Last Monday, we in the city government of Manila inaugurated in simple ceremonies the Manila Islamic Cemetery located inside the city-run Manila South Cemetery.
The said occasion was made all the more significant with the attendance of high-profile members of the Muslim community in the likes of Maguindanao Congressman Toto Mangudadatu, Her Excellency Hajah Johariah Binti Haji Wahab, Ambassador from the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam; His Excellency Norman Bin Muhammad Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary from the Embassy of Malaysia together with First Secretary Mrs. Ayu Zie Muhammad Khairul Anuar; Widya Rahmanto, Charge d’ Affaires and Tegu Wiwenko, Minister Counsellor from the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia. I thank them all for being present even on short notice.
With me representing the city of Manila, on the other hand, are Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna, Manila Muslim Affairs Director Shey Sakaluran Mohammad, Manila Health Department chief Dr. PoksPangan, city engineer Armand Andres, tourism department chief Charlie Dungo and South Cemetery Director Jess Payad, among others.
The newly-inaugurated cemetery sits on a 2,400 square- meter lot and will serve as an exclusive ground for the burial of bodies and bones of Muslim residents of Manila.
Its development is enabled by Manila Ordinance No. 8608 authored by Councilor Awi Sia. It was passed by the Manila City Council which Vice Mayor Lacuna heads as its presiding officer.
The budget allocation for it is P49.3 million and includes the construction of a Cultural Hall and creation of plantilla items for personnel hiring by the new Muslim Cemetery Division.
It is notable that while there are cemeteries for Filipinos and Chinese in Manila, it is also but befitting to establish one for the city-based Muslim community members too.
Too, I have been in government service for 23 years and have heard stories on how problematic the situation is for Muslim community members each time a loved one would die, specially for those who are poor.
In numerous instances, the body of their departed loved one would have to be transported all the way to their hometown province for the proper burial and this is very costly.
It is for this reason that I made a commitment to the late Bangsamoro Transition Committee chair Ghazali Jaafar that if God would allow that I become mayor, I would definitely create a cemetery exclusively for Muslims.
In putting up the ‘Manila Islamic Cemetery,’ we made sure that all the traditions that attend every Muslim burial will be taken into consideration, noting that burying the dead is a very serious tradition for Muslims.
Thus, it comes complete with a room where the traditional washing of the body may be done prior to interment.
It is the city government’s simple but heartfelt gift to our Muslim brothers and sisters and our way of showing how Manila and its officialdom honor the city’s earliest ancestors and forefathers.
Among them, we have the likes of Rajah Solaiman, Rajah Matanda, Rajah Bago and Lakandula, who led the uprising in Luzon against foreign tyranny.
This is also our way of welcoming our Muslim communities and making them feel that Manila is also their home.
All we want is for them to have a sense of belonging and to erase all biases and prejudice against Muslim, since we are all Filipinos after all.
Building the said cemetery is also our way of admitting and providing remedy to the city’s short comings in the past when it comes to giving proper recognition to the Muslims residing in Manila.
There are about 20,000 Muslims in the city, with huge concentration in the areas of Quiapo, San Miguel, Baseco, Parola and San Andres.
Providing them a burial site is thus, our simple way of giving back to our Muslim brothers and sisters, although this is certainly not enough.
It is our way of giving tribute to our Muslim forefathers and heroes which is actually long overdue and our own little way of giving them recognition as our ancestors and letting them know that they belong.
Congressman Toto Mangudadatu told he me filed a bill in Congress urging all other local government units to also establish similar Islamic Cemeteries. I hope his proposed bill gains ground.
Gaya ng paulit-ulit kong sinasabi, kailangan ko ang tulong ninyong lahat. Walang mag mamalasakit sa Maynila kundi tayo ding mga Batang Maynila. Manila, God first!
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