Basilan Governor Reacts to Atom Araullo’s Documentary

Atom Araullo documentary Basilan governor

GMA 7’s broadcast journalist Atom Araullo’s documentary about female circumcision in Islam hit a raw nerve among Muslims in Mindanao.  Last May 6, he presented “Ang Panday” in his program “I-Witness,” which focused on the role of the Yakan healer in the community.  Although the tone of the episode was well-intentioned, the lack of thoroughness and organization of the material resulted in a distorted picture of Basilan. 

 “Instead of helping Basilan recover from the biased reporting from the outside, it further projected Basilan as culturally backward, chaotic, and underdeveloped,” said Basilan Governor Jim Hataman-Salliman.

  Foremost, the misspelling of the title panday is misleading. Panday” (“blacksmith” in Tagalog) should not be confused with the pandey (with an e), the Yakan term for health worker.

    The documentary centered on Embong Ballaho, the pandey who claimed that when a woman is not circumcised, she is not a Muslim. Female circumcision is NOT compulsory in Islam, although it is acknowledged as a ritual on cleanliness. Some tribes practice thisbut it is not encouraged. 

  The episode depicted mothers and young daughters in Lamitan going to Ballaho’s home and the circumcision ritual. Araullo showed his propriety by waiting outside the room while the females underwent the rite. 

  To present a balanced reportage, Araullo also interviewed Dr. Sitti Amilasan of the Department of Health Region 9 about female circumcision, who said that the local hospital had no record of trauma or infection after the female circumcision and that one can’t mix religion with medical views.  The show also featured the appalling state of local medical services. Consequently, the residents turned to the pandeyHealth workers were quoted on how their lives were at risk and that they needed to be escorted after their shifts. One health worker revealed how they received text messages about extortion although it wasn’t clear on who was extorting them and what the causes were

  Another disturbing aspect was that the documentary reminded the viewers of the Lamitan Siege. In June 2001, the extremist group Abu Sayaff Group (ASG) invaded a church and a hospital, held hostages and subsequently fought with government troops. It also cited the death of two hostages, who were kidnapped earlier in a resort, as an outcome of terrorism.

   “The documentary itself had many issues and showed no focus,” said Gov. Hataman-Salliman. “What does it want to convey? The inadequacy of social services? Violent extremism? Poverty? Peace and security? People and culture? Acceptability or unacceptability of a certain practice? Islamic or non-Islamic?”

   The Basilan governor seeks to clarify the following:

*pandey is a barangay health worker, trained in assisting pregnant mothers and child birth. They have an agreement with the Mayor that deliveries should be facilitated in a health center to ensure safety. They are compensated for every delivery. 

*Female circumcision is a dying practice, especially among the Yakan. The source, Embong Ballaho, is a barangay health worker and not a Yakan

*The episode drew negative reactions from the Yakans who felt that that the incomplete reportage misrepresented their culture. Moreover, they did not wear the appropriate Yakan attire. 

*The documentary sought to present reality by showing faces of the children going to Ballaho and there was one particular child shown who was partially undressed after the ritual.  Despite the parental consent in allowing their children to appear on television, the girls could be subject to embarrassment in their community. 

*The local government has added more health centers around Basilan. There are two hospitals in Lamitan, one private and one government-run; a district hospital in Sumisip; four in Isabela, and rural health units and medical centers in municipalities. 

*The documentary gives the impression of connecting female circumcision of the Yakan with violence and extremism. Although Basilan has suffered from extremism and terrorism in the past, the province has bounced back. Araullo only visited Barangay Maganda in Lamitan City and Barangay Baluno in Isabela City, and showed their unflattering aspects. The Basilan Circumferential Road, the first highway, paved the way to the building of other access roads connecting the municipalities. 

* The campaign against extremism, involving the military, the police force, the local government units, and the ULAMA resulted in the reconstruction of seven former Abu Sayaff camps; the return of 164 ASG members to the law since 2016; and the restriction of movement of other extremist groups. 

*The local government’s initiative to improve the quality of life has resulted in its removal from the list of the country’s 10 poorest provinces; there is more accessibility for travel around the province; increased domestic tourist arrivals and better health conditions; more economic activities and peace and order.   

