.

Rolling hills and valleys, a placid lake and river dominate the landscape. The province has a cool and pleasant climate with an even distribution of rainfall throughout the year while outside of the typhoon belt.

Maranao houses, called “torogans,” are characterized by an antique royal high roof with curved designs, a unique natural setting of the Maranaos.

We visited the oldest torogan in the city, a century-old inhabited structure that withstood the test of time. Its owner, an old woman, offered to show us antique silver and gold heirlooms she refuses to part with because they were handed down from generations.

Mindanao State University, founded in 1962, draws the most crowd to the city as it serves as an educational institution and a center of social and cultural integration.

The Aga Khan Museum located within the University, is a repository of Maranao and other Moro artifacts, boasting of a massive collection of indigenous art and cultural materials, ethnic music, native tools and weapons, and Muslim houses of different artistic designs.

The Maranao tribe is among the most artistic. Their numerous ceremonial artifacts and everyday tools are trimmed with the sensuous “okir” (carving) and colorful “nagas” (serpent figures). We visited the houses of these amazing brassware makers, drum carvers and weaver and were in awe of their excellent craftsmanship. Most of these artifacts you can buy inside Aldevinco’s antique shops.

I share with your their amazing talents as I was privileged to a fascinating glimpse of the Muslim’s artistic culture.


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Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

One thought

  1. This speech excerpt probably comes from a speech that was made by Mawlana Hazar Imam around the same time as this Aga Khan Museum was established at the Mindanao State University in the Phillipines:

    Presidential Address at the First Anniversary of Mindanao University
    His Highness the Aga Khan
    November 24, 1963
    Mindanao, Philippines:

    “The Universities in Damascus and Baghdad, and later those of Cairo, Tehran, Cordova and Istanbul were centres of learning unparalleled anywhere else. Even in those days, once the brute force of the armies had been withdrawn it was the power of the intellectual elite which took over and governed, ran and maintained the State.

    During the two Caliphates, the Muslim Universities were producing the best scholars, doctors, astronomers and philosophers. Today where are we? Have we institutions of learning which can compare with the Sorbonne, Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, M.I.T.?

    God has given us the miracle of life with all its attributes: the extraordinary manifestations of sunrise and sunset, of sickness and recovery, of birth and death, but surely if He has given us the means with which to remove ourselves from this world so as to go to other parts of the Universe, we can but accept as further manifestations the creation and destructions of stars, the birth and death of atomic particles, the flighting new sound and light waves. I am afraid that the torch of intellectual discovery, the attraction of the unknown, the desire for intellectual self-perfection have left us. I fully realise that one needs today tools with which to extend the realms of man’s knowledge, and that generally speaking these tools are the possessions of the more advanced essentially Christian parts of the world.”


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