Taraka: Lanao del Sur’s cultural hotspot

Ayo Gunting - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The province of Lanao del Sur is one of those few rare places that has managed to preserve its natural beauty and history amidst the emerging threat of urbanization.

As the province celebrates 55 years of its foundation this year, the cultural richness of the place continues to emanate in its people.

The Maranaos, which refer to “the people of the lake,” make up the ethnic Muslim group that inhabits the two Lanao provinces.

With Maranao culture remaining strong and intact even after so many decades, the municipality of Taraka has managed to stay at the forefront of Lanao’s cultural conservation and promotion.

Taraka, considered as one of the oldest, rustic municipalities in the area, boasts of numerous historical sites that are truly Maranao.

Within the municipality is where Baab Ur-Rahman Masjid, the oldest mosque in Lanao, is found.

The Masjid, which is almost 300 years old to date, is one of the earliest historical landmarks of Islam in the Philippines and is the second earliest mosque built in the country.

Aside from the very historical Masjid, Taraka also happens to be one of the few places in the country which still has the Dibarosan, a stone head used for the purpose of having the death penalty for condemned criminals.

The Dibarosan has since been regarded as a symbol of discipline among Maranaos.

Inside an old house in Salamatullah, Gapao Balindong, meanwhile, is where another important piece of Maranao culture is located.

Called Abdans or Gusis, these huge Chinese manufactured stonewares attest to the affluence of Taraka as an important trade destination in the basak area or farmlands during the early days.

There are so many municipalities in Lanao that are home to lakeside torogans. Torogans, regarded as the living testament of Maranao artistry, are antique royal houses with a high, breathtaking roof adorned with intricate carving and supported by whole tree trunks.

The torogans are now considered as heritage sites which the local government is trying to maintain, despite neglect over time and with some Maranaos favoring modern designs using cement with many balustrades and iron grills.

With all these Maranao treasures found at the very heart of Taraka, the local government on its part is doing its best to ensure that future generations of Maranaos will still be able to see and enjoy these cultural and historic sites.

“The present administration continues to build and rehabilitate vital infrastructures such as farm-to-market roads, construction of flood river control, hanging bridges and multi-purpose halls. Apart from these, through a well-defined development plan, this administration’s priority is to promote its rich traditions and customs to develop its tourism potentials,” said neophyte Mayor Nashiba Sumagayan.

Taraka, through the new leadership of Mayor Sumagayan, is also making sure it is keeping pace with Lanao del Sur’s growth and positive development over the past 54 years. “We support the vision of Gov. Mamintal A. Adiong Jr.,” Sumagayan adds.

“Taking the cue from the achievements of the past administration, I have decided to continue certain initiatives. This includes the commitment of empowering the community, the attainment of a quality education, a health system that is accessible, affordable, acceptable and available, a high standard quality of life imbued with positive values, a first-class municipality through equitable and sustainable agricultural, economic and integrated human development in culture of peace and unity,” Sumagayan said.


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