ZAMBOANGA CITY - Observing the sacred month of Ramadan for some Muslims in Zamboanga City will be doubly difficult this year.
This, as almost 5,000 families are still staying in cramped evacuation centers and other transitory sites in the city following the Moro National Liberation Front's (MNLF) siege in September last year.
The family of Aldin Jumaani has been staying in Don Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex for almost 9 months now. They occupy a small space in the temporary mosque established inside the grandstand.
During the day, his family puts aside their belongings, as the area is being used for prayer. Jumaani sometimes leads the prayer, being an Imam himself.
The family of Hadji Wahab Abubakar from Barangay Rio Hondo, meanwhile, is temporarily staying at the PTSI Transitory Site in Upper Calarian.
He said due to his old age, he finds it difficult to walk to the mosque inside the Army's Western Mindanao Command. There is no mosque nor a prayer room inside the transitory area.
The Muslim community will start observing Ramadan on Sunday.
Sheikh Junaid Musa, a barangay councilor of Sta. Barbara, said he understands the plight of his brother Muslims, most of whom are still not able to return to their village.
"Sacrificing during Ramadan in our own home is already difficult, what more if you are in an evacuation center," Musa said.
The local government of Zamboanga City has declared Sta. Barbara, Rio Hondo, Mariki and Sta. Catalina as no-build zones amid the rehabilitation plans of the government within the conflict zone.
As part of their sacrifice, Muslims are supposed to pray five times a day. They are also prohibited from taking any food or liquid during the day.
But considering the situation in evacuation centers, a Muslim must have strong faith and determination to make true his sacrifices.
Another Muslim leader, Hadji Jamar Dalagon, said they believe Allah will not give them any trials that they cannot overcome.