By Ali G. Macabalang
The Manila City Government has opened the Islamic cemetery and cultural hall within the South Cemetery in San Andres district, less than a year after construction began to cater to the city’s Muslim community.
Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Damagoso led the grand opening ceremony of the 2,400-square meter facility, which entailed the city government at least P49.3-million allocation.
Stakeholders were all praises for the completion of the facility, which started constructing in July 2020 in formal rites led by Mayor Isko and National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan.
It may be recalled that NCMF officials had earlier met with the mayor and inspired him to permit the formation of a Muslim consultative council in the premiere city, and possibly set aside an Islamic cemetery to end perennial odds confronting Muslim residents.
Mayor Isko instantly approved both quests, as the city legislature presided by Vice Mayor Dr. Maria Sheilah Lacuna-Pangan, concurred the approval and allocated P49.4 million for the project budget after the Muslim consultative body had been organized.
In his speech on Monday’s event, Moreno acknowledged that the lack of sufficient burial grounds has long been the predicament of Muslim settlers in the city, coupled with the Islamic belief that the body of their deceased should be buried within 24-hours after death.
“Iyong mga kababayan nating Muslim, kapag sumasakabilang buhay, natataranta, saan ba nila ililibing ang mahal nila sa buhay sa Maynila… Minsan kailangan pang dalhin sa Mindanao. Paano kung pobre, paano kung squatter? Wala namang pera, but they have to do it,” Moreno said during a speech in the inauguration of the facility.
(Our Muslim residents are always in quandary as to where they will bury the remains of their loved ones in Manila… Sometimes they even need to bring the body to Mindanao. What if they’re poor, what if they are from the slums? They have no money, but they have to do it.)
The mayor likewise apologized to the Muslim settlers for what he said was an oversight of the city government in past concerns involving them.
“This is yours, this is our offering and acceptance of our shortcomings as a city government,” he said amid applauses by Muslim residents led by invited prominent officials from the Islamic faith from different parts of the country.
Among the invited dignitaries was Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, who helped dramatize Monday’s ceremony asking Mayor Isko to join Muslim stakeholders in solemn prayer inside the cultural hall.
“It is a great honor that we were invited by Manila Mayor Isko Moreno to witness the official opening of Manila Islamic Cemetery and Cultural Center located in Manila South Cemetery,” Mangudadatu said later in a Facebook post.
Taking inspiration from Mayor Isko’s pace-setting initiative, Rep. Mangudadatu filed later on Monday his long-crafted bill “requiring all local government units in the country to allocate suitable land spaces for the establishment of public cemeteries for Muslim Filipinos.” (Read separate story)
Sources said Rep. Mangudadatu and Mayor Isko have been friends for years. The latter, when he was Manila vice mayor, visited Maguindanao and drew a pompous reception hosted by Mangudadatu, who was then in the final stage of his three-term gubernatorial regime in Maguindanao. AGM