DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /29 July) – Ina, who looked seventyish, waited patiently at the corner of the unlit and bare health center of Barangay Muslim Village, as the staff of MediSense Lab Center prepared the packed foodstuff for distribution on Saturday.
Ina, who grew up when her tribe would reckon a person’s age by counting only the full moons and rice harvests, was sitting in a bench along with her daughter and a granddaughter, all of them paled with hunger as they observed their second day of fasting on Islam’s holy month of Ramadhan.
Several minutes later in that early afternoon, Erna Gabagaba, officer-in-charge of the Davao City office of MediSense Lab Center, and Barangay 76-A Councilor Nancy Cortes, explained the food donation as part of the personal philanthropy of the owner, Nadia Al-Hamoud, to help her fellow Filipino Muslims.
The foodstuff were not cooked, in deference to the fasting season, but consisted of rice, canned goods and noodles, intended for more than 200 families already identified as the most needy in this already indigent community three kilometers west of downtown.
Gabagaba said the donation was worth more than P20,000 and was being done every year since this accredited medical diagnostic center for overseas Filipino workers was established, first in Bacolod in 2002, and later in six other cities in the country.
She said that Nadia Al-Hamoud is a Filipina Muslim married to a Saudi national.
The diagnostic center office here is one of only two government-accredited medical certifying agencies in Davao City, and has catered also to many manpower agencies recruiting many Muslims in the central Mindanao area.
Gladies Mae Gerones, administrative officer of the Davao City branch, said that the philanthropy of the owner has also touched the personal lives of the staff, who are mostly Christians, and many of whom also came from other provinces. Gabagaba, for instance, came from Bacolod City.
Hasmin Andal, information officer of the Barangay Muslim Village Youth Association, said that the residents of the village mainly rely on the construction binge in the city to sustain their families. “But often, families go hungry, and malnutrition is high among children, almost all of whom do not even have slippers.”
“Teenage pregnancy is very high here, as parents neglect their girls to look for any income-generating work,” she added. “Either the girls go out with the boys or are forced into early marriage due to tradition.”
Mark Buisan, president of the youth association, said that many small houses have either three to five families cramped inside.
Barangay Councilwoman Nancy Cortes said that the Muslim Village is composed of some 500 families, “but we would consider the village still mild as compared to the Bucana area”.
“It’s the worst of poverty in my barangay,” she said.
Barangay 76-A is the largest among the city’s 182 barangays, with 180,000 residents. The Bucana area accounts for 60 percent of the population, hemmed in by the Bankerohan River bank in the east and the cramped Times Beach area in the south. The Muslim Village is the westernmost village of the barangay. (MindaNews)