By Ali G. Macabalang
NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental – Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny “Bambi” Emano confirmed on Wednesday, Aug. 11 his administration agreed to donate five-hectare land for use as Islamic cemetery with a cultural hall to ease burden among his Muslim constituents in burying their dead decently and promptly.
In an exclusive interview, Gov. Emano said his office would incorporate in the provincial budget for next year the fund for the purchase of the land, the fencing of the area and with a mosque to be built therein.
“Hopefully, by first quarter of next year, we will be able to start fencing the area (and building of) a mosque where to pray for the dead,” he told The Philippine Muslim Today news.
He did not mention the specific area, but his staff said it will be located at Barangay Poblacion here where Christian, Muslim and indigenous tribal sectors have been coexisting peacefully for centuries. This progressive town is on the border of Misamis Oriental with Iligan City and Lanao del Norte.
Naawan officials led by Mayor Jaime Roa received here Gov. Emano, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Chair Manny Piñol and Development Bank of the Philippines president Emmanuel Herbosa for the ground-breaking of the P180-million multi-purpose center covering also a modern municipal hall Wednesday noon.
Visitors and journalists saw the ceremony kicked off with ecumenical prayer representing Muslim and Higaonon tribal sectors, and Christian religious denominations.
During the interview, three-term Gov. Emano proudly revealed that his family has a Muslim descent – something that confirms historical narratives that Misamis Oriental used to be among Mindanao areas with predominant Muslim and lumad natives prior to the coming of Spaniards and succeeding foreign conquests.
“We would like to share with you that we, too, have a Muslim blood with the Samporna. That was what my father told me. And we were taught when young that we might be a Muslim especially (as) lumad. We should all be respected. We have Mindanao and the only Mindanao we have. We have to help each other,” he said.
The governor, more known as Bambi, is son of the late Vicente Emano, who had reigned as governor and mayor of Cagayan de Oro City for three full terms in both capacities.
He recalled that for decades, his Muslim constituents have been facing difficulty in transporting their dead to Marawi Marawi City or Lanao del Sur for burial and in subsequent memorial visits. The odds are compounded in the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic when highway checkpoints impose community quarantine protocols, he hinted.
“It’s only just right that our Muslim brothers and sisters (should be spared from such difficulty). We have to establish a place where they can bury their dead and later visit at their convenience,” Emano said.
“We will do that. We will do that,” the highly-admired Emano assured at the end of the brief interview.
Earlier, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan, through NCMF spokesman Jun Alonto-Datu Ramos announced that their field officials in Region 10 met with Gov. Emano and staff on Aug. 5, and agreed on the provincial government’s donation of land for an Islamic cemetery with a cultural hall.
Emano’s offer to donate land for Muslim cemetery with built-in mosque was the latest in a string of successes gained by NCMF central and field offices in eliciting land donations for construction of Islamic cemeteries in Luzon, Viasayas and Mindanao including urban centers.
Last June, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Damagoso and national Muslim officials opened an international standard Islamic cemetery with a cultural hall cum mosque on a 2,400-aquare meter lot at San Andres District worth P49.3-million from the city government’s coffer.
Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu attended the grand ceremony, even as he earlier filed a bill seeking a mandate for all LGUs across the country to donate lands for use as Islamic cemeteries in pursuit of the government campaign for “genuine” national unity. (AGM)