When you hear “Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao” or “ARMM”, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Hopefully good things. Unfortunately, most, if not all, of my acquaintances would normally associate it to danger, terrorism, war, violence, corruption, and perhaps all sorts of negative things.
I cannot blame them though. Television, news and the social media portrayed the region as such for a very long time. The ARMM does not get in the primetime telecast or in the pages of any national paper if it is not about the war, or corruption and all those things that sell, or those that are good for “sound bites”.
But there is more to ARMM, than those fright-stimulating stuff, that we should all know about. Here are some of those:
IT IS THE ONLY AUTONOMOUS REGION IN THE PHILIPPINES
After decades of negotiations between the Philippine Government and the Moro revolutionaries, the ARMM was created August of 1989 by virtue of the Republic Act 6734, otherwise known as the Organic Act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, pursuant to the provision in the 1987 Constitution.
Initially, only the provinces of Lanao del Sur, with the exception of Marawi City, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi Tawi voted for inclusion in the autonomous region. Later in February 2001, R.A. 9054 was passed to expand the territory of the ARMM. Today, ARMM is composed of the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan (except Isabela City), Sulu and Tawi Tawi, and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.
As an autonomous regional government, it elects its Regional Governor, Regional Vice Governor, and members of the Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA)- something that is not present in other regions in the country.
The Regional Governor acts as the Chief Executive of the region, and has power and some extent of control over the provincial governments and the local government units. He appoints cabinet members and heads of offices to man devolved and locally created agencies, such as the Department of Education, Department of Health and Department of Social Welfare and Development, among others.
The RLA enacts laws for the region except on matters involving foreign affairs, national defense and security, postal service, coinage and fiscal and monetary policies, administration of justice, quarantine, customs and tariff, citizenship, naturalization, immigration and deportation, general auditing, national elections, maritime, land and air transportation, communications, patents, trademarks, trade names and copyrights, and foreign trade.
YOU WILL LOVE THE CULTURE
When I took my college degree, I studied in Mindanao State University in Marawi City, I joined the Sining Kambayoka Ensemble (SKE)- a multi-awarded theater group in the Philippines founded in 1974. Since then, I have learned to embrace and love the Moro culture.
ARMM has been home to several Moro ethno-liguistic tribes including Maranao, Maguindanao, Yakan, Tausug, Sama, Bajao, and Iranun. Each tribe has its own set of language, history, cultures, traditions, arts, music, and other practices that would amaze and astonish you.
Dances like the Singkil, has been widely known domestically and internationally, because of the grace and the level of difficulty required in its routine, the colorful and intricate costumes, and the wonderful sounds from the Kulintang and Agong.
The ARMM tapestry has also been known for its marvelous design and color. In fact, in the last Miss Universe pageant, the contestants sashayed their beauties wearing gowns and dresses made from the different weaves of different tribes such as the Landap from the Maranaos, the Inaul from the Maguindanaons, and the Tenun from the Yakan Tribe, among others.
THE ARMM CAPITOL IS ISO CERTIFIED
As part of its good governance advocacy, the Office of the Regional Governor, or the ARMM Capitol has established a Quality Management System (QMS) in order to make delivery of service more effective and efficient. Last December 2015, it was awarded with an ISO 9001:2008 Certification after series of audits by Tüv Rheinland.
ISO 9001:2008 is focused on meeting customer expectations and continually improving processes. Having an ISO 9001:2008 Certification means that an organization’s QMS is globally recognized, and has met internationally set standards.
ONE OF THE WORLD’S ANCIENT LAKE IS HERE
The Lake Lanao located in Lanao del Sur is included in the 20 ancient lakes in the world. Which means that the lake has been in existence for more than a million years. According to the World Lakes Website, Lake Lanao is about 2 to 2 Million years of age.
With a surface area of 375 sq.km., it is home to eighteen (18) endemic species of fish, and has been a good source of livelihood for many Maranaos in the province.
More importantly, Lake Lanao generates about 70% of electricity for the whole of Mindanao. So next time you flick a switch open, don’t forget to thank the second largest lake in the Philippines- the Lake Lanao in ARMM.
NUMBER ONE PRODUCER OF CASSAVA AND FISHERY PRODUCTS IN THE COUNTRY
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), ARMM leads the country in producing cassava and fishery products.
In its 2015 data, ARMM produced more than 800,000 metric tons of fishery products, and more than 400,000 metric tons of cassava.
Of course this is not all! There’s plenty and I will definitely write more about them! Watch out for it here!
So next time you will be asked about ARMM, hopefully the aforementioned facts will help you give a more positive answer.