Here's one I've been wanting to write about and it starts with this sentence in Bisaya - gahimo silag kwarta sa Tugaya. Translated, it means "they make money in Tugaya," literally. Tugaya being the lakeside municipality in Lanao del Sur, around 2 hours drive away from my hometown of Iligan City. I heard this often growing up and I secretly referred to it as the Tugaya myth.
Tugaya seemed like this really mysterious place where no one I know has been. And that says a lot considering we spent several years of my early childhood living inside the MSU Marawi campus, which is less than an hour away today from Tugaya. It continued to be a fascinating mystery until I finally got to visit last year for Malingkat. And I regret not going sooner.
I also know now why people say they make money in Tugaya. It is after all the arts and crafts capital of Lanao del Sur, where the Maranao people's vibrant handmade cultural traditions continue to exist today. In this unassuming and quiet community beside Lake Lanao live craftsmen and women whose creations are found in some of the country's most prestigious places and elegant homes, the Malacañang Palace included.
My childhood myth was busted, but the reality I discovered was so much better. It's true what one of the cultural mappers told me - "there is an artisan in every household in Tugaya." From woodcarvers to brassmakers to weavers to embroiderers, art thrives in every home. It is the heart of Maranao cultural identity, where their history and tangible heritage is told through the skills passed from one generation to another and through culturally significant pieces like intricate carvings, beautiful woven textiles, and exquisite brass decors, to name a few.
If indeed there's a group of people who can create money (or coins at the very least) with their hands and simple tools, the talented artisans of Tugaya can.
Special thanks to the following for their assistance and support during our visit: Hon. Vice Mayor Alber Noral Balindong, Abu Waqeel Pangcoga (MTU), Cultural Mapping Team composed of Caironisah Guroalim, Aisah Bato, Najmah Cader, and Anana Alcader, Ahmad Nouraldinn Tamano, Jr., and my aunts who went with me - Prof. Doris Dinoro and Tata Borja.