 Hataman-Salliman urged media practitioners to be sensitive to culture and religion by consulting the ULAMA Council (Council of Islamic Scholars/ Learned Muslims) to ensure accurate reportage. He also extended his invitation to the media to witness Basilan’s progress. 


Ramadan – The Month of Fasting and Prayers


 At a restaurant where I am a regular customer, the waiter sets a salad bowl and kombucha drink in front of me. I tell him politely that it is for my guest, and that I am fasting in Ramadan month. The waiter, who usually takes my orders, is awed by my discipline. 

   “I salute you, sir!” he exclaims.

   Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is the time when  Muslims not only abstain from food and water but also from negative thinking and behavior. From sunrise to sunset, they cannot partake any morsel of food or a drop of water as a test of faithBetween the two main prescribed meals of suhur (pre-dawn breakfast) and iftar (dinner after dusk)they endure the dehydration and hunger pangs without any complaints.  For devout Muslims, it is a time for spiritual renewal, remembering God, whom we call Allah, and sharing our SADKA [blessings]. 

    The proof that Ramadan has become part of a largely Catholic Philippines is the public holidays in the beginning and end of this holy season. June 15 is Eid Al Fitr, the end of the fasting month.

   Ramadan tends to upset the body’s rhythms, the lifestyle routine and even attitude. I myself have been easing up on my workload. The disruptions can be trying, but they can also be favorable for spiritual growth. I embrace these “restrictions” as a means to become stronger in adhering to my values and to be more generous in wishing well for others.

  Ever since I came back from the hajj, the pilgrimage to the Mecca, I have been following the example set by Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him). I have learned to recite the prayers in Arabic, with the right diction, and more importantly, with devotional feelings

   I wake up between 1 and 2 a.m., to cleanse and to perform the Tahajjudthe prayer between the Isha (obligatory night prayer at 7:30 pm.) and Fajr (the obligatory pre-dawn prayer). Although the Tahajjud is not compulsory, I have made it a part of my routine andit that has made me feel closer to Allah

    After the  Tahajjud, I prepare a meal of halal chicken, fruits, and detox juices to fuel up my body for the day.  Before the Fajr,  Muslims are required to bathe especially after ablutions. By 4 a.m., I pray and lay myself open to receive  blessings. 

 Like a recharged cell phone, I am ready to face the challenges of the day. I immediately work on my projectsLater in the mornings, I meet up with clients or my staff or go to the gym. Wherever I go, I bring a trolley which has my prayer mat and modest prayer attire. 

  When I’m at Kerry Sports in BGC, the gym buddies and the staff have become familiar with my routine. One of the advantages of this place is that I can cleanse myself, an obligatory ritual of purification before praying. I perform the Zuhr, the noontime prayer, at one of the gym’s spaces. That arrangement came with my membership fee. If I’m in Makati, I am allowed to pray in a dressing room at a high street chain shop in one of the high-end malls. 

 By 3 p.m, I perform the Asr, the mid-afternoon prayer, at either at the gym in BGC  or the fashion store in Makati, depending on which place is closest to my meetings. 

 Muslim men are prohibited to have unnecessary physical contact with women. Although the beso-beso is a normal greeting  in the Philippines, I avoid it out of respect for tradition. Physical contact with the opposite sex would also require me to bathe. 

    Fasting can make me irritable and easily tired. To remain positive, I take to heart short surahs,  ayahs from the Quran, and memorize some of the powerful sacred verses. My favorite is the Surah Al-Ikhlas which is the Chapter on Purity. It has kept me from falling into temptations. The ayah (verse) “ Verily with hardship comes ease” has been my soothing balm to  my discomforts during the fasting. 

   After 6 p.m., I observe the iftar, a ritual which breaks the fast by eating fruit and dates and drinking water. It is held before the Maghrib, the  sunset prayer.  Iftar is usually performed in a gathering as the main meal during the fast. 

  During Ramadan month, Muslims are obliged to go to the mosque for the Isha’athe evening prayer after 7:30 p.m. I usually head to the Indonesian Embassy in Makati and enjoy the sense of community and the hearty halal meal

  For me, these prayers are not mindless repetitions of Arabic verses, but as means to recharge myself and reconnect with Allah. The routine of prayer and Quran reading liftmy burdens. The Quran answers all my questions and changes my negative thinking into a positive outlook.  The dua is a plea to Allah to fulfill all my desires and to give me the strength to move in this challenging world. It is the very essence of worship. Despite of not having a support group to keep my faith, I am content and I feel close to Him. He understands what I’m growing through. 

