x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Filipinos ship home half a tonne of dates to celebrate Ramadan

A group of Filipino Muslims in the Emirates has been stocking up on dates to ship back to mosques in their home country.

DUBAI // A group of Filipino Muslims in the Emirates has been stocking up on dates to ship back to mosques and less-privileged Muslim families in their home country in time for Ramadan next month. Hanifah Ampatua, the president of the UAE Maranao Community, which refers to itself as Marcom, said the group would ship 500kg of the fruit next week to reflect the spirit of the Holy Month.

"Dates are very abundant here, but are very rare in the Philippines," she said. "Filipino Muslims look forward to eating them as a symbolic breaking of fast during Ramadan." Maranao is a term used to describe the people of Lanao, also known as Ranao, a predominantly Muslim region located in the southern Philippines.  There are between 600 and 800 Maranaos in the UAE, most of whom live and work in Dubai and Sharjah. 

The Marcom has teamed up with another Muslim group, Bangsa Moro Labour Organisation (BMLO), for the project, which is in its second year and has expanded dramatically. Last year the group relied mostly on donations from its members, and sent 200kg of dates to the Philippines. The dates will be distributed to at least 300 poor families in Lanao, with plans for baskets to be eventually be sent to around 100 mosques, said Ms Ampatua.

In addition to the dates, an American woman from New Jersey who converted to Islam donated abayas and an undisclosed amount of money. The group says the dates will reach the Philippines during the first or second week of Ramadan. The group says it welcomes other type of donations, such as prayer mats, rosary beads and Islamic clothing for men and women. Marcom has used Facebook to advertise the campaign, and say that people in Saudi Arabia and Qatar have expressed interest in the venture.

"The Filipino Muslim groups in these two countries said they were interested in doing a similar initiative," she said. "We're happy that they decided to share their blessings to our Muslim brothers and sisters in the Philippines." Ismail Sorio, 50, a physiotherapist in Abu Dhabi who converted to Islam in 1992, wants to expand the campaign. "I'd like to include other beneficiaries, such as the 40,000 Muslims residing in the Cordillera region in northern Philippines."

Those who wish to donate to the project may contact Ms Ampatua on 050-3935723 or Marcom's adviser, Roy Sahron Tamano, on 050-2739373. rruiz@thenational.ae