Over 6,000 Filipinos join over 2 million pilgrims in Saudi Arabia for 2018 Hajj

Reciting  “Labbayka Allahumma labbayk, labbayka laa shareeka laka labbayk. Inna al-hamd wa’l-ni’mata laka wa’l-mulk, laa shareeka lak ,” over two million foreign and local pilgrims started their journey of a lifetime on Sunday, August 19, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to fulfill one of the pillars of Islam.

These words relate to Islam’s creed of “Tawheed” (monotheism), which every pilgrim recites during the hajj, one of the five pillars of the foundation of the Muslim faith.

When pilgrims recite the words, they mean: “Here I am, O Allah, here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise and blessings are Yours, and all sovereignty, You have no partner.”

Over 6,000 Filipinos joined their compatriots around the world for the five-day rituals, from August 19 to 23. In the Islamic lunar Hijrah calendar, the dates correspond to Dhul Hijjah 8 to 12, 1439. Dhul Hijjah is the 12th and last month of Hijrah.

TENT CITY. Saudi Arabia built close to 100,000 tents in Mina where pilgrims stay during the pilgrimage.
TENT CITY. Saudi Arabia built close to 100,000 tents in Mina where pilgrims stay during the pilgrimage.

This year, there are over two million pilgrims, of which 230,000 of them are from Saudi Arabia (local and expatriates), Saudi Gazette said.

In relation with this, lawyer Saidamen B. Pangarungan, secretary/CEO of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), which is under the Office of the President, is now in Saudi Arabia to perform the hajj and look after the welfare of his fellow Filipino pilgrims.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte appointed the former Lanao del Sur governor (1988 to 1992) on July 9. He will serve for two years as secretary (with no prejudice for reappointment) and four years as NCMF commissioner.

Pangarungan arrived in Jeddah, one of Saudi Arabia’s gateways to the hajj sites.

Dr. Jun Alonto Datu Ramos, director of the Bureau of External Relations (NCMF-BER), relayed this yesterday.

He said Pangarungan’s presence will help boost the morale of the Filipino pilgrims.

As this developed, this year’s “ameer ul-hajj” (head) of the 2018 Philippine Hajj Mission had decided to not go to Saudi Arabia.

His representative, Datu Zahir Mamalinta communicated this to the NCMF-BER.

He issued an official announcement on  Friday (August 17). “The Presidential Envoy/Ameerul Hajj 2018 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) 1st Vice Chairman Ghazali B. Jaafar will not be able to join us for the upcoming Hajj,” Mamalinta said in the announcement.

Duterte designated the MILF senior leader as presidential envoy and ameerul hajj.

Datu Ramos said Jaafar was supposed to leave for Saudi Arabia on August 6 but had to defer the trip because it was the same day that the President ceremonially signed in Malacanang the much-awaited Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM), or Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), the Republic Act 11054.

Meanwhile, even before the actual dates of the pilgrimage, a controversy on various issues have been hounding this year’s hajj operation, which is being handled by the Bureau of Pilgrimage and Endowment (NCMF-BPE).

Local Muslims have been calling on Malacanang to investigate what they perceived are alleged irregularities in some aspects of the operation.

On Facebook, Moro netizens have been reacting to the issues being raised and some have called on Congress to look into them.

Datu Ramos said Pangarungan, who came into the NCMF after preparations for the pilgrimage, like the signing of the Hajj Service Contract, were already completed, promised to look into the issues being raised and straighten up the perennially problematic hajj operation, in particular, and the NCMF, in general.

He said Pangarungan was forming a committee to look into the hajj operation.

EDD K. Usman: 1st winner of “Best Science Feature Story” of 2018 UP Science Journalism Award on February 17; winner in June 2014 for Print Media in Kabalikat Award Media Category of PCIEERD-DOST Science Journalism Award; alumnus of United States’ East-West Center 2008 Senior Journalists Seminar; participant of South Korea 2000 Executive Seminar for Information Technology Journalists; senior journalist at Manila Bulletin until April 15, 2016; stringer/contributor at present for Rappler, Newsbytes.ph, Claire Delfin Online Magazine, Malaya Business Insight, Agriculture Magazine (of Manila Bulletin), and U.S.-based Philippine News. Traveled on assignment abroad more than 30 times. Reports about SciTech, IT, ICT, Current Events, and many other subjects under Heaven.

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