Basilan Pakaradjaan


Basilan, the largest island in Sulu Archipelago, marks its establishment with the Pakaradjaan, an annual festival of sports, culture, and community service.  

“Pakaradjaan” is a Tausug and Yakan term for merry-making or special event. Although it is traditionally celebrated from March 1 to 7, the provincial government has extended it to two weeks for this year.

Basilan PakaradjaanGov. Jim Salliman Hataman will kick off Pakaradjaan with a press conference on Feb. 21 at the Garden Orchid Hotel.

The festival itself opens February 26 with a ceremony, a trade fair, and a presentation of the Muse of Pakaradjaan at the grandstand. The Governor’s Tennis Cup will then be held at Isabela.

There will be a groundbreaking ceremony of the provincial government board’s project and a medical mission on February 27. Then there are the Basilan Circumferential Road Caravan, which starts at the Maluso Terminal (February 28), and another medical mission in Tuburan (March 1).  

The weekend starts with a job fair and a series of sporting events. There will be a men’s volleyball tournament at the Capitol Ground, shooting, and a bowling tournament at the D’ Biel’s bowling center on March 1. The darts tournament will be followed by a Himig ng Basileño at the grandstand the following day. Intelligence and artistry will be showcased in Tagisan ng Talino and a poster making contest on March 3. Also on Sunday, a badminton tournament will be held at gymnasium, with the Barangay Night variety show held at the amphitheater.

The week begins with a full day of events (March 4). A  fun run will span from Begang to the grandstand. Devotees will be inspired by the Qu-Ran Memorization Contest at the ampitheater. The indigenous culture will be celebrated in “Tara Na Sa Basilan” at the grandstand.

A regatta on the port, kite flying, and the coronation of the Muse of Pakaradjaan will take place on March 5. The festival also has a social cause with a feeding program for children under five years old in three municipalities (March 6). An evening program with surprise numbers will be held at the ampitheater.

Basilan PakaradjaanFinally, the festivities will climax with a cultural program at the Assembly Place of the Maluso Terminal and a Basilan Night held at the gymnasium (March 7).

Basilan was under the Zamboanga province in the 20th century. After the war, it became a separate city under law. In 1973, then President Ferdinand Marcus issued a presidential decree to make it a province to dampen the fighting between government and Muslim groups. For so long, the province was hogging the headlines due to skirmishes with the Abu Sayaff.

In 2011, the provincial government organized the Pakaradjaan to honor Basilan’s Foundation Day. President Benigno Aquino declared March 7 as a special holiday to commemorate the event. The fiesta aims to promote the province as a friendly destination.  




inaul fabric maguindanao

inaulThe Maguindanao provincial government will hold its second Inaul Festival from Feb. 8 to 14 at the capitol grounds to celebrate its indigenous textile tradition.

Inaul, which means “woven” in Maguindaon, is a hand-woven tapestry fabric with geometric designs. As a status symbol, it is revered as an object of “bara-bangsa” which means dignity. The inaul is commonly used in the malong, the multitasking tubular fabric. One of the best image models is ARMM Deputy Speaker Congresswoman Bai Sandra Sinsuat Sema who collects the inaul and wears it with pride.inaul fabric maguindanao

As one of the province’s major earner, the inaul raked in P1 million in sales during its first week-long festival last year. The festival itself generated P20 million in tourism revenues. The inaul appeals to both domestic and international clients.

Bai Albaya Wampa, who is a main proponent of the inaul, preserves the tradition through her store. It’s located in Datu Odin Sinsuat, a first-class municipality on the boundary of Maguindanao and Cotabato. The sultan of this town is her grandfather, and it’s in her genes to help others.

Bai Albaya owns a farm and a women’s cooperative here called Al Jamela. It was established in 2001 to give jobs to widows of Moro National Liberation Front soldiers, Christians, as well as returning OFWs, and other disadvantaged people.  Al Jamela has become synonymous with quality that it has become a tourist destination for souvenirs. Even the ARMM government orders inaul shawls from her co-op for gifts.

How Inaul is Made

inaul fabric maguindanaoWeavers use cotton and rayon silk threads inserted on big looms that can handle huge volumes.  Bai Albaya explains that the process starts with arranging the threads to determine the colors, the quantity, and the length of the malong. The threads are put on the wheel, spun, and inserted into the loom’s comb for the design. To assure quality, weavers are tasked to make just one inaul tapestry per creation.  

“Once the weaver starts on the inaul, she has to finish it. If she delegates, the result will be different. Each weaver has their own way with the tension of the threads and the loom,” explains Bai Albaya.

By convention, the weaving can take as long as a month to produce one four-meter fabric. A fully embroidered inaul fetches from P1,900 to P2,500. The price is P500 for a  12 inch by 2 meter shawl.  

“The inaul has over 100 uses—as bedsheet, turban, table runner, men’s trousers, basket, pillowcase, and cradle. The special inaul is made from imported thread. They are used for formal clothes like gowns and jackets,” says Bai Albaya.

Inaul as a Status Symbol

She explains that in the olden times, princesses in royal households wove their own clothes. To denote their status, they used yellow, maroon, orange, and black for royalty. White threads were used for mourning clothes. Green symbolized coolness and peace.

The common designs are the rainbows or changing hues of threads, stripes, taro, and wide borders. The lumbayan na ta’dman is a silhouette of a woman peering from the window, waiting for her lover. Modern designs consist of twisted florals, the elbow or siko-siko, geometric patterns, triangles, and the reversible fabric.inaul fabric maguindanao

The co-op receives support from the Cotabato tourism office which brings tourists to Al Jamela. The  Department of Labor and Employment and the local government donate looms and provide training. The Non-Timber Forest Products, a crafts center in Quezon City, promotes its products and exports.

