MANILA: Muslim residents of the Philippines capital soon will no longer have to make lengthy journeys to take the deceased to their final resting place.
On Wednesday, the city government led by Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso broke ground for the construction of Manila’s first Muslim cemetery.
Calling it a historic moment, Domagoso said the project is a way of recognizing the important contributions of Muslims to the history and culture of the city.
“Today is history, because we wanted to show to the next generation that they should be reminded of who we are as Manilenos and this should not be forgotten,” Domagoso said in a speech during the historic ceremony.
The 2,400-square-meter cemetery will hold 378 tombs and a mosque. Manila has allotted 49.3 million pesos ($1 million) for the project, which will also include the construction of a cultural hall.
“This is our own little way to make them feel that they are recognized and belong to the city of Manila. Not only belong, but also recognized as our ancestors,” the mayor said, as he apologized for neglect by previous administrations, which failed to provide Muslims a proper burial ground.
“It’s long overdue. It’s been 500 years of a certain level of neglect and denial. Today our children will remember and will continue to remember and respect cultures, traditions and customs in our city with regard to our Muslim community,” Domagoso said.
The mayor said Muslims “brought greatness to the city” even before the Spanish reached Philippine shores.
“We were then the land of rajahs, because rajahs ruled the then Kingdom of Manila, specifically the Rajah Sulayman dynasty. Why is it important to discuss the role of Rajah Sulayman in the history of Manila? It is to show that there is a need to give due recognition to the Muslims in the development of our city, as it was them who founded and made great the Kingdom of Manila before the Spanish conquest,” he said.
In the Islamic tradition, the deceased must be buried within 24 hours from the time of their death. However, until now, Muslims residents of Manila had to travel great distances to Taguig City, Bulacan province or Mindanao in order to bury their dead.
National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Chairman Saidamen Pagarungan, who was present during the ceremony, thanked Domagoso and the city government on behalf of all Filipino Muslims.
“This historic gift will be remembered not only by your Muslim constituents in Manila but also by the 12 million Muslim population of the country. The city government of Manila deserves our gratitude,” he said.
“I sincerely hope there will be more steps from the city of Manila that assert and protect the welfare of your Muslim brothers and sisters,” he added.
Pagarungan said he also hoped that the “beauty and splendor” of the Manila Golden Mosque will be reclaimed. The former tourist attraction is now surrounded by unsightly and illegal buildings.
“There is really a need to reclaim the beauty of the Manila Golden Mosque to symbolize the historical roots of Manila as an Islamic city, in the same manner that we have the Rajah Sulayman park in Roxas Boulevard,” he said.