The Aga Khan Museum of the Mindanao State University

The Aga Khan Museum is located inside the Mindanao State University Campus in Marawi, Philippines. The museum was donated by Prince Karim Aga Khan in 1962. It is the only museum in the Philippines that houses artifacts of the Moro culture. There are 13 Moro tribes in the Philippines, namely, the Maranao, Maguindanao, Tausug, Iranon, Yakan, Kalagan, Samal, Sangir, Kalibugan, Molboganun, Palawanis, Jama Mapun, and Badjao.

Seeing the artifacts was such a great experience. As cliché as it may sound, I really felt like I was going back in time. The Moro people had great passion for beauty and details. The choice of materials for their different things in the house, tools, and weapons were magnificent. Hard wood, metals, woven cloth, and precious stones were the favorites of these tribes.

These tribes were incredibly masters of ancient art and technology and were experts in their own field. Some were good in fishing, farming, carpentry, pottery, armory, and trading. According to history, these early settlers were industrious, intelligent, and rich.

They were also in to arts, music, and dance. These media portray a lot of the Moro culture. Different stories in their culture like courtship, marriage, tribal wars, and legends are present in the paintings, dances, and music. They were also involved in trading with the Chinese, but when the Spanish invaded the peaceful and flourishing archipelago, the blooming civilization was disturbed.

Some tribes of the Philippines were invaded by the foreigners, they resisted with swords and pens, but they recovered the land but they were still influenced and changed. However some of the Moro tribes remained the same in culture and religion and resisted the invasion. Even at this present time, even though the Moros are already modernized, they still have the culture and remain distinct from other Filipinos.

While I was touring the Museum, I imagined myself to be in that era. The beautiful clothes, jewelry, head dresses looked really elegant. The houses were made of hard wood with intricate carvings on every corner. Different tools ranging from kitchen utensils to fishing and farming paraphernalia, and weapons were all decorated with the famous patterns of the Moro tribes.

Shown here is a model house, it has posts that elevates it from the ground. The roof is big and in a way resembles the roof of the Pagoda of the Chinese. This type of house is common among the Maranao tribe.  They are one of the most well known. They experts in trading and they are known for their taste for grandeur and regality. While opposite to them is the sea-loving and expert divers called the Badjao tribe. They live in bamboo houses built on the seashore. They are known for their lowly living even up to this present time.

Shown here is an authentic ancient bed of the Maranao tribe. It is a king size bed. On one side of the bed where the head rests, there are two chests of precious belongings. The bed is fully decorated with carvings and woven cloth. It is the belief of the Moro that they will be able to bring their treasures in heaven. That is why it is important to them to put their precious properties close to them even during sleeping.

Aside from the bed, there are  lot of other things of these tribes that have attached meanings to them even their coffins, costumes, musical instruments, ornaments, and other things.

It was truly a great experience to see all of the artifacts in the Museum. I wish all of the other Filipinos and foreigners can visit the museum, it will help a lot in understanding the  culture of the Moro. In this way, understanding of the differences will promote peace in Mindanao and Prince Karim Aga Khan’s efforts will not be in vain.

Published in Philippines, Sightseeing

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Meet the Author

A lover of health science, travel, adventure, and heart pumping activities. A freelance writer and photographer that documents amazing and boring things of life through words and depicting pictures.


  1. Nate Harper

    Interesting post. Over here in Taiwan there are sveral aboriginal groups that still used their own language and practice some of their traditional customs, Some traditions have disappeared, unfortunately, like Head-hunting, but the tribes are still here and doing pretty well. Actually I think biologically and linguistically they are related to those tribes in your country. That’s what we’re told anyway

  2. loredana valles Post author

    Thanks! I’m not sure if they are related, the Moro tribes are from the group of early settlers called Malay. There are aboriginals here in the Philippines but they are not related to the Moro and they are called Aeta. but maybe you’re right. I’ll try to read about the tribes in Taiwan 🙂

  3. Jennifer Choban

    Great photos. Reading all of these posts is really making me want to get to the Philippines. I live in Mexico so I’m curious to see how much the Spanish culture took there.

  4. loredana valles Post author

    Thanks! The Spanish culture here in the Philippines is more on Roman Catholicism. The FIlipinos owe this religion to the Spaniards. Old infrastructures like churches, houses, and government buildings were also Spanish inspired. I hope you can visit the Philippines! 🙂

  5. Michael Jon Falk

    Dana, thanks for sharing, this is a nice way to explore and relate a museum tour. I really like museums and I just went to one recently but I remember wandering around thinking how could I even write about this experience. I feel like I received a nice history lesson and just imaged you were the tour guide at the museum…so…”oh dah – that’s how to do it” 🙂 Good job

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