BARMM begins flexible working hours for Ramadan observance

Ferdinandh Cabrera, Rommel Rebollido

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BARMM begins flexible working hours for Ramadan observance

DEVOTION. Muslims pray at the lobby of city hall in Cotabato City, the regional center of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, at the start of Ramandan on March 23.

City Government of Cotabato

It is the first time in about three years into the COVID-19 pandemic that the Muslim-majority region will observe Ramadan without health restrictions such as a prohibition on gatherings and congregational prayers

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has implemented flexible working hours to accommodate the majority of workers who are observing fasting as the month-long celebration of Ramadan began on Thursday, March 23. 

The sacred month of Ramadan holds great importance to Muslim Filipinos, particularly those residing in Mindanao, which is home to more than 90% of the country’s Islamic population, over half of whom live in the Bangsamoro region.

BARMM interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag “Murad” Ebrahim has issued a memorandum circular that restates the changes in working hours during the month-long religious observance. Under the new schedule, work will start at 7:30 am instead of the usual 8 am and end at 3 pm instead of the usual 5 pm.

The order has been in place since Presidential Decree No. 322, and Civil Service Commission Resolution No. 81-1277 which was issued on November 13, 1981.

It is the first time in about three years into the COVID-19 pandemic that the predominantly Muslim region will observe Ramadan without government health restrictions that included a prohibition on gatherings and congregational prayers in mosques. 

Despite the temporary changes in work schedules, BARMM spokesperson and Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo assured that work performance and output will remain consistent with normal days for workers.

At the Cotabato city hall, work resumed, and nightly sports activities were expected.

The city government opened the Cotabato City Sports Plaza for basketball, volleyball, and tennis. 

City employees used the People’s Palace ground floor for Taraaweeh, a night prayer before the start of the Holy Month of Ramadhan.

Trade fairs, both inside and outside the Bangsamoro government complex, have also officially opened for night business activities.

In Muslim-majority Marawi, Mayor Majul Gandamra declared the first day of Ramadan as a non-working holiday.

Muslims in General Santos City also welcomed the fasting month with much excitement and started prayers and meditation in mosques around the city as early as Wednesday night, March 22, despite the city not being a part of BARMM. 

A city in the Soccksargen region, General Santos boasts a substantial Muslim community.

On the eve of Ramadan, eateries and food stalls opened near mosques, creating a festive mood as worshipers prepared to start fasting, awaiting the signal from Islamic religious leaders, usually before sunrise.

EVE OF RAMADAN. The setting sun casts a silhouette of the mosque dome in Barangay Dadiangas South, General Santos City, on Wednesday, March 22, the eve of Ramadan. – Rommel Rebollido / Rappler

In a message, Ebrahim underscored the significance of Ramadan, reminding everyone to serve the less fortunate, extend Iftar to the needy, and conduct religious activities such as reading the Qur’an and Islamic preaching. 

As millions of followers of the country’s second-largest religion observe and celebrate Ramadan, Ebrahim called on the Islamic faithful to trust in the wisdom of Allah and remain optimistic that things will be better for the predominantly Muslim region.

He said the month of Ramadan also holds much significance to Muslims, especially at a time when nations across the globe are confronted with major challenges. 

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, BARMM Speaker Pangalian Balindong expressed optimism that people in the region “will unite and work fervently with the blessings of the Almighty” to achieve lasting peace, unity, and prosperity. 

He said that as the Ramadan begins, Muslim Filipinos renew their dedication to purifying their intentions, fostering discipline, and emanating generosity and mercy.

Acting presidential adviser on peace, reconciliation, and unity Isidro Purisima expressed oneness with “our Muslim brothers and sisters as you begin this year’s observance of the Holy Month of Ramadan.” – Rappler.com

Ferdinandh Cabrera is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow based in Cotabato City, and Rommel Rebollido is a journalist based in General Santos City.

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