The golden province
A treasure trove in the heart of Mindanao
“The misimpression that Lanao is a perilous province to visit is a preposterous calumny.” Thus says Gov. Mamintal “Bombet” Adiong, Jr. of Lanao del Sur as he steers his province and its people towards progress with peace as a necessary ingredient.
The people of Lanao are known for their warmth, vibrancy, creativity, and diligence. This, we experienced during our recent visit. In the thick of preparations for the 50th founding anniversary of the province, we were jolted by the energy and joie de vivre so thick and rich, there was no way you could resist it.
We were whisked to see and enjoy what the locals called the “festival route” and the “scenic route”. The colorful Maranao costumes worn by street revelers simply leapt out before our eyes. No matter which way we looked, the fascinating vista left us mesmerized, awed, and reminded of the rich culture and natural resources that the province has taken great pains to maximize and preserve during the past 49 years.
There were the pulse beat and the rhythm that made visitors like us thank Heavens (and Allah) for the unspoiled beauty of creation. After experiencing the wonderful panorama of sights and sounds, we just had to take our hats off to Gov. Adiong, Jr, and his gracious First Lady Raifa for both of them are gifted with the proclivity of genuine reforms, change and progress.
The scenic route brought us to majestic Lake Lanao which is wreathed in the lush and productive mountain greenery of the province, and the Provincial Capitol. Inside the Capitol, we toured the various offices and saw that each of them had that distinct character of richness and diversity.
The Provincial Capitol tour also gave us the opportunity to sample unique Maranao delicacies. One is the famous kiyoning or yellow rice mixed with rich coconut milk and powdered kalawag (turmeric). Tivateg, on the other hand, is made of rice flour, coconut oil and brown sugar. It is strained for thinness, dropped in hot oil and rolled or folded. It is eaten with the fingers. Tiyateg looks like shredded wheat of the Westerners. Another dessert is doldol, a thick pudding made of coconut milk, rice flour and dark sugar cooked for three hours.
We learned that for the Maranaos, food is generally eaten with bare hands while sitting on the floor. On special occasions, the floor is covered with woven colorful mats and food is served on brass trays called talam or tabak.
The most prominent traditional wear in the province is the malong, a large, colorful woven cloth wrapped around the body. One common way women wear it is around the waist with its folds draped over the left arm. Men wrap it around the waist like a skirt.
The malong has many uses depending on the need of the wearer. It can be used as a cape, coat, blanket or umbrella. Maranao or Maguindanao women wear the malong over a blouse called arbita. Also, they wear a turban called kombong made of muslin fabric. White is used as kombong when the wearer has been to Mecca.
What followed our sumptuous side trip to the Capitol was the cultural presentation wherein performers in their colorful and shiny garbs interpreted the Maranao Festival called kalilang that begins with the parade of dignitaries and their retinue and members of royalty with their colorful and bejeweled parasols (payong-a-diyakatan) who all walked to the beat of drums and gongs.
Children were also busy with Maranao games such as sipa-salama wherein one gets to kick a rattan ball to reach a goal.
To lure local and foreign tourists, Gov. Adiong, Jr. says: “Come world and view the beauty of Lanao. We would be more than happy to show you. It has been 50 years and things are only looking up. Lanao Del Sur is indeed the land where treasures grow.”