Maranao people

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Said Ahmad Basher
Sheikh Ahmad Bashir
Dimasangcay Pundato
Total population
1.25% of total population
Regions with significant populations
Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Bukidnon (specially in the municipalities of Talakag Kalilangan ), Cotabato, Maguindanao, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga City, Misamis Oriental, Iligan City, Cagayan de Oro City Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Manila, Cebu and all highly Urbanized Cities and Municipalities (thru Maranao Diaspora) in the  Philippines
Maranaos in Sabah, Malaysia
Maranaos in USA
Maranao in Saudi Arabia[1]
Middle East
Maranao, Chabacano, Cebuano, Tagalog, English
Predominantly Islam
Christian minority exists
Related ethnic groups
Illanun, Maguindanao, Tiruray
Lumad, Tausug, Visayan,
other Moros,
other Filipino peoples,
other Austronesian peoples

Maranao (Maranao: ['mәranaw]; Filipino: Mëranaw[2]), 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, Darangen. 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,"[3] 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 largest Moro ethnic group.

Maranao and their culture can be best described by the following:

  • Lake Lanao
  • Sarimanok
  • Darangen, a UNESCO Heritage
  • Singkil, a popular and world's recognized Philippine dance
  • Okir on wooden artifacts and brasswares

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 lake is the subject of various myths and legends. It supports a major fishery, and powers the hydroelectric plant installed on it; the Agus River system 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,[4] of the coastal area of Illana Bay (Ilian in Maranao) and Iranaon of the people in Bembaran/ Bumbaran 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. This land is rich and suitable to crops. 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[edit]


Maranao is an Austronesian language spoken by the Maranao people in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur in the Philippines.[5] Because of the mass influx of Cebuano migrants to Mindanao, many of the Maranaos tend to be exposed to the Cebuano language from Visayan easily enough to be able to speak it.

Arabic, a Central Semitic language, is also spoken by a minority of the Moro people, being the liturgical language of Islam. Most Maranaos however, do not know Arabic beyond its religious uses.

Chavacano (sometimes spelled as Chabacano or Chabakano) is a Philippine Spanish Creole, that gained popularity as a Philippine major language during the short-lived Republic of Zamboanga. Most of the Maranaos with part-Tausug or Yakan from Zamboanga and Basilan have also attained the ability to speak this language, specifically the Zamboanga dialect known as Zamboangueño.


Sarimanok is a legendary bird of the Maranao that has become a ubiquitous symbol of their art

Sarimanok Garuda 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.[6][7]

Musical Heritage[edit]

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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

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![11]

The Legend of Maranao Food[edit]

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 (Prophet 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 part grew a white chicken. The palay was harvested and fed to mankind."[11]


Maranaos number about 1,142,000. Along with the Illanun and Maguindanao, the Maranao are one of three related indigenous Moro 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.[5] 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, most of 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.


Same as other Moro and Mindanao Lumads, the very nominal occupation of the Philippines by Spanish, and later American and Japanese in Mindanao, the Maranaos had their own kingdom with a Sultan ruler due to the influence of Muslim missionaries.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Admin. "About Us". FEMAS. Retrieved October 21, 2010. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Admin (2006-10-09). "About Maranaos". Maranao Online. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Muslim Rulers and Rebels (Chapter 2 People and Territory in Cotabato)". University of California Press. Retrieved March 19, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Welcome". Learn Maranao Language Website. Retrieved October 21, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Sari-Manok". Philippines Art and Culture. Retrieved October 21, 2010. 
  7. ^ Madale, Nagasura T. (2010-02-07). "Recipe in the Life of the Maranao By: Nagasura T. Madale, PhD. -Part 2". Kalopindo. Aratawata Website. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  8. ^ Daily Tribune, The (2009-09-06). "Rich and royal Lanao del Sur". Cerphin Website. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  9. ^ Umagang Kay Ganda (2013-07-09). "Recipe: Maranao dish Chicken Piaparan". ABS-CBN Website. Retrieved July 9, 2013. 
  10. ^ Rosauro, Ryan (2010-10-17). "Munai spice may be way out of war for conflict areas". Inquirer Website. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  11. ^ a b Madale, Nagasura T. (2010-02-06). "Recipe in the Life of the Maranao By: Nagasura T. Madale, PhD. -Part 1". Kalopindo. Aratawata Website. Retrieved October 21, 2010. 

External links[edit]