One of the rare occasions I had visiting Lanao del Sur and in particular, the Islamic City of Marawi was when I went to the Municipality of Tugaya, the epicentre of arts and culture in all of the province as well as those in Mindanao and the Philippines. I am rather impressed of how creativity and craftsmanship ruled the municipality as every household virtually has something associated to arts and culture interwoven into their lives.
When I asked our guides why Tugaya becomes the epicentre of arts and culture of the people of Lanao del Sur, they matter-of-factly informed me and Habagat Central, that because the municipality has no agricultural opportunity and the land is one that is stony and vegetation is a virtual impossibility, they instead, shifted their energy into craftsmanship and into the arts.
The first family we had visited were makers of wooden chests in-laid with coral stones. The ones I saw in many shops in Manila are indeed came from Tugaya. They have so much to offer to those who wanted wooden products and their craftsmanship is unbelievably modernist and in keeping with the demands of the interior design and keeps on evolving.
The second family we visited were makers of handwoven clothing, mostly commonly called “malong” used by Maranao women in special occasions. Handwoven malong are best made in Tugaya and they have some distinct markings to separate it from those copying from their word. Mostly, these malongs are embroidered and are handcrafted. Impressively, they have preserved their family’s designs and traditions.
The third family we visited were makers of brassware and brass-related products. They shared to us that there is a dearth in the production of brassware and metal-base products due to an expensive raw materials, high demands of capital and limited market where their products can best be sold. A family then offered to show us the finished products they produced and I was enthralled and impressed.
The Municipality of Tugaya is one destination in Lanao del Sur that serves the most definitive arts and crafts as well as creative spirit among the people of the lake, as the Maranaos are known for. I also observed that the Maranaos are the exceptional tribe of the 13 ethnolinguistic groups of Muslim Filipinos and those I am most proud to have shared to the mainstream Filipino culture and arts.