   As a Muslim draws more power and love from Allah, one can’t help but share with others. In Ramadan, we show our compassion for the  underprivileged through charity. I have been supporting the Kagans, a marginalized  tribe in Tagum, Davao del Norte. They are more Islamic than other groups. Other Muslim friends have supported my cause during Ramadan. Happiness in sharing is my reward. 

   Another subtle result of  my intense spiritual efforts is my being above the influence of the materialistic environment and the negativities of others. When I lapse into criticism or gossip, I immediately pray for forgiveness. I pay attention not to repeat the mistake. My Christian friends respect my routine and principles. Although I get less than four hours of sleep, I never look weary. Tiredness is caused by thinking of or speaking ill others or situations. The daily gym workouts also built my endurance in the fast.

  As Eid Al Fitr draws near, I can say that I have been gaining physical and inner strength through fasting and prayers.  Mashallah (amazing).


Pakaradjaan Ramadan Trade Fair

By: Ayunan Gunting

Photos by: ARMM Public Information Office

The annual Ramadan Trade Fair in Cotabato City is the highlight of the month of fasting for Muslim Filipinos. Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman initiated this month-long event to strengthen the sense of community.
Held at the ARMM Compound, the Ramadan Trade Fair taps the participation of entrepreneurs, artisans, and government workers. Their skills and products contribute to build the local economy.
Pakaradjaan Ramadan Trade FairSeventy-five booths offer local delicacies, brass work, textiles, woodwork, artifacts, chests, and other items from ARMM.
This year, the Ramadan Trade Fair is dedicated in helping to rebuild Marawi. Twenty booths are manned by displaced victims of the Marawi War. The Office of the Regional Governor provided P45,000 including living expenses, to set up their little businesses at the trade fair. Among the items on sale are the dodol sweet, native chicken piaparan and the signature palapa, which are bought as meals after the long fast.
In his speech at the launch, Hataman explained that the trade fair is organized around the highest ideals of the Muslim faith. His vision is to make it a model of principled responsibility to the public and the source of dedication in creating a progressive ARMM in which all of its citizens can prosper.
Hataman said that this is the time to help their brothers and sisters from Marawi not just in prayer but in action. He urged everyone, “Make the time to recognize our responsibility to each other as Muslims, and to remember what it means to work in solidarity towards a renewal of our commitment to our faith, towards rebuilding a city and its spirit, and responding to the continued call for peace in our communities.”
Other government agencies also actively participated in the Trade Fair. On display are products from the agrarian reform beneficiaries, sponsored by the Department of Agrarian Reform-ARMM. These products were packaged with the help of the Department of Science and Technology-ARMM. The Department of Health-ARMM provides free medical services. The Department of Tourism-ARMM set up booths showing tourist destinations such as beaches in Basilan, historical places such as the first mosque in Tawi-Tawi, as well as tourist spots in Maguindanao.
The different government agencies also prepared 24 models for the Mosques of the World Exhibit, all of which are showcased outside the Office of the Regional Governor. Each agency created a replica of mini mosques from various parts of the world. The exhibit aims to show that the Muslim faith is practiced around the world and that the mosques are designed with a sense of place.
Lectures on Islamic culture are held every night. The talks aim to enlighten the youth on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad ( pbuh ) and how extremist groups have twisted the ideals for propaganda.
Pakaradjaan Ramadan Trade FairThe Ramadan Trade Fair has also become a family affair. Once the people break their fasts in the evening, the trade fair is the place where they gather, socialize, and enjoy the meals.
“It’s the equivalent of the Christian Simbang Gabi (Midnight Mass) where people buy food and celebrate after worship,” said Amir Mawalil, executive director of the ARMM Bureau of Public Information. The fair will run through Eid al Fitr on June 15.

