The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), now on its final year (before it is replaced by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region), is celebrating its last anniversary with a splash. As it has done in past anniversaries, the distinct and venerable cultures of Muslim Mindanao are being showcased in this year’s celebration called, “2018 Pakaradjaan sa ARMM”.
The festival is organized by the office of ARMM Governor Mujib Hataman, who said past anniversary celebrations of the ARMM have always focused on the colorful Bangsamoro heritage, history, culture, arts, and tradition. “This year won’t be different as we present the rich ethnicities of the various provinces and tribes that comprise Muslim Mindanao,” he said.
This one, however, is notably bigger and more lavish. The ARMM has converted its headquarters in Cotabato City into a Moro village where five life-size houses were built to capture the essence of the Moro lifestyles in five of the six member provinces of ARMM. The open grounds of ARMM’s Office of the Regional Center (ORC) have thus been transformed into a festive neighborhood.
ARMM is composed of the Mindanao provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, , Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
It’s not yet too late to visit the display in Cotabato City. “2018 Pakaradjaan sa ARMM” runs until December. Tourists who have visited the exhibit are marveling over the five houses, each of them built and designed to represent the distinct culture of the ARMM member provinces. The concepts for each house were the brainchild of the respective local government units (LGUs). The LGUs also shouldered the costs of building them, according to Governor Hataman.
In their own way, the houses serve as giant dioramas that present a sumptuous illustration of the traditions and lifestyles of the Bangsamoro . It’s also a competition since the best house will be chosen and given a prize at the end of the festival in December.
The province of Basilan is depicted in the Yakan house.
It was designed to showcase the works of the Yakan weavers. On display are the banigs, table runners, baskets, blankets, and pillows of various colors. Tourists are encouraged to try on the traditional costumes of the Yakans and shoot a colorful selfie inside the house.
On the ground floor, actual weavers are present to show their skills to visitors while an adjacent makeshift restaurant serves dishes from Basilan. They’re cooked and prepared by two ladies who own a restaurant in their home province, Nursidra Idris and Misra Indasan. Their specialty is served boodle fight style and presented with a mound of malagkit na kanin surrounded by various delicacies.
The Sulu province is represented by a house that recaptures the opulent living quarters of the Tausug sultan. It is adorned with mounds of carpets and colorful wall décor. The centerpiece is a large bed though it’s not exactly a private bedroom since the place is used to entertain the sultan’s visitors. The host sits on the majestic bed while visitors can sit on the banigs and have a feast. The food in the latal food containers at the foot of the sultan’s bed is always abundant.
This is a replica of “Astanah Darul Jambangan “ of the Sultanate of Sulu, the first centralized form of Government that reverberated to the High Royal Councils of Ternate, Makassar and Brunei w/ signed agreements and treaties w/ China, Netherlands, Spain, Great Britain, Germany and the United States of America. Unbroken geneology of Sultans Founded by the First Sulu Sultan Paduka Mahasari Maulana Shariful Hashim ( 1450 ), through a pioneered principality established by Rajah Baguinda ( 1390 ).
Like the Sulu residence, the house of the Maranaos of Lanao del Sur is glittered with gold and silver décor though it’s somewhat made more somber by the antique furniture made of hardwood. It’s more conventional in the sense that guests are entertained in a living room where coffee and local delicacies are also served in a latal and silverware.
If ever there was a traditional luxe house, it must have belonged to the sultans of Maguindanao. Not an inch of wood or wall is exposed. Everything is covered with colorful banig and wall décor. Like the Sulu house, this one has an elaborate bed for the Maguindanao sultan and layers of banig where his guests can relax. The room is large enough to welcome more hungry guests. There are more than a dozen latals containing local delicacies. It makes visitors presume that the buffet was invented in Maguindanao.
As with the other Moro tribes, the food in Maguindanao is served with eggs. Reportedly, eggs to the Moros are like noodles to the Chinese. The eggs signify a long and healthy life, happiness, and good luck. These good wishes are made to a person while he is still being carried in his mother’s womb.Hence the egg is present in every meal.
The house of Tawi-Tawi is more practical and less frivolous. The Badjaos live a life of simplicity and since fishing is theirlivelihood, the replica recreates a house in a fishing village. It sits over the sea on stilts and is surrounded by wooden planks and piers. Beyond the house is a model of the famous mountain of Tawi-Tawi, Bud Bongao.
Governor Hataman said the presentation of old Moro traditions during the ARMM anniversaries has become a tradition in itself. “They serve as a constant reminder of our unique customs and traditions, which must remain strong and alive for our future generations to appreciate and further cultivate. The old traditions of other provinces in the Philippines are already dying, because only a few members of the younger generations are willing to nurture them. The rest of them have chosen to migrate to the big cities,” he said.
Fortunately, much of the beloved customs of Muslim Mindanao continue to thrive since each generation has successfully passed them on to the next. Governor Hataman cited the legendary weavers of the Yakans, who hail from his own province, Basilan. Their products have been quickly gaining national recognition and prestige, he said.
Aside from visiting the houses, tourists can also witness and attend the other events being held at the festival:
July 23: Food Festival
August 24: Master Chef competition
September 21-23: ARMM Debate competition
October 17: Lanao del Sur Cultural Night
October 24: Tawi-Tawi Cultural Night
October 31: Sulu Cultural Night
November 7: Sheik Makhdum celebration
November 14: Basilan Cultural Night
November 19: ARMM Cultural Night, street dancing competition, peace concert
November 21: Maguindanao Cultural Night
November 26: Moro Walk
December 4-7: Moro Film Festival
December 7-9L: SportsPeace – Moro Sports Festival
December 19: Shariff Kabunsuan Festival, Closing Program and Awards Night, Fluvial Float competition
All events happen at the ARMM Compound in Cotobato City and are open to the public for free.