I have to thank my friend Alicia for sharing with me a part of her world. Alicia is a product of an Ilocano-Maranao intermarriage. Home to her is Sitio Muslim in Barangay 1 in Laoag, where there are about 600 Muslim families. The Muslim settlers in the community are all Maranao. The Maranao community of Lanao in the southern island of Mindanao is the largest Muslim community and cultural minority in the Philippines. The Maranao are said to be the most traditional and devout among the Muslim communities in the country.
After the jama’ah, the men surprised me with a pink book, Ang Kahulugan ng Huling Ikasampung Bahagi ng Marangal na Qur’an, from Omar, and several reading materials, such as Human Rights in Islam, from the imam.
A chat with them reveals that it was my friend Alicia’s late grandfather, Yusop Papandayan, who was the first Muslim settler in Ilocos Norte. Most of the men present at the mosque arrived in the province in 1974 during the Martial Law era. “We are tired of strife. All we want is peace and harmony. Inaapi ang walang baril doon sa amin (Where we come from, those without guns are discriminated upon). Before heading north, we heard of this peaceful place… the hometown of former president Marcos,” says Omar.
“Allah is the ultimate judge. Murder is not Islam,” one answers when I probe about the killings going on in the South.
Wearing a veil or ħijāb in public is a sign of modesty. They regard it as equal to their hair. According to the Muslim men I talked with, the women can drop the ħijāb and wear anything inside the home.
A Muslim man can marry a non-Muslim woman; however, the woman has to convert to Islam. On the contrary, a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man.
Although Muslim men are allowed to have four wives, premarital and extramarital sex are a big no-no.
Then Robin Padilla must love Mariel so much to marry her, I uttered. “Ay, oo a, ” they chorused. But is it okay to get married during Ramadan? “Perhaps they got married at night. It is fine to get married and go on a “honeymoon”, as long as it is not within fasting hours, (depending on the sign in the sky) between around 4 o’clock in the morning and sunrise,” says Omar.
I asked if there is a restaurant around that offers ḥalāl food and, unfortunately, there is not one because they eat anything Filipino but blood, pork, dog and horse meat and food cooked in lard.
“You should visit on Eid ul-Fitr. There will be dudul.” Oh, sure, expect me here, I replied. Dudul (rice jam) is the one thing the Maranao have in common with the Ilocanos, though it is spelled as dudol here.
“The Muslims are as ordinary as you and me,” intimates the Ilocano employee of Alicia.
With heartfelt thanks to the Muslim community in Laoag.