Philippines // Mindanao //

Marawi and Lake Lanao

Nestled on the shores of Lake Lanao just 25km south of Iligan, MARAWI is the centre of the Islamic religion in the Philippines: 92 percent of the population is Muslim. During the Marcos years, the area around Marawi was where kidnappers were said to hide their victims, but these days the city is generally peaceful, with incidents related to the fight for Muslim autonomy exceedingly rare; visiting with a driver and a guide is still recommended, however (contact Iligan tourist office).

Marawi’s greatest natural attraction is placid Lake Lanao, which sits in a green bowl circled by distant mountains. It’s the second largest lake in the Philippines and easy to explore via a circumferential road; there are said to be some 350 mosques ringing the lake and it’s the best place to see striking torogans, the traditional wooden homes of Marawi’s upper class.

Marawi has no tourist office, but the staff at the Marawi Resort Hotel (t063/520-981; P500–999), on the Mindanao State University campus (which has the best views of the lake), have good local knowledge. It’s also the best place to stay in the area, a quiet establishment surrounded by greenery with a good choice of well-maintained rooms. Also on the campus is the Aga Kahn Museum, which has an interesting collection of Moro art from Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan. The palitan is a two-storey market in the heart of the city where you can find virtually any type of clothing, from jeans to traditional tribal garments, colourful raw cloth and batik products, gold jewellery, exquisite wooden chests and brassware, manufactured in the nearby barangay of Tugaya. The city’s annual festival is the Kalilang (April 10–15), which is dominated by Koran-reading competitions and traditional singing and dancing.