Maguindanao Inaul is Ushering in a Cultural Renaissance

Maguindanao Inaul Textile Race

Inaul announced its arrival in the international scene when the 65th Ms. Universe candidates sashayed onto the catwalk wearing this textile from Maguindanao. The most recent SONA also saw several of our congresswomen proudly wearing the fabric. From our moviestar lawmakers Ms. Vilma Santos-Recto with her long-green dress, Ms. Lucy Torres-Gomez with her dark-blue striped skirt (with her daughter Juliana also wearing Inaul), to Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo who carried off a bright diamond patterned fuchsia dress. Inaul is certainly getting the spotlight it deserves.

Inaul is Part of the Philippines’ Culture

Inaul, literally meaning woven, is a handmade fabric with designs handed down from generation to generation. Its luxurious texture is a blend of silk and gold threads infused into the pure cotton threads and woven in complicated techniques. Traditionally, there are twenty identified designs ranging from the rare heirloom Riyal to the rainbow-hued binaludto. Each color knitted into the Inaul has a significance, with white associated with mourning or sadness, and black symbolizing dignity. The green of nature signifies peace, while red symbolizes the Maguindanaon’s bravery. Royalty, in their colors of yellow and orange, wore the inaul as a malong, a tubular fabric, or sablay, a loose garment, as they travelled through the riverways that connected kingdoms. “It is said that Inaul may be a malong, but not all malongs are inaul. Inaul is synonymous with Maguindanao (the old name of Mindanao). It is a fabric woven by a great race, a symbol of royalty of a great nation that once ruled Mindanao. Today, Inaul does not only represent the rulers of the sultanate of this magnificent land, but it also amplifies the greatness of the people,” says Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sinsuat A. Sema, Rep. of the First District of Maguindanao and Cotabato City.

Intricate Designs Created by Maguindanaons

Maguindanao Inaul Textile Race
Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema

Each weaver has learnt the art of Inaul weaving from observing their elders. The fabric’s design can range from the simple to the tipas that requires two to three weavers collaborating in order to produce an ornate work of art. The complicated weaving techniques produce one-of-a-kind designs such as rainbows, stripes and taro. A fabric can take half a day to up to five days just to produce a piece of Malong. Valued for its historical significance, the Inaul is a product of the mixture of the lineage of Sheriff Muhammad Kabungsuan, the first Sultan of Mindanao, and the natives. “Inaul represents how Maguindanaons preserve their inheritance, strengthen their unity, nourish their culture, defend their land, and share their bounty. It is the embodiment of the past of Maguindanaons, it is the joy of their present, and it is the hope of their future,” says Sema.


Who Are the Yakan?

Much has been written about the Manobo, the Tausug, the Badjao, and the other tribes of Mindanao, but almost nobody has heard of the Yakan. There are more than 13 tribes in Mindanao, all with their own identity and culture, and the Yakan deserves to have their own stories and way of life told.

A Yakan boy dancing during the Tumahik Festival.

As opposed to the Badjao whose way of life is tied to the sea, the Yakan are mountain dwellers. They were originally from the island of Basilan, but due to the decades-long conflict in the area, their people have been dispersed. Most of them have now settled in Zamboanga.

The Yakan Land

The Yakan had their individual lands but they had no titles to it, only basing their partitions from custom. They are now getting legal land titles to their traditional lands, owing to some bitter lessons from some people taking advantage of the situation.

They plant crops like rice, sweet potato, and cassava. Rice is so tied up with their culture that they tend to personify it. They perform quasi-religious ceremonies during harvesting and planting, making sure that the rice spirit is satisfied.



A young Yakan girl playing a bamboo xylophone.

The Yakan identify as Muslim, although traces of animism and old religious beliefs persist. This syncretism is not unusual in the Philippine setting, though. Filipino Catholics also do this with their Sto. Niño anting-antings and others. For the Yakan, the center of the community is a langgal, and a langgal is headed by an Imam. The Imam performs not just religious functions, but also assists in rice ceremonies.