Ganassi-The bucolic, beautiful town of Lanao Del Sur

Ganassi Lanao Del Sur

Lake Lanao in Lanao de Sur has a scenic coastline that is sure to take your breath away. Several towns line the coast and most of them are fourth class municipalities. Due to their geographic location, the atmosphere is always serene and bucolic. Residents live a laid-back lifestyle, and the climate is often comfortably cool.

Ganassi Lanao Del Sur
Come to Ganassi for a respite from the rat-race.

But it’s this town called Ganassi that stands out. Its location is dramatic – ensconced on hilly terrain, it offers a panoramic view of the lake. Furthermore, it’s in a cove which makes the town’s surroundings look much more picturesque. Like the other towns along the lake, Ganassi is so tranquil, it’s a haven for those who wish to get away from the city, and other crowded tourist destinations.

Ganassi Mayor Al -Rashid Macapodi wants other Filipinos to experience the life he and his fellow townsfolk have been enjoying in their hometown. He wants to show how peaceful his town is; and despite the modern conveniences that can now be had, it remains faithful to old traditions.

Ganassi Lanao Del SurMayor Macapodi is only 43 but he is cognizant of the importance of preserving the Meranao heritage, which is the dominant culture of Ganassi.  He makes sure that on important Muslim holidays, stunning traditional costumes are worn, old recipes are used to prepare the dishes of Meranao, and the “Kakulintang” of the Meranaos are practiced for every youth of Ganassi and for local tourists to learn and benefit from. Meranao dishes must always be served for the feasts, popularly known as Paganao Meranaw, which means warm welcome and hospitality in our own way.Ganassi Lanao Del Sur

“We in Ganassi adhere to the Meranao culture, but we also follow a few traditions of our own and in a way, we’ve blended these with our culture. Ganassi Lanao Del SurThis includes the way we present our food during a special feast. We use Tabaks  — large brass trays that are unique, and made in Tugaya.  The dishes are all traditional Meranaw food and can also be found only here in Lanao del Sur,” he said.
The Mayor wants the youth of Ganassi to continue the traditions. To make them proud and aware of their heritage, major town events would always showcase these old customs. He wants other Filipinos as well who like to travel to experience the town’s colorful heritage.
Although the town has no hotel yet, there are many transient homes available for trekkers and nature lovers. It’s easy to get to Ganassi; the biggest city that is close to it  is Cagayan de Oro. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Airways have several flights from Manila to Cagayan de Oro. It takes just a two-hour drive from Cagayan de Oro to Ganassi. The road trip is scenic and the highways are immaculately smooth. Mayor Macapodi has also made sure that the access road to his town are well paved, thus assuring a comfortable ride all throughout.
While the Mayor may be steeped in tradition, he’s also open to activities that are  relatively newer. Being a coastal town, he wants Ganassi to be Lanao del Sur’s water sports haven to attract more tourists. In 2016, the town hosted a dragon boat festival, which attracted teams from all over the country.
“Ganassi is ideal for all kinds of water sports because we’re located in a cove. In fact, we’re the only coastal town along Lake Lanao that is located in a cove”  – Ganassi Mayor Al -Rashid Macapodi.
The festival was so successful that he wants to make the dragon boat event an annual activity in Ganassi. “The participants enjoyed the event and they said they liked being in our town . They loved the cove setting, the cool climate, and they also had the chance to experience our Meranao culture. Ganassi Lanao Del SurThey want to return for another festival and we’re organizing another so we can invite them back and have more dragon boat teams participating,” he said.
Those who aren’t much into water sports would not be left out. The town offers a lot for others to explore. Trekkers can tour  the verdant hills and be amazed by the majestic 360-degree view of the lake. This isn’t unlike the scenery that tourists enjoy in Batanes.
The mayor assures that his town is safe for trekkers and backpackers. It’s  so quiet and everyone in town is sure to make guests feel welcome, and visitors will enjoy their unique brand of hospitality.


The pride of the Yakans, the indigenous tribe of Basilan, was the theme of the culture program at the recent Pakaradjaan, the annual festival that marked the 44th founding anniversary of the province. The largest island in Sulu archipelago, Basilan consists of the Muslim groups of the Yakans and Tausugs and the Christians called Chabacanos.

Pakaradjaan, which means “merrymaking” in the local dialect, was a week long event held in the capital city of Isabela. Every year, the different municipalities produce a theatrical performance, depicting their values and traditions.

