Bangsa Moro, culture, History, socio-cultural

Mranaos and the Bicolanos

This is another of my lost blogposts which was saved by the Internet. Thanks to humans or Internet bots, I can put this back in the blogosphere. These free webhosts should at least warn their users that their closing shop. I maintained that particular blog for several years, including designing the site. I chose a 3-column template and created my own widgets.

reflections blog title 2mranaos and bicolanos

In Luzon, only the Bicol Province is known for its people’s love of hot chili pepper. For somebody who comes from Mindanao, I find the Bicolanos’ penchant for chilis interesting. The Moros love chilis – the hotter the better. The fact that Bicolanos also love gata (coconut milk) is another interesting matter for the Moros. Moros love gata.

The similarity between Bicol food and Maranao food is totally uncanny. The Bicolanos love eels which they call kasili. The Maranaos also love eels, which they also call kasili.

Like the Bicolanos, I am fond of sili and gataGinataang manok is normal fare in Moro households. We also have pinangat, but with beef instead of pork. Kasili, of course, is a Maranao specialty. Barracuda is also a favorite fish among Maranaos.

These cannot be just coincidences. There is a town called Polangui in Albay. Pulangui is the great river in Maguindanao. Naga, which means serpent and is the motif of Maranao art, is the name of a city in Bicol.

A few years ago, a Maranao friend told me that he just came from Bicol where he stayed for some months. He said that to his surprise, the Bicol language was practically the same as the Maranao language. There are indeed many words that are the same for both languages such as kasili. The quintessential Bicolano term Uragon is also a Maranao word.

A few years ago, I finally solved the riddle. I read an historical book that recounted the Moro Wars in detail. It appeared that for at least a hundred years, the Moros constantly raided Luzon and Visayas. Bicol, being the southernmost tip, was the Moros’ landing point in Luzon. They also made a base in Masbate. In fact, many Moros actually settled in Bicol. This explained the culinary and even linguistic similarities between Bicol and Moro, especially Maranao, culture. During the Moro Wars, the Moro raids against the Spanish settlements in Luzon and Visayas were “multi-national” with contingents from Lanao, Maguindanao, Buayan, Sulu and even from Borneo and Moluccas. Apparently, some Maranaos got quite attached to the charms of Bicolandia.

Some years ago, an elderly officemate told me that when he was a child in Camarines, just before the sun sets, the parents used to call the kids to stop playing and come home by yelling “the Moros are coming!” He said they used to be so scared of “the Moros” although they never saw one. That was in the 1940’s. This must have been the long-term effect of the Moro raids in Bicol.

BICOL_MayonEven the myths of the Bicolanos also point out to Moro influences. The world’s most perfect cone-shaped volcano Mt. Mayon has a story behind it.  The volcano is named after Daragang Mayon (Lady Mayon). She had many suitors – Datu Laky, Rajah Malumay, Sultan Karim and Datu Buhawin. Interestingly, they all had Moro titles.

Historians and cultural anthropologists should do studies on the historical relationship between the Moros and the Bicolanos



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  1. I would repeat and recommend what the author of this article had said: Historians and cultural anthropologists should do studies on the historical relationship between the Moros and the Bicolanos.
    My heart’s bleeding for my country, our historians and cultural anthropologists are somewhere else in the world, must be doing something else too. If not, where the heck are they? Our children deserve the information. We deserve the information.

Comment by womanwhowrites — March 26, 2009 @ 5:16 am

  1. interesting… likewise, i share the same observation. Hope they can do some studies on these. I am half maranaw and bicolano, who grew up 10 minutes away from polangi albay. municiplaity of guinobatan. Even the name of the town, “guinobatan” means trees uprooted. Legend tells us that moros, raided the municipality and started uprooting some trees in search of a golden bell. true or not? dont know… but the mention of moros was quite interesting!

Comment by yahya villareal basman — October 18, 2009 @ 12:59 pm


I just read your blog and then ran a quick search, I can’t believe no one else seems to have written about the relationship.  The entire duality/hybridity issue of Moros/Christians from our corner of the world can comprise a book in itself.  It is the dynamics of the erasure vs/or strategic concealment; embedding/disembedding of the Moro/Christian identities that I find fascinating– the Moro resilience despite the dominance (and silent coercion of) of Christian culture.  Pls. keep me in the loop in case you get to do any further research in this area! … Thank you again for such an engaging exchange of thoughts!

Cheryll  – Oct. 12, 2011 9:35 pm

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