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Selamat hari raya Idul Fitri

/ 10:08 PM August 17, 2012

“Selamat hari raya Idul Fitri” is how I learned to greet people “Happy Idul Fitri holiday” on my first foreign consultancy, in Indonesia in 1970, long before the acronym OFW was coined.

No sooner had I returned from studies abroad than a telegram came from economist and technocrat Orlando J. Sacay, asking me to join his study team on Indonesia’s rice intensification program, called Bimas. (My doctoral dissertation, “An economic analysis of the diffusion of new varieties of rice in Central Luzon,” was still with an official University of Chicago typist. The diploma itself came by mail in December 1970, when I was in Jakarta.)

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One had to pick up Bahasa Indonesia asap, just to eat properly.  In the entire hotel, only the front desk clerk knew English. My first lessons from Orly were to order two glasses for one bottle of beer (the smallest size was two liters, enough for both of us), and not to order sate babi anywhere. Sate kambing is more delicious anyway.

(From working with Orly in 1970-71, and then for Unicef as social indicators consultant in Jakarta in 1981, I still knew enough in 1999, when with the Namfrel election observers in the first post-Suharto election, to use Indonesian to introduce ourselves to our local counterparts.)

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The subject being rice, I did field trips across Java, and got as far as South Sulawesi. It was during Ramadan, in November of that year. I remember the people as quiet during daylight hours, but very noisy as soon as the sun went down, and noisy again for breakfast before sunup. We Filipinos (including the late Jose D. Drilon, who later headed the Rice and Corn Administration, precursor of the National Food Authority) fasted too, of course, out of courtesy for the people we were meeting.

It’s no problem to fast when everyone else is doing it, too. Our Indonesian teammates also fasted, even though travel duty is a valid excuse not to. I learned later that any days of missed fast should be repaid by fasting an equal number of days during non-Ramadan. Repayment of a fasting debt is done on the honor system.

As part of the celebration or lebaran, Indonesian employers are mandated to pay their workers a bonus, differing by region. In Jakarta, the bonus is one month’s salary, making it quite equal to the Christmas bonus in the Philippines. This is a time not only for giving gifts and visiting relatives, but also for mending relations with others.

Familiarity of Filipinos with Islam. Marking the end of Ramadan is a good way to teach non-Muslim Filipinos something about Islam. In the Philippines it is officially called Wakas ng Ramadan, the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar, and the first day marking the end of the fasting period of Ramadhan (sic), according to Republic Act 9177 (11/13/02) which declared it as a national holiday for the observance of Eidul Fidr—apparently the official spelling, but which I like to pronounce as Idul Fitri.

Familiarity with Islam is still rather low among Filipinos.  In SWS’ most recent national survey on extent of knowledge about Islam, in November 2010, 7 percent called it  malawak (extensive), 17 percent said bahagya ngunit sapat (partial but sufficient), 43 percent said kaunti (a little), and 32 percent said wala/halos wala (none/almost none). Let us count the first two groups, totaling 24 percent, as those “knowledgeable” on Islam.

There was an improvement from the previous survey in October 2008, when 3 percent said extensive, 11 percent said partial but sufficient, 42 percent said a little, and 44 percent said none. Thus the knowledgeable were only 14 percent, two years earlier.

The November 2010 survey also found that 65 percent were definitely/probably willing to accept a Muslim as a best friend.  Those knowledgeable on Islam, however, were 72 percent willing, whereas the rest were only 55 percent willing, to have a Muslim as a best friend.

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Willingness to have a Muslim as a teacher was 67 percent nationwide, but 75 percent among those knowledgeable on Islam. Having a Muslim as a neighbor was alright for 65 percent nationwide, and alright for 71 percent among the knowledgeable. Having a Muslim spouse was alright for 30 percent nationwide, and 47 percent among the knowledgeable.  Having a Muslim to care for one’s children was alright for 25 percent nationwide, and 49 percent among the knowledgeable.

The lesson here is that familiarity breeds, not contempt, but  appreciation. Promoting cross-cultural familiarity is good for the Philippines.

Recess in the peace talks. Eidul Fidr comes shortly after the end of the 30th Formal Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, last August 11.

The parties’ very brief joint statement says that they have organized their respective technical working groups on power sharing and wealth sharing, that these working groups “discussed and reached consensus on some issues of power sharing and revenue generation and wealth sharing arrangements,” and that the parties noted the progress and agreed to meet again later this month.

Having true progress toward a peace agreement is a good gift for Eidul Fidr.

 
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Contact SWS: www.sws.org.ph or [email protected] I thank Clarence Magano of SWS for new tabulations used in this column. For more survey-based analysis, see SWS Fellow

Vladymir Joseph Licudine’s thesis, “Islamophobia in the Philippines: measuring attitudes of Filipinos towards Islam and Muslims,” M.A. in Islamic Studies, University of the Philippines, 2012.

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TAGS: Customs and Traditions, Eid’l Fitr, Islam, Mahar Mangahas, opinion, Ramadan, Religion, Social Climate
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