A concert pianist is born

As we all know, most young girls who celebrate their 18th birthday with a lavish ball are called debutantes. Jenna Aziza Salliman, daughter of Basilan Governor Jim Hataman Salliman and his lovely wife Annie, made a different kind of debut. Having turned 18 already, Jenna didn’t need to make her formal entrance to society. What she did was make a stunning entrance into that rarified sphere of classical pianists. She recently took center stage in her premiere recital at the auditorium of the College of Statistics in UP Diliman.

By: Ayunan G. Gunting

Pretty in her long white dress, Jenna still managed to look every inch the debutante as she took the stage.  She made her entrance with a minimum of fuss or drama. She walked straight to the grand piano and went right into business with her first piece for the evening: Johann Sebastian Bach’s lilting Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp major BWV 848 and Prelude and Fugue in F major BWV 856.

Bach’s exuberant yet soothing melodies seemed so apt for the young lady performing it. There is a youthful and playful vigor in her performance.  She did seem to have a great love for this masterpiece. She played it effortlessly, it’s as if she was playing with a childhood friend.

Jenna was only 6 years old when she began taking piano lessons. Her mom Annie had acquired an upright piano and all her children took lessons from Mrs. Jennifer dela Cruz. During the reception following the recital, the mentor marveled over the talent of the Salliman children. “She also has an older brother who is very good and he’s attending law school now. But it was Jenna who really stood out. She showed real promise,” she said.

Jenna later took master classes with the esteemed piano pedagogues Ng Chong Lim, Fr. Manuel Maramba OSB, Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz, Roberta Rust, and Adam Kent, among others. She is presently under the tutelage of Professor Anthony Yu Say of the University of Sto. Tomas Conservatory of Music. (He is currently the president of the Piano Teacher’s Guild of the Philippines Foundation.) For the past 10 years now, Jenna has been a participant of the annual public recitals of both the Piano Teachers Guild and the UST Conservatory of Music.

She also took part in the 2013 Opusfest held in Antipolo City, the 2018 International Taipei Maestro Festival, and the Manila International Master Class Festival. She won 1st Place in the 2017 Piano Teacher’s Guild Sonata and Sonatina Competition, and 3rd Place in the recent Bach and Baroque Competition, Category B2.

It could easily be surmised that after finishing high school, Jenna would enter the UST Conservatory of Music. As Prof. Say put it, her capability as a pianist is already at conservatory levels. But much to our surprise, Jenna is currently a freshman student at the UP College of Statistics! (Hence it was the venue of the recital.) Because she is a graduate of the Philippine Science High School, she is bound by law to major in pure or applied sciences, mathematics, or engineering.

According to Mrs. Jennifer dela Cruz, people who excel in mathematics tend to be just as talented in music. She cited the eminent concert pianist Raul Sunico who graduated from UP Diliman with degrees in Music and Mathematics, and Masters in Statistics.

in full force
In full force: Jenna’s dad, Basilan Governor Jim Hataman, cousin Amina Umara Turabin-Hataman, ARMM First Lady Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman, and yours truly

Jenna’s proud daddy Governor Salliman said she at first wanted to take up medicine. “But piano became her passion and she hopes to eventually pursue a degree in Piano Performance,” he said.

When it became obvious that Jenna’s talent would extend from numbers to musical notes, her parents bought her a grand piano. During her recent recital, Jenna showed the audience that her parents did right by giving their complete support to their daughter’s passion for classical music. They beamed with pride as Jenna tackled the works of Ludwig van Beethoven (Piano Sonata No. 6), Claude-Achille Debussy (“L’Isle Joyeuse”), and Francisco Santiago (“Souvenir de Filipinas”).

Her final piece for the evening was Charles-Camille Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2 Op.22 in G Minor. For this performance, she was joined by noted collaborating artist Mary Anne Espina. Composed of three movements, the piece usually requires an orchestra to accompany the pianist.   Espina served as the collaborating pianist instead. The three movements are characterized by a series of emotions, with the first movement being dominated by melancholy. The second movement is lighthearted and energetic while the final movement is fiery. The two pianists were up to the task as they responded to each other with much fervor.