Their own identity

You would be a fortunate bystander if you happened to witness a Yakan wedding. The bride and groom’s faces would be painted with white distinctive patterns. The patterns do not have any symbolic meaning, but are instead put on for aesthetic purposes. They would also be decked out in their customary woven clothing. Due to the westernization of much of the tribes of the Philippines, traditional clothing is usually only donned during important occasions, like weddings.

Most of the tribes in the Philippines are recognizable due to their distinctive woven clothing. From the Kankanaey of Mountain Province, to the Moro of Mindanao. It is the same with the Yakan. Their weaving tradition have been handed down from generation to generation. A simple design can take a couple of days, with the motif incorporated in the weaving process. What sets the Yakan apart is the intricacy of their composition, as well as the draping of their clothing when worn. The handwoven fabrics that the Yakan produce is so well-made, that this is now primarily what they are known for.IMG_2749.JPG

The Yakan culture deserve to be showcased. I would not be able to give justice to their way of life with just a simple article. I hope that this blog will light a fire in you to find out more about our culture. The Philippines is rich, not just with our natural resources, but with our people as well.

Why the Versatile Malong is a Must Have

Versatile Malong Must Have
text and photos by: Hadji Ayunan Grande Gunting
Thank you to my models : Katrina IluvAllah, Taraka Mayor Nashiba Sumagayan, Prosecutor Kookai Lao, former DILG ASEC Nariman Ambolodto ( wearing an Inaul Malong of Maguindanao), Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra S.Sema, Tawi-Tawi Congresswoman Ruby Sahali, Lumbatan First Lady Aliah Jehan M.Lao, ( boys ) First District Assemblyman Odin Sumagayan and Princess Sitti Djalia T.Hataman ( ARMM First Lady) 


What is a malong?

Physically, it is a tubular cloth that can be worn a lot of ways and can be used as a tool for everyday use, limited only by the user’s imagination. Culturally, it represents the identity of a proud people who are generous enough not to cry “appropriation” when others wear malongs.

The malong is a daily essential for a Moro or Lumad, while professional mountaineers and savvy travelers swear by its versatility. Urbanites, though, still have to be made aware that this versatile tubular garment can became a wardrobe must-have.

The Versatile Malong

I have talked to Dr. Minang Dirampaten Sharief of Mindanao State University in Marawi City. An authority on Muslim culture, she explains that the malong can be used in unlimited ways.

“In Meranaw (pronounced Muhranaw) culture, the malong is a wardrobe staple. It can be worn at home, at the beach or on special occasions. It also has utilitarian purposes,” says Sharief.

A Unisex Garment

As a garment, the malong is tucked in at the waist and secured by a belt. It can be worn knotted at the front or at the side like a sarong skirt. Wear it swathed around the hips and legs with one end brought between the legs and folded into the waistband, the malong resembles jodhpurs. It is also worn as a sash or a headgear to denote status.

In diving and sports, men can twist and tie it like a loincloth.

Women drape the malong like a sarong dress that’s knotted in front or on the side; criss-crossed at the neck like a halter or slung as one-shoulder dress. As a skirt, it can be knotted or folded to create pleats. With a little belt on the waist and clever folding, a pouch can be added.

image1Dancers wear the malong with one end hanging from the left arm while the right arm is free to move.

Fold the malong in diagonals; it becomes a kimono-like blouse or a shawl. The clever folds transform it into a stylish turban.

Malong for Privacy

Women have used the malong for modesty. Dr. Sharief adds that they can hide under the malong to change clothes or use it to cover them when there is no toilet in the wilderness. This is also why the malong is popular among mountaineers and frequent travelers.

Worn over the head, the malong drapes their faces for reserve.  “In our culture, it’s not appropriate for women to expose their beauty. Whether they are bathing in the lake or walking on the street, the malong can cover their entire body and face except for their eyes. This also creates an aura of mystery,” says Dr. Sharief.

