The Municipality of Balo-I comprise of diverse cultural heritage spread all over the place. A rich mixture of ethnic groups like Tagalogs, Visayans (Masbateños, Hiligaynons, Cebuano, Boholanos, Warays and Surigaonons), Maranaos, Subanons, Zamboangueños, including other groups from the north, Ivatans, Ilocanos, Pangasinenses, Kapampangans, and Bicolanos are found in Balo-I. Visayans “Bisaya” and Maranao is the mayor spoken dialect. The Maranao people have lived on the southern Philippines since 13th century. Maranao refers to the people who live near the lake, this lake is known as Lanao. Maranao also refers to both the group of people and the spoken language, spoken by people living in the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte though some have gone to other places in the Philippines as well.
The word Maranao is not a proper term, it should be Iranon which means “People of the Lake” referring to the indigenous people who inhabited the lands around the lake. Much of their identity and history form part of Lake Lanao. Maranao is part of the Moro ethnic group. The Moros are of various ethno linguistic groups in southern and western Mindanao who are the same as other Filipinos. The largest of these are Tausug, Maguindanao, Maranao, Sama, Yakan, and Banguingui. They are different in terms of culture, religion, and politically independent.
Around the lake the primary source of livelihood is agriculture, crops production (such as rice, corn, sweet potatoes, peanuts, papayas, bananas, and betel nuts. Fishing in the lake is another source of livelihood.
Their textiles, metalwork, woodcraft, and architecture form part of cultural expressions. Maranao women wear “malong” dress which can be used in many ways, as a skirt, dress, blouse or gown. It could also be used as a hammock, a fruit basket, sleeping bag, bathrobe, baby carriage or a bag. Maranao textiles, which indicate the status of the wearer, are known for their very ornate designs and colors.
The “awing”, or dugout boat used in fishing in Lake Lanao. Tugaya is a place near the banks of Lake Lanao. It is noted for its brass products like cauldrons, betel containers, vases, kris handle, kulintang, gong, mortar and saddle. The designs of their metal craft were unique and carved with ukkil. Maranao architecture has been influenced by the Indus and the Islamic religion. Islam influence can be noted in the ukkil carvings in maranao homes, mosques and tool. The Hindu influence may be seen in the naga or S carvings on the eaves of houses, bows of a boat, chess pieces and on the Sarimanok. The “kulintang” is an instrumental music, performed on a unique set of eight melodious gongs. The Darangen is an ancient epic song that encompasses a wealth of knowledge of the Maranao people who live in the Lake Lanao region of Mindanao. Darangen celebrates episodes from Maranao history and the tribulations of mythical heroes. In addition to having a compelling narrative content, the epic explores the underlying themes of life and death, courtship, love and politics through symbol, metaphor, irony and satire. The Darangen also encodes customary law, standards of social and ethical behaviour, notions of aesthetic beauty, and social values specific to the Maranao. To this day, elders refer to this time-honoured text in the administration of customary law.
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