Lanao del Sur

The lake of Lanao lies to the west of a plateau and dominates the province of Lanao del Sur. The plateau is sealed from the Pulangi lowlands by the high Piapayungan ridge but loses elevation towards the southwest, and meets with the sea at Illana Bay. The coast is regular, with few good anchorages. The province is bordered on the north by Lanao del Norte, on the east by Bukidnon and on the south by Maguindanao and North Cotabato. The climate is cool and rainfall is constant throughout the year.



The region around the lake and the coast around Iligan Bay was settled by the Maranaos, which means 'people of the lake'. Maranao folklore holds that Islam came to the area via the northern coast and brought by a certain Sharif Alawi. In the 17th century, the Maranaos were allied with the powerful Maguindanao Sultan Kudarat. The Spaniards tried to gain control the region and in 1639 sent an expedition that succeeded in capturing Dansalan. The Spaniards held the town for two years, but were forced to withdraw because of the continued hostility of the people. Malabang on the southern coast of Lanao del Sur was an important staging ground of raids on the Visayan and Luzon settlements.

As Maguindanao power waned in the 18th and 19th century, the Maranaos established a string of sultanates around the lake free of both Spanish and Maguindanao control.. Towards the end of Spanish domination in the Philippines, the Spaniards attempted to subdue the Maranaos. In 1891, Spanish troops seized the town of Malabang on the southern coast along Illana Bay. In 1894, a Spanish force from Iligan captured and fortified Marahui and gunboats were brought into the lake in an attempt to assert Spanish power. The Spanish presence was withdrawn after the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution and American troops arrived in 1900. The Maranaos refused to yield to American rule and in March 1902, the first of a series of clashes occurred between American and Maranao forces.

Lanao was created as a district of Mindanao in 1895. In 1903, Lanao was incorporated into the Moro Province by the American government. The province of Lanao was born in 1914 with the organization of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu. In 1959, Lanao was divided along ethnic lines by virtue of Republic Act No. 2228.

Lanao del Sur figured prominently in the Muslim-Christian struggle in the 1970s. In October 1972 the city of Marawi was attacked and briefly occupied by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) guerrillas in one of the most dramatic episodes of the secessionist war. Sporadic incidents drove many residents to seek safety in secure settlements. Lanao del Sur continued to be a stronghold of the MNLF until peace was signed in 1996.

In 1979 following peace agreements between the Philippine government and the MNLF, Lanao del Sur became part of the autonomous regional government of Central Mindanao. In 1989, the province voted to become one of the four provinces comprising the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.


People, Culture and the Arts

This is the land of the Maranaos, or the "people of the lake". Guests are usually greeted with Assalum Alaikum, meaning ‘peace be with you’. The Maranaos were among the last major group to be Islamized but are the fiercest defenders of the faith. Maranaos hold firmly to the dictates of traditional law called maratabat, a status sensitive regulation that governs their social relations and sanctions actions that would preserve and enhance their prestige.

The Maranao family is basically large and a household with 10 members is considered small. Even among the affluent, members of the same family live in the same house with the central room shared by as many as six nuclear families, with territories marked off by mats. This is also where they eat, sleep, and socialize.

The Maranaos are among the most artistic ethnic groups in the Philippines. They are best known for the sophistication of their weaving and their metal and wood crafts. They have produced probably the most spectacular of Philippine vernacular architecture with their impressive "Torogans", the great houses of royalty. The design motifs, which form the basis for their "okil" is one of the most systematized in the country. Among the more noted of the design motifs of their okil is the sari-manok and naga, which are abstract animate forms of a cock and the dragon or snake (symbol of power and bravery), respectively. The dugout boat they use in Lake Lanao—awang—is said to be most unique of dugouts in the country, if not the most ornate. It is long, low and sleek, and showcase a rainbow of brilliant colors.

Maranao textiles are famous for their very ornate designs and colors, which reflect the status of the wearer. The tube skirt, malong, is a very versatile article of clothing which serve many purposes. Violets, purples, greens, reds, yellows, in floral and geometric designs abound during market days on the shores of Lake Lanao.. The women are resplendent in their finery, with matching jewelry dangling from their ears, necks, and wrists, as if to make-up for the monotonous dress the men wear. However, the men gain stature by wearing certain headgear, such as white caps signifying their having made a trip to Mecca. The trip is almost a religious obligation to be fulfilled by all Muslim men.

