Tugaya Behind the Myth

Tugaya Behind the Myth

It's been quite a while since I shared a Sunday story. Not from lack of stories, but motherhood, running an enterprise and a household, and the occasional K-drama get in the way. ;)

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 the Arts and Crafts Capital of Lanao del Sur by Malingkat Weaves

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.

Faw Maridul founder of Malingkat Weaves visits Tugaya Lanao del Sur and meets Maranao artisans

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.

Maranao artisans from Tugaya Lanao del Sur captured by Malingkat Weaves
Thanks to the Municipal Government of Tugaya and their hardworking team of cultural mappers, I was able to meet some of the highly regarded Maranao culture bearers, who welcomed me into their homes and generously shared their time and stories. A day is not enough and it'll definitely take more than one blog post to talk about everyone I met and the things I learned. But it was a good start to forge new partnerships and co-create new Malingkat pieces that showcase the beauty of Muslim Mindanao, starting with our Maranao tabletop baor collection. It is a collaboration with Kuya Amin, an expert in okir carving prominent in his designs for mirror frames, kris handle and sheath and the popular baor (wooden storage chest/trunk).
Maranao Baor by Malingkat Weaves and Woodcarving Tools in Tugaya Lanao del Sur

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.

Different Maranao cultural products handmade by artisans of Tugaya Lanao del Sur captured by Malingkat Weaves

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. 




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