CAIRO - Charging batteries to welcome the holy fasting month, Ramadan represents an opportunity for Muslims in the Philippines to extol simplicity, self-reliance, sacrifice and servitude.
It fosters empathy because fasting is an equalizer among the haves and have-nots, Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, a 37-year old lawmaker in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, told Rappler news network.
It reminds us of simplicity and austerity.
Islam should abhor extravagance. [It should uphold] moderation as a way of life, Tomawis said.
Ramadan is the holiest month in Islamic calendar.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
This year, Filipino Muslims have united on sighting the new moon of the dawn-to-dusk fasting month.
"If the new moon is sighted tomorrow, the first day of fasting will commence on Friday, July 20, said Dennison Abidin, director of National Commission of Muslim Filipinos (NCMF)-Region 9.
If it is not sighted, fasting will start the next day, Saturday.
"We cannot start fasting if we cannot sight the new moon. That is a tradition," Abidin said.
In the past, Muslim regions sighted the Ramadan moon on different times.
But this year, Muslim regions have agreed on coordinating together and with ulema and religious groups to determine the beginning of Ramadan.
"We are appealing to all Muslims to wait for and listen to the official announcement of the start of Ramadan," Abidin said.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur'an.
Many men perform i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque.
For Filipino Muslims, Ramadan is a chance to get closer to Allah and promote their family bonds.
Celebrating Ramadan should always start on the first day by following the teachings of Qur'an and by being thankful that Allah has granted you [the strength] to fast during the holy month, said Bhen Ezrah Olase Tulawie, 26, an online English teacher.
Jehannie Abubakar-Jalani, a 35-year old government employee and mother of 3, uses the fasting month to promote bonds among her family members.
The kids are also looking forward to it because they too want to experience fasting, she said.
Some Filipino Muslims change their daily routine during Ramadan.
My work schedule is usually at night, [and] I work with people from various background mostly non-Muslims, Rogelio Bragra, 32, said.
I usually ask my boss to change my lunch break schedule for my sahoor(predawn meal)."
Muslims make up nearly 8 percent of the total populace in the largely Catholic Philippines.
The mineral-rich southern region of Mindanao, Islam's birthplace in the Philippines, is home to 5 million Muslims.Islam reached the Philippines in the 13th century, about 200 years before Christianity.