SO MANGA AWIDA AKAL SA RANAO AGO KO BANGSA.
Recipes in the Life of the Maranao
Nagasura T. Madale, Ph.D.
II. Rites, Rituals and Symbolisms:
Why is the Sarimanok on top of the Dolang?
The Sarimanok as an art symbolizes the totem bird, itotoro,
considered a twin-spirit called inikadowa of the Maranaos.
According to this belief, every Maranao born has his own twinspirit.
The legend is traced back to a folk hero, Radia Indarapatra,
who married a water nymph, Potri rainalaut and begot two sons:
one who is seen, the ancestor of present day Maranaos; the
other, unseen, became the apo of the spirits that Maranaos invoke
in a number of rites and rituals.
These two brothers made an agreement, each one to protect
each other from malevolent spirits that may cause illness or even
death. As a sign of goodwill, the itotoro, totem bird, which happens
to be a rooster, is taken cared of by the seen (Maranaos), as a
link to the unseen spirits, their ancestor. Henceforth, the totem
bird became the link between the seen and unseen.
In the ritual stage, food is served to the lamin, a four-square
cubicle wrapped in yellow cloth, hung at the ceiling of the house,
believed to be the abode of the spirits.
As an art form, the fish on the beak of the carved Sarimanok
symbolizes the food that is offered to the totem bird, which is
now transformed into an art form, the Sarimanok.
In the dolang, the food in the tabak represent the food offering
to the Sarimanok, the latter transformed into a cake in the shape/
mold of the bird, Sarimanok. Thus, the Sarimanok (in cake form)
is on top of the dolang, brass tray.
In a one-tier dolang, the yellow rice is shaped like a mound
and is decorated with boiled eggs placed on sticks around the
plate. The same symbolism applies for the egg which represents
the bird, Sarimanok; the rice represents the food offering to the
bird, the bird as represented by the egg.
In other words, almost all the rites and rituals that Maranaos
do can be traced to their myths and legends as the ultimate
source. It explains why they have to reenact such activities in
their life cycle because they believe such events took place in the
These legends and myths are “real” in that they justify such
rituals. Good harvest means the spirits invoked during the
kashawing were satisfied. In like manner, poor harvest means
they were not pleased. Likewise, the ritual performed in kaganat
sa lantai (child baptism) is also traced to Apo Babowa, the Spirit
A. The Plants and Their Symbolisms:
Here is a sampling of plants and their symbolisms:
1. Palao – root crop, literally means “mountain.” It is
brought to the new house in the semang ritual. It
symbolizes wealth for the new occupants.
2. Rapa – camote, especially the leaves. It “crawls” and it
symbolizes growth. Used also as part of the semang
3. Babasal – squash. Like the rapa or camote, it also
“crawls”, symbolizing growth and prosperity.
4. Banana – two varieties: the green and long one called
borongan, food in “heaven,” and the sweet, yellowish,
short variety known as amas (señorita). The latter is
the first solid food for babies. It symbolizes sweetness
and a prosperous life.
5. Gunda and paliyas – symbolize “coolness”and
“smartness.” Used as part of the semang ritual.
III. Maranao Recipes and Culture Change:
A. The Pagana Maranao as an Institution:
Mindanao State University at the Marawi campus has
institutionalized Pagana Maranao. Dignitaries and specialguests who visit the University are treated to a formal
dinner called Pagana Maranao.
the host. This
is followed with
the dinner and
by the famous
D a r a n g e n
and ends with
and the giving
of gifts/token for the guests.
The guests, faculty and staff are also dressed in
Maranao attire: malong and kopya (cap) for the gentlemen.
The ambience is no doubt Maranao. The master of
ceremonies imitates the traditional host manners and
gestures of welcoming the guests with few lines of
pananaro-on (wise sayings and a sampling of Maranao
An elevated platform, panggao, is set where the guests
stay, fully carpeted. The guests are served with the food
in the dolang, with Maranao recipes and a display of Maranao
hospitality par excellence!
The walls are fully decorated with lalansai and
mamandiyang. There is also a canopy above the panggao
known as ol-ol that displays the Ka’aba, holy place in Mecca.
B. Maranao Weddings:
Maranao weddings are the best occasions where Pagana
Maranao is ostentatiously displayed. On some occasions,
the kandolang is also displayed. When Lanao del Sur
recently observed its foundation day anniversary, the
thirty-seven municipalities including the city of Marawi
displayed the best of Maranao culture, history and art.
Thirty-seven booths representing the thirty-seven
municipalities and the city of Marawi around the lake were
constructed without any single nail at the Lanao del Sur
grounds. The display of the best of Maranao material culture
was also observed, as well as the playing of the kulintang.
The Marawi Resort Hotel, located at the campus of the
Mindanao State University in Marawi City, serves the best
of Maranao cuisine, the beef randang and Pagana Maranao!
Recipes in Maranao culture and society will endure and persist
against all odds for as long as the institutions that nourish it and
sustain it will survive. The threat from within is that there are
only very few skilled master chefs who can prepare these highly
specialized recipes, which are in turn served on special occasions
to special guests and dignitaries.
The Sultanate system among the Maranaos is still dynamic
and very vibrant. This is one institution that sustains the Pagana
Maranao and the Kandolang. Weddings have changed but Maranao
recipes have survived because it is part of andang sa muna and
anonen a rawaten (the ways of the ancestors, worthy of
emulation)! It is life itself and to sustain it means to give it new
forms if only to survive in the midst of change.
The Marawi Market still sells these native delicacies and serves
native recipes in the restaurants. It is an enterprising business
and several orders can be arranged for those who need them on
special occasions like weddings and vigils.
On the other hand, food which are served for ritual purposes
are dramatically disappearing because the ulema considered them
as un-Islamic. These specialized food served in rituals are slowly
disappearing and yet, they reflect the best of Maranao recipes
because they have direct links to their twin-spirits whom they
considered their apo!
Whether or not Maranao recipes will endure and persist in the
midst of globalization and commercialization is an issue we shall
not venture at this moment. Perhaps, another opportunity may
come, hopefully, in the near future when there are still informants
who could share their expertise on this topic.
A lot of Maranaos, especially the young, troop to fastfood
joints like Greenwich, Kentucky, McDonald’s and more so with
Jollibee, because they see in the signboard that halal food
displayed! Slowly, this has changed the “taste buds” of the
Maranaos. Like the other Filipinos, they like to explore what is
popularly known as “lasang Pinoy.”
For as long as the food served are not haram, unlawful, the
Maranaos will further venture and explore the “lasang Pinoy”
without necessarily forgetting their traditional taste buds – a rich
culture that links them to the past and their ancestors.
Insha-Allah and Alhamdolillah!