MY, MY MARAWI: The Spice Girl and the Ramadhan Fest in Manila

MARAWI CITY (MindaNews/11 July) — Before Ramadhan Mama bought a whole sack of spice locally called sakurab, and it’s gotten useful. She pounded away the garlic including and mixed them to come up with PALAPA that accentuates the main course’s texture. Hundreds have been served for break of fast with beef, chicken or veggie cuisine enmeshed with appetizing accent. Coconut is fried with the spice so that dropping it on the boiling beef or palapa-wrapped chicken is made more yummy.

Mama has always been the great cook. She taught me the tip of placing a metallic instrument, a spoon or something, on the boiling beef, to make it soften. BEEF RANDANG is her specialty and people remember her for it. She tendered to feasts for families abroad as a hands-on hostess being a Principal in Jeddah. No wonder she was elected as the President of the Asian Women’s Circle. And she continues to cook with fervor.

Even if I, her eldest, was a non-cook, the food and flavor run in my veins. Back in my native hometown Marantaw, the men are trained since they were lads to cook beef, for which they are known to be good cooks. The beef smoothens with just the right amount of mix, not too salty, not too hot, and with potato on the side.

And this “smell and spice” gets into the heartbeat of Manila at the Fort with a Ramadhan extravaganza by local and Malaysian entrepreneurs in collaboration with L’Opera Group, owner of the top Italian restaurants in the country that are now going halal, and Mercato Centrale Group, the premiere organizer of night & day food market in the metro. The lively colorful event at Fort Bonifacio, the Global City, was opened by no less than entrepreneur Senator Cynthia Villar.

Ramadhan, the fasting month anticipated by Muslims worldwide, is 30 days of daily abstinence from food and water. But during evenings, it is a food fest.

The Ramadhan International Bazaar, to be held annually henceforth, is spearheaded by Halal & Toyyiba Holdings, Inc., a joint venture corporation between Muslim Filipinos and Malaysian entrepreneurs.

Sister Amirah Gutoc is one of the lead organizers. She takes pride in the halal displays which was opened by entrepreneur Senator Villar. Cultures of the Bangsamoro peoples are also on display with sequined decors and attires, textiles, i.e. shawls.

The organizer invites Muslims and non-Muslims alike in Metro Manila to experience the Southern Philippines and Ramadhan . Muslims get to pray there especially the evening prayers in an airconditioned hall. It is a time of reunion, and socializing, sharing Ramadhan made more special for the Muslims to tell what Islam and the Bangsamoro is through their delicacies or chitchat. [Samira A. Gutoc-Tomawis, Ll.B., is former assemblywoman, women sector, of the Regional Legislative Assembly, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; former director, Al-Amanah Islamic Bank, Inc.; former director, Marawi Resort Hotel, Inc. See her blog at]