By MARIA FHEBIE ORTIL, Metro Manila Correspondent
MANILA: The government pilgrimage agency is hopeful the Saudi government will still allow pilgrims from the Philippines to take part in this year’s annual pilgrimage to Makkah after the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah of the Kingdom has restricted the sojourn to only those nationals who are staying within the Kingdom due to the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Director Malo Manonggiring, head of the Bureau of Pilgrimage and Endowment of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (BPE-NCMF) told Philippine Muslim Today in an exclusive phone interview that the pilgrimage bureau has not lose hope that the Saudi government will still allow pilgrims from the Philippines to take part in the annual ritual at Kaaba or Masjidil Haram.
“We have made an official request to the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to give us even a few number of Hajj Visas so that at least the Philippines is represented in the annual pilgrimage,” Manonggiring said.
To make sure that the pilgrims would have a sure journey to Islam Holy Land in Makkah, “we are expecting that there will be an official reply through official channel or from government to government,” according to the BPE-NCMF director.
Manonggiring advised Muslims to beware of news circulating in media platforms which are not officially released by authorities as they may not be reliable. “Communications in order to be official in nature should be transmitted through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). We cannot just rely on Social Media or Short Messaging System (SMS),” Manonggiring emphasized.
He said had it not been due to COVID-19 pandemic the BPE-NCMF has already started preparations in time for the registration of pilgrims.
In Bongao, Tawi Tawi, Dr. Kaberl “KOH” Hajilan, a Sheikh who brings a group of pilgrims yearly to Makkah said it is a nice move if the request of Director Manonggiring will be given due course by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
“I think since social distancing is also being sought for by the Saudi government due to this pandemic thus the number of pilgrims for every country has to be reduced which is a nice alternative rather than to have no pilgrims at all who can attend this annual Hajj ritual,” Hajilan told Philippine Muslim Today.
Hajilan said roughly around 70% of the pilgrims under his care have begun to refund their air fare after feeling hopeless.
With this new development, he said he is hoping again that at least to some extent there will be Hajj 2020 Philippine Delegation.
However, Hajilan admitted that with few number of pilgrims or jamaa for every Sheikh, these will incur a lot of expenses for them to shoulder some of the miscellaneous expenses of the pilgrims.
Hajilan as the Sheikh from Tawi-Tawi has even proposed that all the Sheikhs who were affected by this pandemic should be given the so-called “Sheikh Amelioration Fund (SAF) in order for them to have enough budgets to defray the miscellaneous expenses of the pilgrims.
In Marawi City, Sheik Abdurrahman Noor said almost all of his jama members are still intact. Noor told Philippine Muslim Today almost all their fees for the hajj are already transmitted.
This year’S Hajj, NCMF Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan has been designated by President Rodrigo Duterte as the Amirul Hajj or hajj head of delegation.
PHILIPPINE MUSLIM TODAY