The group from Akbar won the first prize for its story about a cross-cultural love story between a Yakan maiden who falls in love with a Tausug. Despite the maiden’s previous betrothal to another Yakan and her tribe’s differences with the Tausugs, she and her lover fought against all odds. The 20-minute performance began with a celebration of Tausug and Yakan dances, whose signature moves featured the sinewy arms and expressive hand gestures that mimicked nature. Then came the confrontation between the Tausug and the maiden’s fiance in the tumahik or war dance where the dancers showed their virility and sword skills. In the end, the maiden’s love for the Tausug convinced her family and her tribe.

The winning team consisted of seasoned dancers from the La Cultura Dance Troupe which performs in other parts of the Philippines.

Basilan 2
The most distinctive costume is the wrap sash on the torso and the skirt around tight-fitting pants. Look at the dancer’s sinewy arms and expressive hand gestures.

The first runner-up from Tipo-Tipo presented the paunjalay, an authentic Yakan wedding dance with the bride and groom, where they also painted their faces to ward off evil spirits. The style is characterized by eloquent arm and wrist movements and delicate footwork.

The second runner-up from the fishing town of Maluso was performed by students mimicking the fishermen’s lives from going to the sea, preparing for fishing, catching their harvest, and coming home from their expedition. Despite having no training in dance, the students told their story with clarity.

The beauty of this festival was the authenticity of the dances and music. Mainstream cultural groups stylize our folk dances to dazzle the audiences but end up losing the substance. On the other hand, these local dances have been handed down from the tribal elders. Thus, the stories, songs, and traditions are preserved through these cultural events. It encourages the locals to maximize the use of their famous Yakan textiles that are known for their bold geometric patterns and bright colors. They are performed to the live music of the agong or wide rimmed suspended gongs, and the kulintang, a group of gongs of different sizes.

Basilan Governor Jim Hataman Salliman , elder brother of Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman, said the Pakaradjaan 2018 aims to make Filipinos more aware that the original inhabitatants from Sulu.

basilan 1The Yakans are believed to have migrated from Borneo where the people are short, dusky in complexion and have slanted eyes and straight hair. The Yakans are farmers who cultivate coconut, abaca, corn, cacao, and upland rice. Their most distinctive costume is the wraparound sash on the torso and the skirt around the tight-fitting pants.

Salliman said, “Culture is about honoring the best of the past and present which lay the foundation for a bright future. By encouraging our people to continually celebrate our customs and traditions, our values will continue to the next generation.”


Basilan Pakaradjaan


Basilan, the largest island in Sulu Archipelago, marks its establishment with the Pakaradjaan, an annual festival of sports, culture, and community service.  

“Pakaradjaan” is a Tausug and Yakan term for merry-making or special event. Although it is traditionally celebrated from March 1 to 7, the provincial government has extended it to two weeks for this year.

Basilan PakaradjaanGov. Jim Salliman Hataman will kick off Pakaradjaan with a press conference on Feb. 21 at the Garden Orchid Hotel.

The festival itself opens February 26 with a ceremony, a trade fair, and a presentation of the Muse of Pakaradjaan at the grandstand. The Governor’s Tennis Cup will then be held at Isabela.

There will be a groundbreaking ceremony of the provincial government board’s project and a medical mission on February 27. Then there are the Basilan Circumferential Road Caravan, which starts at the Maluso Terminal (February 28), and another medical mission in Tuburan (March 1).  

The weekend starts with a job fair and a series of sporting events. There will be a men’s volleyball tournament at the Capitol Ground, shooting, and a bowling tournament at the D’ Biel’s bowling center on March 1. The darts tournament will be followed by a Himig ng Basileño at the grandstand the following day. Intelligence and artistry will be showcased in Tagisan ng Talino and a poster making contest on March 3. Also on Sunday, a badminton tournament will be held at gymnasium, with the Barangay Night variety show held at the amphitheater.

The week begins with a full day of events (March 4). A  fun run will span from Begang to the grandstand. Devotees will be inspired by the Qu-Ran Memorization Contest at the ampitheater. The indigenous culture will be celebrated in “Tara Na Sa Basilan” at the grandstand.

