Memories of Marawi

 

Three years ago, the Asian Center for Journalism traveled to Northern Mindanao as part of Panglantaw Mindanao (Mindanao perspective), a project aimed at producing multimedia stories on Mindanao issues.

 

Armed with cameras, voice recorders and laptops, the team planned to reach as far as Marawi, the only city in the country that is predominantly Muslim.

 

Guides painted the picture of an unsafe haven, a place where natives were wary of outsiders. The team was told to not to linger in the city, advised against spending the night there, and told to leave by 4:00 p.m.

 

Once in Marawi, it was easy to see that strangers stood out by their dress and language, and drew the discomfiting attention and curiosity of locals. But it was also easy to see that Marawi is a treasure trove of stories, if only journalists could spend more time there.

 

The place was known for centuries as Dansalan, is inhabited mostly by Maranaos, and sits on the shores of Lake Lanao. Apart from politics and clan wars, Marawi abounds with stories about Muslim fashion, cuisine and architecture—the Torogan or native Maranao house a tourist must-see—not to mention the fact that Marawi hosts the main campus of the Mindanao State University, where Mindanao’s best and the brightest go for higher education.

 

The recent devastation of Marawi, resulting from the war between government and Muslim terrorists, prompted ACFJ to dig through its file and jog its memory. In this page, we feature a few of the snapshots the Panglantaw team took home, in remembrance of a once beautiful and now blighted city. – Luz Rimban

 

(Luz Rimban headed Panglantaw Mindanao’s Mobile Newsroom which was composed of journalists Germelina Lacorte, Mick Basa, Toto Lozano and Pam Chua. Panglantaw was done in partnership with the Mindanao People’s Peace Movement with support from the World Press Photo.)

 


The Islamic City
By Mick Basa

 

 


 

Marawi City is currently in the limelight, and we at the Asian Center for Journalism could not help but lament the violence that is destroying the country’s only Islamic City.

 

In remembrance, we are publishing some of the stories about Marawi ACFJ has produced under its project, Panglantaw Mindanao, which was supported by the World Press Photo and ran from 2011 to 2015.

 

The story below was written in 2014.

 

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Puzzling over Marawi’s Beef Rendang
Text by Germelina Lacorte
Photos by Mick Basa, Pam Chua, Germelina Lacorte, and Toto Lozano

 

Among the Maranao dishes becoming increasingly popular both among visitors and the local people of Marawi, beef randang sits side by side with the yellow rice and other yellow dishes high in turmeric, and rich in hot spices and coconut milk, the signature favorites among the Maranaos.

 

“If there’s ever a food that Maranaos can really be proud of, something that really reflects the heart and soul of the Maranao, it has to be the beef randang,” Marawi city tourism officer Zenaida Banto told the team of the Panglantaw Mindanao Mobile Newsroom at the Marawi City Hall.

 

“You can tell he’s a Maranao if he eats all those yellow dishes,” Banto said as she bade us look for Maranao restaurants as soon as we arrived.

 

But just as we were looking for the dish at the market, our young Maranao guides Aina Macalandong and Naira Sampao, were puzzling over whether or not beef randang is really a Maranao dish.

 

Both grew up in Marawi but never recalled having it as part of their childhood. “The carabao meat with coconut milk and spices, yes, but not the beef,” recalled Naira, with Aina strongly agreeing. Naira even recalled asking her grandmother about it only to be told that except for the spices, which included the indigenous Marawi herb palapa, the turmeric and the coconut milk, beef randang may not really be originally from Marawi, after all.

 

“It is something that we have only in our generation,” says Naira, who loves the taste of the dish and admits looking for it every time she goes to a Muslim restaurant. “It’s something new in Marawi, because of the beef.”

 

At the Marawi Resort Hotel and Restaurant inside the Mindanao State University campus, Irma Mariano, head of the restaurant’s food and beverage section, told us the restaurant was cooking the dish with beef, but the Maranaos usually cook it with the carabao meat (cara-beef), favorite meat among the Maranaos.

 

Ordering lunch at the restaurant, we happened to talk about beef rendang long before we tasted it, and we realized it was such a contentious topic.  For even the name of the dish, itself, could be a reason for a fight; whether spelled with an “a” the way Naira and Aina pronounced it “randang,” or with an “e” the way people call the dish “rendang,” in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, as Mariano cited the Indonesian and Malaysian cookbooks that she read.

 

But fellow journalist Mick Basa, who has devotedly been learning Bahasa, said the “e” in the Indonesian rendang is pronounced as a “schwa” or somewhere in between an “e” and an “a” like they do in Bahasa. Irma admitted she never got a taste of the beef rendang in Indonesian cookbooks, but the way that they cook it, is almost the same as the way the Marawi Resort and Restaurant Hotel prepares and cooks the dish in Marawi.

 

“Most people have it dry, because it is designed to preserve the meat,” said Mariano.  Another book, “Southeast Asian Food” written by Rosemary Brisenden, particularly traced the origin of the beef rendang in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia to an ethnic tribe known as Maningkabau in Western Sumatra, who spell the dish as randang.

 

But talking about the dish is quite different from tasting it. When it arrived in a white ceramic platter, its succulent dark brown chunks oozing with flavors, everyone suddenly fell silent. Whether or not the beef rendang in Marawi is a tasty food to eat, is no longer a cause for debate.

 

 

(Germelina Lacorte is a an alumna of the Ateneo’s M.A. Journalism program. Mick Basa, Pam Chua and Toto Lozano are alumni of the Diploma in Photojournalism program. These programs were run by the Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism).