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Lanao Lake: The Heart of Maranao People


Have you ever seen a breathtaking creation? Lanao Lake is one of the most attractive sites in the Philippines. Surrounded by the artistic and graceful Maranao community, it is famed to be the second largest and deepest lake in the archipelago.

by Jane Dacumos on August 05, 2013
Lanao Lake: The Heart of Maranao People

Have you ever seen a breathtaking creation? Lanao Lake is one of the most attractive sites in the Philippines. Surrounded by the artistic and graceful Maranao community, it is famed to be the second largest and deepest lake in the archipelago.

Myth behind the Lanao Lake

Forefathers believed that there was once a giant called Umacaan, known as the man-eating giant. He was so enormous that his arms, when spread sidewards, have the combined length of thirty kilometers. At that time, no one dared to come out to the mountains for fear of losing their lives at the hands of the giant.

News about Umacaan reached as far as the kingdom of Bumbaran and it came to the knowledge of two brave princes, Rajah Indarapatra and Rajah Soliman. They planned to kill the man-eater but they didn’t leave at the same time. Rajah Soliman went ahead to Lanao first but unfortunately, Umacaan tricked Soliman, cutting him into several pieces.

When Rajah Indarapatra reached Lanao, he was informed by a spirit-queen about the fate of his brother. His anger welling, he swore to avenge the death of his brother. The spirit-queen gave him a magic sword to enable him to defeat the giant.

When Rajah Indarapatra and Umacaan met, they began to fight. Umacaan pulled several trees and hurled them at Rajah Indarapatra who was quick to dodge and get out safely. Next, the giant reached for some soft clay and formed big round balls out of it and threw them successively at the prince. Once more the quick Rajah Indarapatra made swift plunges to avoid getting hit by the round clay balls so that some of them fell into the lake while the others landed on the plains and turned into hills and mountains that surround the famous Lanao Lake. When Rajah Indarapatra had his turn, he used the magic sword against Umacaan that led to the death of the giant.

Today, if one is going to visit Lanao Lake, you will notice the small floating islands all around the lake. These islands were believed to have formed out of the clay balls Umacaan threw at Rajah Indarapatra that fell into the lake, while the hills and mountains that surround the lake came from those clay balls that landed on the plains and dried over time.

The Maranao Lake: A description

"... To the lake they have bound their identity: in their own eyes and in the eyes of the outsiders they are Maranaos, the People of the Lake. On its shores they established their villages and towns and built their mosques. With its depths they gather fish, accross its spans they transport goods and people, from it they take water for drinking and cleaning. Each boulder and island in the lake, each hill and valley in the land surrounding it, is woven into the legends and epics of the people. And each Maranao can willingly trace his ancestry to the original pat-a-phangampong - four encampments on the lake, and their mythical founders. Thus it is with some justification and no little pride that the Meranaos consider the Lake Lanao "Our Lake." –Lindy Washburn, "Our Lake for Others? The Maranao and the Agus River Hydroelectric Project," Research Bulletin, Vol. III, Nos. 3 & 4 (November-December 1977), 17 pp.

The life of Maranao people centers on the Lake, which is the beating heart of Maranao’s homeland and culture. It gives life to one of Mindanao’s most colorful cultures. The lake is one of the 15 ancient lakes in the world. It sits serenely in the volcanic basin of Ranao, with lots of stories spinning around it in more than a million of years.

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