Thanks to people like Bai Albaya and her weavers, the Maguindanao textile tradition will thrive as they continue to create demands.  



Marawi Blitz
Fortunately, the cultural heritage such as the Torogans, the royal homes with handcarved designs are still intact.

Banggulo is Marawi’s  city center. What was once the hub of commerce is now reduced to ruins. Signs of bombs are everywhere, buildings are pockmarked with deep holes; while heaps of debris made other streets impassable. Offices, shops, and a hospital has been brought down to uneven mounds of rubble where the faded odor of  dead bodies still lingered. The place is a burned-down ghost town except for the occasional  clank of a truck, piled with soldiers.

Marawi BlitzThis was how Marawi looked like after four months of war. It claimed hundreds of lives, destroyed livelihood, and broke down dreams to dust.

I am proud Meranawon and my roots are in Lanao del Sur. My grandfather was Sultan of Lumbayanague, a 90-minute drive to Marawi. When my father moved to General Santos City, South Cotabato, he enrolled me in a Christian school.  Our vacations wer spent with our relatives in Marawi.


In college, my father sent me to Mindanao State University in Marawi so that I could be reacquainted with Islam culture. Unlike the traditional and conservative  attitude in the city, MSU had a liberal atmosphere since the students came from various creeds.

Yet in spite of the conservatism, I had seen how immorality crept in. The past mayors were allegedly linked to peddling drugs. In the late ‘90s, a prostitution den and a cockpit had been set up in the country’s only Islamic city.

Five years ago, there were whispers of recruitment for extremist groups in Marawi. The talks were  dismissed as rumors. We heard stories that a monthly stipend of P50,000 was being dangled to Islamic students so that they could learn Arabic, and embrace a radicalized Islam.

Marawi1The war began as a blow to the locals when it first broke out in May of 2017. My friends and relatives from Marawi were doing business and stocking up on supplies in  Iligan City,  Cagayan de Oro, and other municipalities. Suddenly, they received news that their city was under siege. They were stranded and unprepared for the shocking event.  It took four days before they were allowed to return.

Upon returning, they discovered that their homes had been ransacked. Nobody knew if it were the Maute or the government soldiers who broke into their residences and looted their money. Since Marawi only has two rural banks, businessmen kept their money at home.

The war extended when Maute had instigated  a  complicated assault  using tunnels.

I recently had a reunion with a former classmate, a military officer, at a bar in BGC. He invited me to see Marawi for the day.  For so long, several of my good friends, one of them being Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra, had been asking me to come to Marawi. After all, people were slowly returning to their homes, and to return to normal life.

My heart skipped a beat upon the officer’s invitation. Painful memories came to mind.

It was also during the Martial Law ‘80s that we experienced abuses of the military. A drunken soldier or marine would molest women or gun down men.

Still, I gathered the courage to visit the city of my youth.  The next day, we drove to Clark airbase and took a military plane to the old airport in Cagayan de Oro. After getting a military pass and putting on a bullet-proof vest, I rode with my friend and some soldiers on a helicopter and landed on Camp Amaipakpakan. We then hopped on a tank to Banggulo, the business center and an affluent residential district where royalty had lived. It was now a war –zone, lined with grimy bombed-out streets.

After a quick inspection,  we returned to the camp. We took a packed lunch of halal food then flew to back to Cagayan do Oro and finally to Clark air base.

In a phone conversation a few days after the visit, Mayor Gandamra sounded tired but optimistic.

Marawi3The locals were slowly moving out from the evacuation centers or living with their relatives in Lanao del Sur or South Cotabato.  Some families bravely returned to Marawi. Electricity and water supplies are adequate.  Residents  buy their groceries in Iligan City. The trip took longer because of thorough body search and inspection at military checkpoint under Martial Law conditions.

Since the business center of Banggulo was savaged, the displaced residents of Marawi depend on government support. LGU’s and the private sector send relief goods in the evacuation centers.

The mayor lamented that the locals are impatient for quick relief. They think that he is responsible for the disbursement of  foreign aid. He clarified that these donations must undergo the government process before they are channeled to the city’s relief and rehabilitation.

Gandamra maintained that he never solicited donations to maintain the integrity of the local municipality.

For income, the  government has been providing  livelihood programs for the IDPs (internally displaced people). They are given fees to clean the centers, assist in the giving out of relief and plant vegetables  in the backyard for food.Marawi Cloth

Fortunately, the cultural heritage such as the torrogan, the Muslim homes with handcarved designs,  and places with their artefacts are still intact. Gandamra said they are located in the Western district  of the city. The war zone is in the eastern district.

“I’m thankful that Allah gave us a second life,” he said.

Likewise, lawyer Maki Datu Ramos’s relatives were distraught by the war.

“As Meranawons, we are all affected psychologically, financially and spiritually. We wondered why this happened. It was like a nightmare,” he said

A cousin, Jasmin Mamacotao of Lumbatan, Lanao Del Sur, has a residence beside their ancestral home in an affluent subdivision in the war zone. While in Mindanao, she has  been renting a house after her home and ancestral home were flattened down.  She has been feeling anxious about the trauma of war and the loss of close friends and property. Fortunately, her job in the Department of Justice in Manila provides some stability.

“It’s a nightmare. All the homes of our aunts and siblings were either bombed or razed to the ground,” said  Dr. Sainodin Moti, a medical officer of the Philhealth Regional Office of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. At the onset of the war, he stayed in Iligan City because he was not allowed to visit his home in Lilod near the center of the war zone. He received photos that his house has been part of the ruins.

During the crisis, he prayed for strength.  The breadwinner in the family, he has to keep his composure and look after his ailing mother.

The family’s income is boosted by their general merchandise stores in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.

“I have to be strong to boost their morale,” he said.

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.