A glimpse of the Muslim diaspora in the North

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.

In Barrio Uno, it is hard to miss the mosque with a gold-colored dome, the Darul Hidaya Mosque.

I was taught that entering a mosque should always start with the right foot, and exiting should be done with the left.

Abdas facilities adjacent to the musalla.

Abdas or ablution is the act of cleansing or washing the body before praying. In the photo is Ustad Salman, who teaches Islam conversion at the A.P. Santos Elementary School.

The significance of  the taqiyah or cap is to identify a firm believer of Islam.

The prayer hall or musalla.

“Prayer is done 5 times a day, just like the body is fed 5 times a day; it is a balance,” says Omar Yasin.


Receiving a gift of the Qur’an teachings from Omar Yasin and Imam Abdul Wahab Pandaag.

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.
As-Salāmu `Alaykum.

Photos by Blauearth Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

3 thoughts on “A glimpse of the Muslim diaspora in the North

  1. Alaikum assalam wa rahmattulahi wa barakatu, ya sadiqa Tina! Kullo am wa antom bekeir… [Peace be with you also and may you be blessed by Allah my friend Tina! May all your days be well…]
    The initiator of greeting somebody says ‘Assalamu alaikum’ or “Peace be with you” and the response would be ‘Alaikum assalam!’
    Interestingly, the Jewish greeting is ‘Shalom alaikhim!’, which almost sound similarly!!! It was said that the pre-Christian Arabs and Jews are cousins, believe it or not!
    I worked in Saudi Arabia for almost 8 years and learned the Arab Islamic culture, traditions, restrictions and the Arabic language to a significant degree. Women do not intermingle with men in formal occasions, it is ‘mamnoh!’ or ‘haram!’ = “taboo!” or “forbidden!” Even in the congregation, women are separated from the men; even riding in public transport, the women are sitting separately from the men, though their young son could sit with the mother. Women do not work at shops. But not so in the Philippines. Our Muslim culture is a bit liberal. You see women intermingle with the men at gatherings, tending shops, riding side by side with the man of the house along with all the others, etc.

  2. Alaikum assalam, Asiong!
    Thanks for the additional info, bro. I actually asked if they have a patriarchal community, and the answer was quite indirect. “Women cannot be rulers. The home is their obligation.” Anyway, I also asked if women are allowed to work, and indeed, they are allowed to do so. I didn’t get a handshake:) It’s taboo.

  3. Well, in Pakistan they elected Benazir Bhutto as a leader. Ditto with Bandaranaike in Sri Lanka. But their population are mostly Shiite Muslims which are a bit liberal. Still, there is no such thing as man courting and dating a muslim woman before marriage! It’s only here in Southeast Asia= Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia that Muslim women enjoy some degree of importance in societal affairs. I have read an old article insinuating that Ms. Loren Legarda is a true-blue muslim princess. Not so in the Middle Eastern countries. The king of Saudi Arabia may have a wife/wives but she is/they are not adored as queen/s.

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