You probably wonder why I am writing about this subject. Some of you readers here are friends of mine on Facebook. Maybe some of you hardly open your Facebook too. Well if you are a frequent FB user, you’ve probably noticed my recent profile photo.
I changed my picture, to one with me wearing a hijab. It was really my first time to wear it. A hijab is a cloth that covers your head (entire hair) and just your face suppose to be seen. That photo, that was taken a few years ago when we visited Tugaya, near Marawi City, in Lanao del Sur Province, which is probably at least 80% Muslim.
For a Muslim woman it’s a natural thing to wear one. So being I had one on in that picture I was asked by someone on Facebook if I am a Muslim. I was shocked by the inquiry but I answered her back nicely. I told her that I am not a Muslim (nothing wrong if I were). For the record my dad is from Tagbilaran, Bohol, my mom was born from San Fernando,Cebu. But she was raise in Lala, Lanao. My parents met in Lala, Lanao. After few years of marriage, my parents moved to South Cotabato then, Sarangani Province. I was born in a small town in Malapatan, Sarangani Province. Grew up there until I went to high school (Notre Dame of Lagao For Girls then) in GenSan. Then college in Cebu City. Then 2 months shy of my college graduation I married Bob. Three months after graduation I went to the States and lived there for 10 years.
That photo was taken on one of my unforgettable visit to the places that many Filipinos dared not to go to. It was really an honor for me to be visiting there with the invitation of our special friends who live there. You can already tell that, that’s not the place for the tourist to go to. They fear of being kidnapped, in which case I can’t blame them of thinking that. Really the place was nice, but not also the place to visit if you don’t know anyone from there. We were just so lucky to have some friends that we knew that the family was from there. I am not going to mention who they are, but it was really a pleasure going there. Words can’t even explain how I felt on that day when we were there.
But to be totally honest I had mixed feelings after going there. I was happy to be there visiting the place. The people were nice and accommodating to us. The purpose of going there too was to see the stuff that they make there. They make big native drums, gongs, kulintang, brass vase, nice furniture with mother of pearl in-lay, swords and others. They had all those stuff but not many people go there to see and purchase because of fear. They had dealers that go there but just buy few stuff. The big plus of going there was seeing the beautiful Mosque that was built by the father of a friend of ours. It was really awesome. Our friend’s dad, he was just a grade school graduate, but he designed and built the Mosque. The upstairs was not totally done yet though. I think he used part of his own money for that mosque. I’ve heard women were not allowed to go inside the mosque. I was allowed because our friend told the caretaker to let me inside. I was humbled and honored by that and I really treasured that memory. The view upstairs was stunning and overlooking at Lake Lanao.
I was also sad being there, just seeing the way below poverty line people who live there. Just looking at the houses and the lifestyle they have there, really makes my heart ache for the people there. That’s one of the places that I’ve been that I cried while passing by. It’s really hard to explain what I saw there. But people still had smile on their faces seeing us. For the first time I saw the disposable diaper being washed and hung dry to re-use over again. It was really an eye opener for me. And I told my kids we are so lucky to have the life that we have now. We don’t live in fear. Those kids there, they might be on alert most of the time in case there is a war going in the area. That part of Mindanao really is on the “Hot Zone” (war zone as the press say). But I saw big and fancy houses on top of the hill side. I didn’t really know that rich people live there on top of the hill side.
But in short… no, I am not Muslim.
Help us pray for peace in Mindanao!