The audience was mesmerized, especially since Jenna beautifully captured the spirit and emotion of the music. For one so young and yet to be so cognizant of the soul of the timeless works of the great composers is amazing. Jenna plays it with élan yet she makes it seem easy. And she wasn’t one to rely on emoting or theatrical antics to impress the audience.

In fact, this piano virtuoso is so unpretentious. She was also too modest to accept the bouquet of flowers offered to her after the performance. This down-to-earth attitude is a testament to the way she was raised by her parents. Her astounding talent, on the other hand, is a reflection of the genes she inherited from them.

Nevertheless, we were compelled to ask the Honorable Governor what he was feeding his overachieving children when they were growing up!


ARMM’s last Pakaradjaan was truly the best

ARMM Pakaradjaan

The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), now on its final year (before it is replaced by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region), is celebrating its last anniversary with a splash. As it has done in past anniversaries, the distinct and venerable cultures of Muslim Mindanao are being showcased in this year’s celebration called, “2018 Pakaradjaan sa ARMM”.

The festival is organized by the office of ARMM Governor Mujib Hataman, who said past anniversary celebrations of the ARMM have always focused on the colorful Bangsamoro heritage, history, culture, arts, and tradition. “This year won’t be different as we present the rich ethnicities of the various provinces and tribes that comprise Muslim Mindanao,” he said.

This one, however, is notably bigger and more lavish. The ARMM has converted its headquarters in Cotabato City into a Moro village where five life-size houses were built to capture the essence of the Moro lifestyles in five of the six member provinces of ARMM. The open grounds of ARMM’s Office of the Regional Center (ORC) have thus been transformed into a festive neighborhood.

ARMM is composed of the Mindanao provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, , Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

It’s not yet too late to visit the display in Cotabato City. “2018 Pakaradjaan sa ARMM” runs until December. Tourists who have visited the exhibit are marveling over the five houses, each of them built and designed to represent the distinct culture of the ARMM member provinces. The concepts for each house were the brainchild of the respective local government units (LGUs). The LGUs also shouldered the costs of building them, according to Governor Hataman.

In their own way, the houses serve as giant dioramas that present a sumptuous illustration of the traditions and lifestyles of the Bangsamoro . It’s also a competition since the best house will be chosen and given a prize at the end of the festival in December.

The province of Basilan is depicted in the Yakan house.

ARMM Pakaradjaan
A house of a Yakan owned by affluent natives who are usually w/ authorities like Maharadja, nakib, panglima ( judge ) or a yakan coming from a big clan that serves as village leaders.The structure is highly elevated from the ground and usually made of hardwood and utilize an ancient and authentic engineering methods were there are no nails used in joining parts . Instead every part of the joints are bolted w/ pieces of hard wood called lagsak ( wooden bolt ) and tied in an artistic but sturdy knots using lubid ( abaca ropes ) and Buwey ( rattan strings )
Lumah is a structure referring t rattan strings o a house that is usually made of light materials like bamboo wood coconut and palm tree.The Lumah of the Yakans is very modest for it only consist of patan or Pantalan ( porch ), Lawas lumah ( main house ) and Pagbellahan of kusina.
The Pantan is an area of resting and also for entertaining guests where the Yakans chew betel nuts or Upah as part of the practices during resting and conversation. Most often it is also an area for weaving the Yakan cloth where the handblooms are assembled.
The Lawas Lumah is the main house where the members of the family sleeps, eat and pray and do other occasional activities like wedding. It is one single room immediately after pantalan and no quarters are built.
The Pagbellahan or Kusina is adjoint to the Lawas lumah where cooking and other kitchen chores are done


It was designed to showcase the works of the Yakan weavers. On display are the banigs, table runners, baskets, blankets, and pillows of various colors. Tourists are encouraged to try on the traditional costumes of the Yakans and shoot a colorful selfie inside the house.

On the ground floor, actual weavers are present to show their skills to visitors while an adjacent makeshift restaurant serves dishes from Basilan. They’re cooked and prepared by two ladies who own a restaurant in their home province, Nursidra Idris and Misra Indasan. Their specialty is served boodle fight style and presented with a mound of malagkit na kanin surrounded by various delicacies.

