FAST FACTS: Marawi City

Aika Rey

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FAST FACTS: Marawi City
As the clashes ensue, will we still be able to witness the beauty of the Islamic City of Marawi?

MANILA, Philippines – Marawi City is ground zero of the Maute Group’s attack which started Tuesday, May 22.

Clashes erupted on Tuesday as the military moved to hunt down Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was spotted in the city. (READ: Marawi Clash: Special coverage)

According to the military, the street-to-street battles in the area have killed 19 civilians.

More than the clash, what do we know about the city?

Here’s a quick run down of facts about Marawi:

Islamic City

Marawi is the capital of Lanao del Sur province, situated in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

It is a fourth class city with a land area of 87.55 square kilometers, subdivided into 96 barangays. Majul Usman Gandamra is the declared mayor of Marawi, following an electoral protest against the close-contender Omar Ali.

According to the 2015 census, it is inhabited by 201,785 people – the most populous city in ARMM. (READ: Over 55,000 people forced to flee homes in Marawi)

It has always been predominantly Muslim since Islam was introduced to the native population in the 14th century. On April 1980, it was declared “Islamic City of Marawi” through a city council resolution.

The people of Marawi are called Maranaos, named after Lake Lanao which borders the eastern side of the city. Maranao is among the ethnic group that make up the wider Moro people. (READ: 80% of Marawi evacuated, gov’t vows ‘maximum power’)

Name origin

Before Marawi was known for its current name, it was first called as “Dansalan” which means “destination point”.

During the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, multiple attempts were done by Spanish troops to conquer Dansalan. It was only then in 1895 that the colonizers defeated the Maranao warriors. (READ: Students walk 32 kilometers to flee Marawi City)

When the Americans came, they continued the campaign against Maranaos. As the place flourished as a trading hub, non-Maranaos, mostly Chinese and Christian families, were invited to settle in the area.

In 1907, Dansalan was officially created as a municipality under the Moro Province Legislative Council. It was declared as the capital of then Lanao province.

Following Commonwealth Act No. 592 in 1940, Dansalan was converted into city. It was the last city chartered under the Commonwealth of the Philippines.


LAUINDAB TOROGAN. The ruins of Laguindab Torogan in Ganassi. Photo by Potpot Pinili/Rappler

Marawi City is also known as the “Summer Capital of the South” for its cool climate due to its high elevation, a nickname it shares with Malaybalay City in Bukidnon. The city stands 700 meters above the sea level.

It is home to stunning sights – from the grand Lake Lanao to the architectural wonders of Maranao royalty abode. (READ: Exploring Lanao del Sur: 6 things the world is missing out on)

Another famous landmark in the area is the King Faisal Mosque, named after the former king of Saudi Arabia who financed its construction. It is the biggest mosque in Marawi. (READ: Beautiful mosques in the Philippines)

The biggest campus of the Mindanao State University system is also in Marawi, where the Kalilang Golf and Country Club can be found. The golf course gives a majestic view of Lake Lanao.

In the city proper, a Kilometer Zero marker can be found which used to be the reference point of all roads in Mindanao.

The violence in Marawi prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao to quell what he said was a fast-growing threat of militants linked to the Islamic State terrorist group.

As the clashes ensue, will we still be able to witness the beauty of Marawi after schools and jails were burnt down, mosque and chapels were closed, and now considered a ghost town–

Source: Lanao del Sur government

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at