By Samira Gutoc
This Christmas season and celebration, Filipinos celebrate with food whether with family, friends or colleagues.
Interestingly, it also brings to light how we Muslims survive living in the capital Manila when it comes to food. I was at NOVOTEL Hotel in Cubao for a National Investigative Journalism Summit just days before the SEA Games was to start. Looking over the buffet, I saw there was no Halal section. I reminded the waiters to remind management to write Halal on non-pork captions on food especially that SEA Games is already coming and that Muslim visitors might be checking in their hotel.
It’s tough for Muslims in Metro Manila, that we always have to ask if there is pork in food. Halal is very personal, remember that Muslim lady legislator who almost lunged at a waiter in Congress for not telling her there was pork on her food. Food management the Halal way is not just removal of pork in all meals, it is literally about food-handling itself from the oil and utensils used, and Imams are hired for slaughtering of the meat. It is not just a ritual, it’s a belief that is sacred and close to the heart of our Muslims Brothers and Sisters.
Imagine if all hotels hired IMAMS, we would not have many jobless religious authorities who can offer not just preaching but also professional support. Halal came to light at the SEA Games with most of the participants coming from majority Muslim countries ie Indonesia. SEA Games executive chef Bruce Lim said Halal preparations are quite challenging in a non-Muslim country with only a limited number of hotels halal-certified, that’s why third party suppliers, who have halal certification, were brought in.
“If you noticed some of the hotels are not Halal certified so what we did was we brought in third party contractors to help us who are Halal certified,” Lim said.
Fellow Young Moro Professionals Chef Tato Sangcopan is a pioneer in the field of Halal. He promotes public tasting in his various engagements in various food festivals. Broadcaster Nords Maguindanao is one champion too. Jun Macarambon has developed apps for customers to have Halal orders . During the deliberations on Economy provisions of the Bangsamoro Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, we urged the World Halal System to be incorporated.
Halal we said is not just about accreditation which by the way the Supreme Court forbade for government authorities because it could have religious implications. It goes so far as recognizing the role of chemists in laboratories checking on ingredients used on the food. That is how far we in the Philippines which sadly has to go. Napag-iwanan tayo.
I remember our Singapore hotel which had a buffet fun treat, a heaven for halal-goers. Even ham-looking stuff was halal, check that out. There is much work to be done but we are praying that halal advocacy efforts of the Department of Trade and Industry and National Commission on Muslim Filipinos find headway in collaborating with the private sector.