'Rebirth in hunger': Ramadan starts for Filipino Muslims

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 17 2018 09:20 AM | Updated as of May 17 2018 09:43 AM

Some Marawi folk face difficult Holy Month in shelters

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MANILA - Fatima Amilhamja and her family feasted on chicken braised in coconut milk before dawn on Thursday, their only meal until nightfall, as Filipino Muslims marked the start of Ramadan, Islam's holy month of fasting.

Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and having sex from dawn to dusk during Ramadan. They only break the fast with an early meal known as suhur and an evening meal called iftar. 

They also engage in reflection, prayers, and improving their relationship with others.

"Kapag nagfa-fasting ka, para kang bagong pinanganak. Maaalis mga kasalanan mo,"Amilhamja told ABS-CBN News at her home in Quiapo, Manila. 

(When you fast, it's like you have been born again. All your sins are removed.) 

Muslims make up around 6 percent of the Philippines 100 million people, where 8 in 10 are Catholic, according to official data.

Muslims believe the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed at around the time of Ramaddan. It ends with the Eid al-Fitr festival. 

"Ang buwan ng Ramadan ay buwan ng pagpapala (Ramadan is a month of blessing)," said Alnur Bansil, former administrator at the Manila Golden Mosque, the largest house of praise of its kind in the capital. 

Some families, however, may find no relief from hunger even during Ramadan's dawn and dusk meals. 

Among them are Naifa Sidic and her 3 young children, one of 35 families who fled to an evacuation center in Cagayan De Oro City after Islamic State sympathizers stormed their hometown in Marawi nearly a year ago. 

Sidic told ABS-CBN News on Wednesday that her family's ration of 18 kilos of rice, 10 canned goods and coffee had almost run out. 

"Whole day wala kami kinakain. Kailangan mag-fasting kami ng masustansyang pagkain kasi hihina katawan namin," she said. 

(We won't be eating for the whole day. We need to fast with nutritious food. Otherwise our bodies will get weak.) 

The local government said it could not provide better food for the Marawi refugees, but assured that the ration would continue. 

The Koran exempts the ill, elderly and others who cannot give up food and water. 

With reports from Cris Angelo Andrade, Jervis Manahan and Lady Vicencio, ABS-CBN News; Reuters