The Maguindanaon are part of the wider Moro ethnic group, who constitute the sixth largest Filipino Ethnic Group. The Maguindanaon, literally, “people of the flood plains”, occupy the Basin of Pulangi River. The southern fork of the river flows towards Illana Bay. In the past the Maguindanaon settled along the banks and in the valley regions of the river. Today, they are found in several provinces. In Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Cotabato, Zamboanga Del Sur, and Zamboanga Sibugay.
In Maguindanao Province, which accounts for 76% of the total Maguindanao population, they are settled in Barira, Buldon, Parang, Sultan Kudarat, Kabuntalan, Dindig, North Upi, Matanog, Cotabato City, Buluan, Datu Panglas, Pagalungan, Ampatuan, Maganoy, Datu Piang, Talayan, Sultan sa Barungis, General Salipada Pendatun, and South Upi. In Cotabato Province, they are found in Pikit and Kabacan. In Sultan Kudarat Province, they live in Lebak, Palembang, Kalamasig and all coastal towns. In Zamboanga Sibugay, they are found in Buug, Kabasalan and Malangas. In Zamboanga Del Sur, they are found in Dimataling, Dinas, Kumalarang, Labangan, Margosatubig, Pitogo and Tabina.
The Maguindanaon language is a part of a subgroup of languages called the “Danao languages”. The subgroup includes Maranao, spoken in the Lanao provinces; Ilanun (also Ilanum or Iranun), spoken by a group of a sea-based people between Lanao and Maguindanao; and Maguindanao, mainly spoken in Maguindanao, Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.
Maguindanaon people usually have their different accents that made people confuse about the said ethnic group. Actually, there are different kinds of Maguindanaon such as Tao sa Laya (those people residing particularly in Cotabato), Tao sa Biwang (people residing particularly in General Santos), Tao sa Bala (people residing particularly in Zamboanga Sibugay), Tao sa Kawanan (people residing particularly in Zamboanga Del Sur), and Simuay. But as a whole they can still be considered as Maguindanaon.
The predominant religion among the Maguindanao is a form of folk Islam. Islamic beliefs and practices, which are gradually becoming more orthodox, are superimposed on a preexisting animistic belief system. People continue to believe in a variety of environmental spirits, and many tales are told of magic, sorcery, and supernatural beings. Even Sarip Kabungsuwan, who is credited with having brought Islam to this area, is described as having had powers of magic and sorcery. Muslim religious leaders and teachers are called Imam and Pandeta. Muslim religious holidays and other observances are celebrated among the Maguindanao, but in varying degrees by different communities and individuals. The most widespread ceremonies are those associated with fasting during the month of Ramadan, when virtually everyone appears to participate. Other ceremonies, such as those associated with birth, marriage, and death, tend to incorporate both Islamic and indigenous beliefs and rituals.