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.
Seventy-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.
The 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.