Prayer Profile
The Magindanaw of The Philippines

[IMAGE] The Magindanaw are one of many groups of "lowland" Filipinos. Apparently, they migrated to the islands from southwest Asia several thousand years ago. Today, they live primarily on the island of Mindanao, which is located in the Southern Philippines.

The name Magindanaw, meaning "people of the flood plain," was given to both the people and the island on which they live. They currently have a population of just over one million, few of whom are believers.

According to legend, the Magindanaw were converted to Islam by Sarip Kabungsuwan, a Muslim prince, who claimed to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. The legend states that he won his converts by a combination of his wisdom, the appeal of his message, and certain supernatural powers. This prince married a local woman who is said to have been born miraculously from a stalk of bamboo!

What are their lives like?
Traditional Magindanaw settlements were located near waterways. This allowed ease of transportation and communication by boat. Several of the major trading centers were also seats of political power, while other settlements along or near the waterways were controlled by datus (local chiefs).

This traditional pattern of settlement has been slowly altered by the building of roads that do not follow the natural course of the waterways. Large towns have sprung up along these highways, becoming new centers of commerce.

Today, the Magindanaw still produce nearly all of their own food. They grow a variety of crops, trap fish, and obtain wild foods from the marshes. Wet rice is grown in the lowlands, and dry rice and corn are farmed in the upland areas. Their diet includes yams, rice, tomatoes, squash, beans, coconuts; and for protein, goats, chickens, and eggs.

Those of highest rank in the society tend to be removed from manual labor. Among the rest, the men do the plowing, tilling, and other heavy farm work, while the women and children tend to the household duties.

Their art is confined mostly to weaving, basket making, and designing ornaments. Bright clothing, beaded jewelry, and other accessories make the apparel of the Magindanaw distinctive and colorful. Graceful dances are performed on special occasions to the music of gongs and other instruments.

The Magindanaw kinship system is traced through both of the parents. It is unusual, however, because it is modified by a system of social rank, certain rules of descent, and distinctive marriage patterns. Among the Magindanaw, social rank is considered to be less important than blood relationship.

There is a strong preference for marriage between relatives, especially marriage to second cousins. Most marriages are monogamous, although polygyny (having more than one wife) is permitted by Islamic law.

The blood feud is one of the most serious and distinctive types of conflict within the group. It usually results from a killing that involves different families or communities.

What are their beliefs?
Even though the Magindanaw are the largest group of Muslim Filipinos, their belief system is more a form of "folk Islam" than orthodox Islam. Their Islamic practices are usually mingled with animistic beliefs (belief that inanimate objects have spirits).

Muslim religious leaders and teachers (imams and panditas) preside over religious life. They also teach young schoolboys to read and memorize the Qu'ran. The Magindanaw regularly celebrate religious holidays and other festivals.

What are their needs?
Although the Magindanaw do not practice a strict form of Islam, any form of Islam is hard to penetrate. Some Christian radio and television broadcasts are available for the Magindanaw, but there have been very few responses to them. Only portions of the Bible have been translated into the Magindanaw language.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to the Philippines and share Christ with the Magindanaw.
  • Pray that God will raise up an army of intercessors who will faithfully stand in the gap for the Magindanaw.
  • Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Maguindanaon language.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to prepare the hearts of the people for the Gospel.
  • Pray for God to encourage, strengthen, and protect and the small number of Magindanaw believers.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to give the missions agencies creative ideas with which to reach the Muslim Magindanaw.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Magindanaw by the year 2000.

See also the following related groups:
of Indonesia, the Bajau and Joloano Sulu;
of Malaysia, the Bisaya, Northern Sinama, Southern Sama, and Tausug;
of the Philippines, the Bajau, Bajau Kagayan, Central Sama, Kalagan, Northern Sinama, Pangutaran Sama, Southern Sama, Tausug, and Yakan.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Magindanaw
  • Country: Philippines
  • Their language: Maguindanaon
  • Population: (1990) 951,100
    (1995) 1,057,500
    (2000) 1,166,900
  • Largest religion: Muslims (Shafites) 99.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 529
  • Scriptures in their own language: Portions
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 6
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 317,800 (30%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 42,800 (4%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 275,000 (26%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 739,700 (70%)
  • Country: Philippines
  • Population: (1990) 60,779,000
    (1995) 67,581,300
    (2000) 74,575,400
  • Major peoples in size order: Tagalog 20.5%
    Visayan 19%
    Ilocano 11.1%
    Hiligaynon 9.3%
    Waray-Waray 4.6%
  • Major religions: Christians 92.2%
    Muslims 6.0%
    Ethnic Religionists 0.6%
  • Number of denominations: 151

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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