A regatta on the port, kite flying, and the coronation of the Muse of Pakaradjaan will take place on March 5. The festival also has a social cause with a feeding program for children under five years old in three municipalities (March 6). An evening program with surprise numbers will be held at the ampitheater.

Basilan PakaradjaanFinally, the festivities will climax with a cultural program at the Assembly Place of the Maluso Terminal and a Basilan Night held at the gymnasium (March 7).

Basilan was under the Zamboanga province in the 20th century. After the war, it became a separate city under law. In 1973, then President Ferdinand Marcus issued a presidential decree to make it a province to dampen the fighting between government and Muslim groups. For so long, the province was hogging the headlines due to skirmishes with the Abu Sayaff.

In 2011, the provincial government organized the Pakaradjaan to honor Basilan’s Foundation Day. President Benigno Aquino declared March 7 as a special holiday to commemorate the event. The fiesta aims to promote the province as a friendly destination.  



inaul fabric maguindanao

inaulThe Maguindanao provincial government will hold its second Inaul Festival from Feb. 8 to 14 at the capitol grounds to celebrate its indigenous textile tradition.

Inaul, which means “woven” in Maguindaon, is a hand-woven tapestry fabric with geometric designs. As a status symbol, it is revered as an object of “bara-bangsa” which means dignity. The inaul is commonly used in the malong, the multitasking tubular fabric. One of the best image models is ARMM Deputy Speaker Congresswoman Bai Sandra Sinsuat Sema who collects the inaul and wears it with pride.inaul fabric maguindanao

As one of the province’s major earner, the inaul raked in P1 million in sales during its first week-long festival last year. The festival itself generated P20 million in tourism revenues. The inaul appeals to both domestic and international clients.

Bai Albaya Wampa, who is a main proponent of the inaul, preserves the tradition through her store. It’s located in Datu Odin Sinsuat, a first-class municipality on the boundary of Maguindanao and Cotabato. The sultan of this town is her grandfather, and it’s in her genes to help others.

Bai Albaya owns a farm and a women’s cooperative here called Al Jamela. It was established in 2001 to give jobs to widows of Moro National Liberation Front soldiers, Christians, as well as returning OFWs, and other disadvantaged people.  Al Jamela has become synonymous with quality that it has become a tourist destination for souvenirs. Even the ARMM government orders inaul shawls from her co-op for gifts.

How Inaul is Made

inaul fabric maguindanaoWeavers use cotton and rayon silk threads inserted on big looms that can handle huge volumes.  Bai Albaya explains that the process starts with arranging the threads to determine the colors, the quantity, and the length of the malong. The threads are put on the wheel, spun, and inserted into the loom’s comb for the design. To assure quality, weavers are tasked to make just one inaul tapestry per creation.  

“Once the weaver starts on the inaul, she has to finish it. If she delegates, the result will be different. Each weaver has their own way with the tension of the threads and the loom,” explains Bai Albaya.

By convention, the weaving can take as long as a month to produce one four-meter fabric. A fully embroidered inaul fetches from P1,900 to P2,500. The price is P500 for a  12 inch by 2 meter shawl.  

“The inaul has over 100 uses—as bedsheet, turban, table runner, men’s trousers, basket, pillowcase, and cradle. The special inaul is made from imported thread. They are used for formal clothes like gowns and jackets,” says Bai Albaya.

Inaul as a Status Symbol

She explains that in the olden times, princesses in royal households wove their own clothes. To denote their status, they used yellow, maroon, orange, and black for royalty. White threads were used for mourning clothes. Green symbolized coolness and peace.

The common designs are the rainbows or changing hues of threads, stripes, taro, and wide borders. The lumbayan na ta’dman is a silhouette of a woman peering from the window, waiting for her lover. Modern designs consist of twisted florals, the elbow or siko-siko, geometric patterns, triangles, and the reversible fabric.inaul fabric maguindanao

The co-op receives support from the Cotabato tourism office which brings tourists to Al Jamela. The  Department of Labor and Employment and the local government donate looms and provide training. The Non-Timber Forest Products, a crafts center in Quezon City, promotes its products and exports.

Thanks to people like Bai Albaya and her weavers, the Maguindanao textile tradition will thrive as they continue to create demands.