This Muslim group celebrates Islamic festivals (kalilangs) with devotional feastings and exercises. During festive days, one sees members of royalty accompanied by their parasol bearers. There are lots of outdoor games like horse racing. Another feature of the kalilang is dancing. People perform the world- renowned singkil. This dance takes its name from the bells worn on the ankles of the princess. Perhaps one of the oldest of truly Filipino dances, the singkil recounts the epic legend of the "Darangan". Written sometime in the 14th century, it recounts the fateful story of Princess Gandingan, who was caught in the middle of a forest during an earthquake caused by the diwatas, or fairies of the forest. The crisscrossed bamboo poles represent the trees that were falling, which she gracefully avoids. Her slave loyally accompanies her throughout her ordeal. Finally, she is saved by the prince. Dancers skillfully manipulate apir, or fans, which represent the winds that prove to be auspicious.


Trade and Investments

The province of Lanao del Sur has a land area of 4,215 square kilometers filled with lakes and rivers, and terrain of plateaus, hills, volcanoes and mountain ranges. Timberland forms 65.6 % of the province while the remaining 34.2% is classified as alienable and disposable. The province has a water area of 340.39 square kilometers wide composed mostly of lakes and swamps. The climate is temperate and rainfall is even. The population of 686,193 is spread over 37 municipalities. The labor force is pegged at 148,000.

Lanao del Sur is only 36 kilometers from Iligan City and 137 kilometers away from Cagayan de Oro City. The province is connected to other provinces through a network of roads that also links Lanao del Sur to the international seaport in Maguindanao and the airport in Lanao del Norte. The total road network stretches to about 3,850 kilometers. Lanao del Sur has an airport in Malabang and 31 municipal ports. Electricity is not a problem as there are 7 hydro-electric power plants operating in the province. Similarly, water supply is adequate although much of the source comes form deep and shallow wells. The province has 9 private radio telegraph stations and 31 government maintained telecommunication facilities as well as postal offices in all the municipalities.

The primary investment opportunity in Lanao del Sur is tilapia culture and crab fattening ventures. Given the large are of water suitable for inland fishponds production, capacities could also easily support processing activities. Plantations and nurseries for a variety of fruit species is another investment option. Lanao del Sur also has its own share of beautiful sites like Lake Lanao, Pomalion Spring, lake Butig, Tula-tula beach, Matling Falls and Lake Dapao. These areas are open to investment on tourist accommodation facilities.





Lanao del Sur


Mamintal M. Adiong


Marawi City

Income/Financial Resources (1999)

P339.9 M

Income classification (1996)

Not Specified

Expenditure (1998)

P262.8 M

Population (2000 projection)


Labor Force (1998)


Land area

11,354 sq. kms.

Major dialects/languages

Maranao, Cebuano

No. of Barangays





(38) Baolod Grande ( Bacolod-Kalawi), Balabagan, Balindong, (Watu), Bayang, Binidayan, Buadiposo Buntong, Bubong, Bumbaran, Butig, Calanogas, Ditsaan-Ramain, Ganassi, Kapai, Kapatagan, Lumba-Bayabao (Maguing)., Lumbatan, Lumbayanague, Madalum, Madamba, Maguing, Malabang, Marantao, Marogong, Masui, Mulondo, Pagayawan (Tatarikan), Piagapo, Poona Bayabao (Gata), Pualas, Saguiaran, Sultan Gumander, Tagoloan II, Tamparan, Taraka, Tubaran, Tugaya, Wao

Infrastructure facilities




Major products

Cassava, palay, corn, coconut, banana, abaca, rootcrops, coffee, fruits, vegetables

Natural resources

Agricultural lands, inland fishing grounds, timber

Indigenous people

Maranao, Iranun


Development Initiative Highlights:

  • To improve the delivery of basic services
  • To promote better peace and order condition
  • To develop the province's tourism potentials