ARMM Pakaradjaan
The food in Maguindanao is always served with eggs. BCH – ARMM Exec Director Marites K. Maguindra said that ” Eggs to the Moros are like noodles to the chinese. The eggs signify a long and healthy life , happiness, and good luck. The maguindanao house is luxurious , every inch of the room is covered with banig or glittery wall decor.

The Sulu province is represented by a house that recaptures the opulent living quarters of the Tausug sultan. It is adorned with mounds of carpets and colorful wall décor. The centerpiece is a large bed though it’s not exactly a private bedroom since the place is used to entertain the sultan’s visitors. The host sits on the majestic bed while visitors can sit on the banigs and have a feast. The food in the latal food containers at the foot of the sultan’s bed is always abundant.

ARMM Pakaradjaan
The awesome photo belongs to the Sulu province, which presents the living quarters of the Tausug sultan. Being the home of a sultan, the replica is large although the main focus here is the sultan’s living quarters which is bedecked with carpets and colorful wall décor, furnished with a large bed. It’s not exactly used as the sultan’s private bedroom since the sultan reportedly received visitors in this room. The beautiful Tausug host sits on the bed while visitors can sit on the banigs and partake on the food confined in the latal food containers ensconced at the foot of the sultan’s bed.
Unlike the Yakan house, which provides a serene atmosphere, the Tausug home is decorated with flashier colors which make the sultan’s place look lively and glittery-

This is a replica of “Astanah Darul Jambangan “ of the Sultanate of Sulu, the first centralized form of Government that reverberated to the High Royal Councils of Ternate, Makassar and Brunei w/ signed agreements and treaties w/ China, Netherlands, Spain, Great Britain, Germany and the United States of America. Unbroken geneology of Sultans Founded by the First Sulu Sultan Paduka Mahasari Maulana Shariful Hashim ( 1450 ), through a pioneered principality established by Rajah Baguinda ( 1390 ).

ARMM Pakaradjaan
The Meranaw torrogan from Lanao del Sur features the signature carved beams called panolong, with tendrils and dragon designs. The walls are built with wood panels with okir designs. Although the look is as rich as the Tausug house, it is more formal with the dominance of antique wooden furniture. The resident entertains the guests in the living room over a coffee table. Gold-leafed picture frames called dadakatan, contrast the deep rich woods.

ARMM PakaradjaanLike the Sulu residence, the house of the Maranaos of Lanao del Sur is glittered with gold and silver décor though it’s somewhat made more somber by the antique furniture made of hardwood. It’s more conventional in the sense that guests are entertained in a living room where coffee and local delicacies are also served in a latal and silverware.

If ever there was a traditional luxe house, it must have belonged to the sultans of Maguindanao. Not an inch of wood or wall is exposed. Everything is covered with colorful banig and wall décor. Like the Sulu house, this one has an elaborate bed for the Maguindanao sultan and layers of banig where his guests can relax. The room is large enough to welcome more hungry guests. There are more than a dozen latals containing local delicacies. It makes visitors presume that the buffet was invented in Maguindanao.

As with the other Moro tribes, the food in Maguindanao is served with eggs. Reportedly, eggs to the Moros are like noodles to the Chinese. The eggs signify a long and healthy life, happiness, and good luck. These good wishes are made to a person while he is still being carried in his mother’s womb.Hence the egg is present in every meal.

The house of Tawi-Tawi is more practical and less frivolous. The Badjaos live a life of simplicity and since fishing is theirlivelihood, the replica recreates a house in a fishing village. It sits over the sea on stilts and is surrounded by wooden planks and piers. Beyond the house is a model of the famous mountain of Tawi-Tawi, Bud Bongao.

ARMM PakaradjaanGovernor Hataman said the presentation of old Moro traditions during the ARMM anniversaries has become a tradition in itself. “They serve as a constant reminder of our unique customs and traditions, which must remain strong and alive for our future generations to appreciate and further cultivate. The old traditions of other provinces in the Philippines are already dying, because only a few members of the younger generations are willing to nurture them. The rest of them have chosen to migrate to the big cities,” he said.

Fortunately, much of the beloved customs of Muslim Mindanao continue to thrive since each generation has successfully passed them on to the next. Governor Hataman cited the legendary weavers of the Yakans, who hail from his own province, Basilan. Their products have been quickly gaining national recognition and prestige, he said.

