Friday, July 17, 2015


Previously: Eid

The hypnotic chant of the Muezzin, carried by the wind calls the faithful for the early morning prayer. The lyrical recitation of Adhan bounces off from the loud speakers perched high above the electric posts, leaving those who seldom hear it spellbound at how ancient this way of summoning is. It is 4:17 in the morning, the exact time the Fajr is offered on that special day. And as Allah's children rushes towards the Golden Mosque, I sat across the street, with my eyes closed to listen to the unabridged Quoranic verses, while my mind soars to distant lands in the south, where at that very moment, Muslims from Tawi-Tawi to Cotabato were heading towards the house of prayer to celebrate the breaking of the fast.  

It was the Eid, the end of the Ramadan. To this day, I remain uninstructed of the tradition, and I haven't really internalized its religious significance. Despite the ignorance, I decided to mark the occasion by going all the way to Quiapo to see the sights and sounds around Globo del Oro. The last time I was there was half-a-decade ago, when I headed straight to the Muslim community after getting a haircut from my barber. I arrived late in the afternoon, when most of the worshipers have already gone home. There was little to see then; most of the shops were closed, the restaurants have yet to serve Halal dishes, and except for being mistaken as an applicant for the Balik-Islam program, the attempt to fit in wasn't really a success. At a hindsight, I find it silly greeting people "Eid Mubarak," when locals likely don't greet strangers they come across.

Now five years later, I decided to make a comeback. To somehow indulge that little Dora in me. I arrived in Quiapo a little past 4 am, to a sleeping neighborhood still about to set shop for the day-long festivities. Except for the unusually bright lights illuminating the side streets, little could be gleaned from this expedition: the shops were still closed; glass racks displaying curry dishes were still empty, and while I saw the TV networks' trucks parked beside the mosque, (as they always do every year since the government declared Eid a national holiday) news would only get beamed to households at sunrise, when the imam ends the Fajr.

Still, without understanding a single word, I choose to remain on the sidewalk and waited for the dawn prayer to finish. Between live-tweeting what I see, and contemplating my presence in a world I would never be part of, I tried to understand my curiosity when nobody outside the religion seems to care. Perhaps, it is the thought of squeezing a pre-dawn adventure that made this whole trip worth doing. In my hour's linger at the Muslim community, not a single soul had asked if I'm interested to join the conversion program; an elder in his early sixties had mistaken me for a store attendant. He spoke in the vernacular, which I didn't understand. When I pointed him to the real shopkeepers, I learned that he was asking how much was the cheapest prayer mat. Arabic verses may have spoken by the worship leaders, but their melodic recital kept me glued to the pavement. When the men wearing Taquiyah and the women wearing Hijab started showing up at the exit to return home and partake at the feast, I decided to leave as well. One last stroll and in one of the canteens dotting the neighborhood, bowls and bowls of chicken and fish curries were now displayed on the glass racks. I would have ended the trip by having a hearty halal breakfast, but the thought of doing it with the Weatherman would have made the experience more special.

*Fajr is the first of the five daily prayers offered by practicing Muslims.

*Muezzin is the person appointed at a mosque to lead, and recite, the call to prayer for every event of prayer and worship in the mosque.

*Adhan is the Islamic call to prayer.

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