The Sarimanok is a legendary bird of the Maranao people who originate from Mindanao, a major island in the Philippines. It comes from the words “sari” and “manok.” “Sari” means cloth or garment, which is generally of assorted colors. Manòk, which makes up part of its name, is a Philippine word for chicken.
It is the legendary bird that has become a ubiquitous symbol of Maranao art. It is depicted as a fowl with colorful wings and feathered tail, holding a fish on its beak or talons. The head is profusely decorated with scroll, leaf, and spiral motifs. It is said to be a symbol of good fortune.
The Sarimanok is derived from a totem bird of the Maranao people, called Itotoro. According to the Maranao people, the Itotoro is a medium to the spirit world via its unseen twin spirit bird called Inikadowa. According to the tradition, the sarimanok is never displayed by itself. It must be displayed with the set of flags, standards and vexilloids. At present, this is not totally true; sarimanok may be placed on the top of the umbrella of a Sultan or dignitary, and also, the Mindanao State University has adopted it for the graduation exercises following a non-traditional use.
Various versions of the legend of the sarimanok were recorded.
One legend tells of the daughter of the sultan of Lanao, named Sari. Sari was loved by her father and people because of her beauty and kindness. On her eighteenth birthday, a feast was set to celebrate the occasion. A cock/chicken (manok) with bright, glowing feathers flew into the middle of the feast, shocking all the people there. To everyone’s amazement, the cock transformed into a handsome prince.
The prince stated that he has been watching over and protecting Sari since she was born, and that it was time that he took her to be with him. With this he transformed back into a cock and took Sari, flying away into the sun. Both he and the princess were never seen again.
The loss of his daughter brought grief to the sultan and he had the best craftsman in his lands to carve an image of the magical cock that took her daughter.
Another version is about the romantic relationship between Raja Indarapatra and the Maranao moon goddess, who comes down to earth every Friday. Raja Indarapatra eventually joined the goddess to her realm forever by riding the sarimanok.