Several months ago, I went to Philippines to accompany my cousin entering a pilot academy (yeah, he graduated from high school last year and enrolled to an academy to become a pilot inshaaAllah :). The short trip marked my 2nd journey to the country. The first time I came to the Philippines was almost 10 years ago I suppose, when my late sister was staying there for about 2 years. I even totally forgot what Philippines like since it’s been such a long time for me not going there!
I found many similarities between Philippines and Indonesia, my home country. The faces of the people, the country’s situation, traffic, and public transportations are more or less equal to what I see in my country. Even some of the words in the Philippines’ Tagalog language are sounded the same and even have the same meaning to the Indonesian. I didn’t wander around much because my main purpose of travel was solely to accompany my aunt to ‘drop’ my cousin to the school. He had to fill the administration requirements before starting school, so we accompanied him as it was the first time for him to study abroad!
What I want to emphasize in my short trip to Philippines is about being Muslim over there. It is a bit hard to find halal food in a country in which Muslim is a minority. But we managed to find some halal kebab and restaurant over there alhamdulillah. Before the last day of our stay, we had a free time to sightseeing and decided to go to Tagaytay, the nearest highland from our place and they said it’s beautiful. We googled it and agreed to go there as recommended by our guide in Philippines, but we had one request to go to Muslim place or Mosque in the Philippines. I contacted my Muslim Filipino friend and asked if we could possibly meet up, but we didn’t have a matching schedule so I decided to ask her for places recommendations. She mentioned Quiapo as one of the places where we can find Halal food and Grand Mosque. However, my trip destination (Tagaytay Highland) was in the opposite direction with Quiapo, so we looked for another Mosque along the way, it was located in Dasmariñas. When I asked the guide about Quiapo and Dasmariñas, he said he actually had never been there (as he is not a Muslim) and he heard bad stuffs about those places. People said those are dangerous places in the Philippines. Anyway, we still tried to reach Dasmariñas and finally found the mosque and took some time to pray over there. On the contrary to the public opinion, we found people were friendly over there. Muslim population were there nearby the mosque. When we were still on our way to the mosque, there were banners welcoming the people coming from Hajj (pilgrimage). It was a bit funny though because I didn’t find it that way of welcoming people from Hajj with banner in my home country 🙂
When I and my Aunt wanted to pray, the men inside the mosque tried to bring water into the Wudhu (ablution) room for the women. I presumed that the Muslim women rarely come to the Mosque in that area. While we were waiting for the water, I slightly saw a place to bath a dead body. I was a bit surprised as I’ve never seen that place before in another Mosque. It reminded me directly that our life will come to an end. Every breath shall meet the last breath. Our life in Dunya will be asked in the Hereafter later on. 🙂
The women prayer section was upstairs, 2nd floor of the Mosque. The place was not overall clean, but we found a clean and convenient spot to pray. After praying, we went downstairs and found my cousin was already in conversation with the Imaam (leader) of the Mosque. He told my cousin that his children were studying at an Islamic boarding school in Indonesia. What a small world!
We took the ride back from the Mosque, and our guide felt a surprise that the area was okay. Public opinions are made, everywhere, to judge Muslim. Sometimes the media may exaggerate much, though it isn’t the way it sounds. What I learnt from the trip was to be more positive and open-minded with the opinions from others, and also to be as good Muslim as we can especially to those who don’t really know about us beside what public/media told. 🙂 And anyway, for more times over, I am so grateful to live in a country which Muslims are majority. Everything feels easier, having Halal food, mosques all over the way, etc. The struggle will be different in each place we step!