The Maranao inhabit mainly the Lake Lanao region in the northwestern section of Mindanao, the Philippines, located between 7°30′ and 8°30′ N and 124°00′ and 125°00′ E. "Maranao" means "people of the lake." The Maranao language is an Austronesian language. Closely affiliated with the Maranao is a group or subgroup possibly antecedent to the Maranao, varyingly called Iranon, Iranun, Illanun, and Ilanon. The Maranao number approximately 840,000 persons (1983), and are the second-largest Muslim group after the Maguindanao in the Philippines. Roughly 90 percent of the Maranao live in the province of Lanao del Sur, with the remainder living in Lanao del Norte and parts of Cotabato, Zamboanga del Sur, and Bukidnon. The mercantile, cultural, and educational center of the Maranao is Marawi (formerly Dansalan), the capital of Lanao del Sur.
The Maranao are primarily an inland group, comparatively isolated until recently from coastal peoples and the influence of colonial powers. Of the major Muslim groups in the Philippines, the Maranao were the last to be converted to Islam. They were a rallying point for partisan activity against the Spanish, the Americans, the Japanese, and the Republic of the Philippines, particularly during times of martial law. Many Maranao are strongly resistant to a centralized Philippines government, with some openly revolting against it. They prefer a federal form of government, with more regional autonomy, or, alternatively, secession, so as to be able to align themselves with a Muslim country or to become an independent nation.
Maranao villages are made up of a few nucleated households: several families may live under one roof in a food-sharing relationship. A typical Maranao dwelling has no partitions inside. On both walls of the house are sleeping quarters with an aisle down the center. Each family occupies one sleeping quarter. In the rear of the dwelling is a communal kitchen.
The Maranao are principally farmers and fishermen. The eastern part of Lake Lanao is fertile for rice cultivation. Fertile land has brought surpluses of maize, peanuts, sweet potatoes, coffee, citrus fruits, and exotic varieties of tropical fruits. Cottage industries such as cloth and mat weaving, wood carving, and metalwork in brass, silver, and gold are popular. Maranao are known for selling straw mats, yard goods, blankets, and metalware throughout the Philippines.
Kinship is traced bilaterally, hence membership in several villages at one time is common. Maranao conceive of villages as communities where people share a common descent instead of territory. Rank and privilege are determined by an individual's personal skills (e.g., as orator, Quran reader, or authority on law), and distinction as a leader.
The Maranao version of Islam includes many elements of pre-Islamic belief and ritual, particularly those connected with agriculture, the spirit world, and the cycles of nature. Islamic beliefs strongly reflect Sufi influence, especially in vocabulary and chants at rituals.
See also Maguindanao
Chaffe, Frederick H. (1969). Area Handbook for the Philippines. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.
Majul, Cesar Adib (1973). Muslims in the Philippines. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.
Riemer, Carlton L. (1984). "Maranao." In Muslim Peoples: A World Ethnographic Survey, edited by Richard V. Weekes, 495-499. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.