The Malong as a Summer Accessory

During summer, the malong is twisted and tied around the upper and lower body as a swimsuit. “You can adjust the material if you want to show less skin while swimming,” she adds. It also becomes a tapis or a tube tunic for bathing outdoors. After swimming, it can used as robe or a beach mat.

In Lake Lanao, children make it into a floater. “You catch the wind on the tube; tie both ends and around the waist. When the malong is inflated by the air, you won’t sink,” says Dr. Sharief.

The malong has also been used as a sail and fishnet. With two bamboo poles, it becomes a stretcher.

The Malong as a Tool

The malong has other uses outside of fashion. The ends can be twisted to make a large tote or modified to make a medium-size shoulder bag or even a backpack or fanny pack. The fabric is coiled tightly and placed on top of their heads so people can carry heavy objects.

When there’s no umbrella, the malong can be a canopy to keep one from getting wet. When camping, you can use it as a sleeping bag. Roll it up and you have a pillow.

At home, it is used as a blanket, table cloth, curtain, divider, and a hammock. A large malong becomes a matrimonial blanket when couples want to cuddle up in cold weather.  It is common to see mothers slinging a malong over their chests to carry their infants.

The Malong is for Everybody

The silk malong can cost up to P30,000 when woven by artisans. However, the younger generation would rather take up white collar jobs than continue the weaving tradition.

Dr. Sharief says a malong can cost as low as PhP250.  However, it’s just two pieces of machine-made fabric that have been machine-stitched.

Fabrics printed in Malaysia or Thailand bear the signature geometric and nature patterns of the malong.  Still, these are products of the industrial age instead of handwoven designs from artisans.  “These are not authentic,” she says.

Dr. Sharief notes that if there’s a greater demand for artisanal malongs, the younger generation can continue the weaving tradition and keep it alive.

For more information on artisanal malong, please contact the author.

Mataid Mindanao

Beautiful Mindanao

It is a reality in the Philippines today that when you say “Mindanao”, war and strife will immediately come to mind. What is more sad is that when you say “Muslim”, some will think of a people blinded by faith, terrorizing others.

I am starting this blog because I want to make people see the Mindanao that I know, and let people know that I, a Muslim, am an advocate of peace. People who preach otherwise are not practicing Muslims.

Mataid means Beautiful

Beautiful Mindanao
Mindanao is really beautiful.

For me, Mindanao means beauty. Our stunning land is filled with pristine beaches, majestic waterfalls, and venerable mountains. It remains undiscovered by the rest of the world because of our reputation, which is something that needs to be corrected. Much of Mindanao is a traveler’s paradise, and as Muslims, welcoming strangers is our duty.

Mataid Moro

Beautiful Mindanao
We are proud of our culture.

As with the rest of the Philippines, what makes us different from our ASEAN neighbors is our people. If you take a look at Luzon and the Visayas region, you would be hard-pressed to find real indigenous culture because they are highly westernized. You would need to look for the tribes in the hinterlands of Luzon to see how our ancient fathers lived. Not so with Mindanao and our Moro groups. You do not need to look far in order to experience our rich culture, and how proud we are of it. You can see it in the way we dress everyday in our Malongs, our headgears, and in the way we live our lives. You can even taste it in our cuisine.

Pagana Maranao

Beautiful Mindanao

Pagana means to serve with utmost hospitality. Each Moro group has its own distinct cuisine. Filipino food is richer and more diverse than the world knows it to be. As a Filipino, let’s venture beyond the world of Sinigang, Adobo, and Lechon. If we can welcome the Vietnamese Pho, the Thai Tom Yum Goong, and the western steak, we should look forward to the wonder that is Moro cooking.

Mindanao is worth exploring. Help me erase the stigma of chaos by learning more about its beauty, its people, and our rich culture.