Aside from visiting the houses, tourists can also witness and attend the other events being held at the festival:

July 23: Food Festival

August 24: Master Chef competition

September 21-23: ARMM Debate competition

October 17: Lanao del Sur Cultural Night

October 24: Tawi-Tawi Cultural Night

October 31: Sulu Cultural Night

November 7: Sheik Makhdum celebration

November 14: Basilan Cultural Night

November 19: ARMM Cultural Night, street dancing competition, peace concert

November 21: Maguindanao Cultural Night

November 26: Moro Walk

December 4-7: Moro Film Festival

December 7-9L: SportsPeace – Moro Sports Festival

December 19: Shariff Kabunsuan Festival, Closing Program and Awards Night, Fluvial Float competition

All events happen at the ARMM Compound in Cotobato City and are open to the public for free.

Cotabato City marks 59th year with sports and culture

Cotabato 59th founding anniversary

Fanfare and pageantry marks the 59th founding anniversary of Cotabato City, the center of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), up until the end of June.

Located in Maguindanao, Cotabato City came under more international influences compared to other parts of Mindanao. Hindu traders settled in Maguidanao and shared their practices with the various ethno-linguistic groups. In the 15th century, Arab missionary Shariff Kabunsuan landed in Mindanao and introduced Islam. Muslim missionaries meanwhile taught the arts and sciences; they then consequently established a community life that resulted in the Sultanate of Maguindanao. Under Sultan Daputian Qudarat in the 17th century, Cotabato City became the capital of Maguindanao and became an affluent society.

By the early 19th century, roads and ports laid the foundation for modern infrastructure. The Spaniards eventually established a Christian settlement and a military post. Cotabato City became Pueblo de Cotabato. The reign was short-lived when Datu Piang led the attack against the Spaniards and massacred Christians at the turn of the 20th century.

During the American Regime, Datu Piang became the first governor of the Empire Province of Cotabato or “Moroland.” Although Japanese forces invaded Mindanao during World War 2, the Muslim Maguindanaon troops and the Philippine Commonwealth soldiers were successful in repelling them.

After the war, Cotabato City became a first-class municipality and one of Mindanao’s most progressive communities. It was proclaimed a chartered city on June 20, 1959 under Republic Act No. 2364.

The 2018 celebration kicked off during the Philippine Independence Day with daily cultural presentations. Organized by the Department of Education, it will be held at the City Plaza and will run through June 19. The Cotabato Toy Fair at the City Mall will run from June 14-17.

Sports competitions taekwondo, table tennis, jiu jitsu, super fights, and lawn tennis will be held on June 15 in different venues. On June 16, Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi’s Culinary Competition will be held at the People’s Palace while the Sayaw, Cotabato dance workshop and dance competition will be staged at the CCSPC Gym.

More sports events will happen on June 17: Padyak Takbo Para sa Turismo at the People’s Palace and a boxing tournament at City Mall. Between sporting events on that day are entertainments such as the Cosplay Competition at City Mall and Pa-Bingo sa Plaza at the City Plaza. A city celebration is incomplete without a beauty and brains pageant such as the Mutya ng Cotabato Talent Competition at South Seas Mall. This is a preliminary event to the finals.

On June 18, there will be a whole-day boat race, Pagkuya ng Awang, at the Tamontaka River. Tinig Cotabato Choral Competition will be held at the City Mall.

Free legal services will be offered at the People’s Palace on June 19. Meanwhile the two-day competition of the best flower horn fish, titled Clash of the Kings, will be shown at the City Mall. The 2018 Mutya ng Cotabato Pageant will have its main event at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex

The founding day celebration on June 20 will begin with a military parade in the morning and the formal launch of Sayaw, Cotabato – the annual indigenous dance festival, showcasing the diversity of the city’s ethno-linguistic groups as well as modern influences. The Davao-based Day Break Band will perform at the City Plaza. There will be a Halal Industry Development Forum at the Alnor Convention Center.

Just recently, officials and residents here rejoiced as no less than the Philippine National Police declared Cotabato as the SECOND safest city in the whole Philippines.

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.