“Honesty bench” in Maguindanao provides free Iftar meals this Ramadan

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 25 April) — An “honesty bench” in Barangay Macaguiling, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao has earned praises from netizens for its display of  goodwill in the spirit of Ramadhan.

Packed meals are displayed on a bench outside AQ mart where poor and needy residents and passerby could freely pick one to be eaten during the break of fast on Friday, Day One of the month-long Ramadan.

Bench outside a grocery in Barangay Macaguiling, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao offers free food for Iftar, brereaking of the fast. Photo courtesy of Nageah Mohammad Pak

Nageah Mohammad Pak, owner of the family-owned grocery, explains that Ramadhan is not only about fasting, that giving essence to the sacrifice is to enliven the message of faith, to give to those who are needy especially now where everyone is suffering the brunt of COVID-19 crisis.

“Just before 5 p.m. on the first day of Ramadan, we displayed a few dozens of food packs for a free Iftar consisting of rice, chicken flakes, eggs and dates. It was soon gone. Other neighbors knocked on our store asking if there were some extra food stuff”, Nageah said.

The generosity of the Pak clan in Barangay Macaguiling made the rounds on social media earlier for just simply leaving a bag of rice and dried fish at the bench outside their grocery store intended for the needy in the time of COVID-19.

“Whoever family has nothing to cook today, just pick one bag, just one so that others can avail”, a paper posted on the bench said.

Residents who availed of  the family’s generosity expressed their gratitude via social media since the community quarantine did not allow them to thank the donors personally.

Also on the first day of Ramadhan, a youth group in Maguindanao launched a Mobile Kapagatul.

“Kapagatul” is a Maguindanaon term derived from the phrase “to serve” in the English language and/or “maghain” in Filipino. Mobile Kapagatul aims to provide Iftar packs (ready-to-eat food) for families who are daily wage and/or low-income earners who are forced to stay at home and rely mainly on the relief goods provided by public and private sectors.

Mobile Kapagatul aims to feed 700 families on the first week of Ramadan in selected barangays of Cotabato City, Sultan Kudarat, Datu Odin Sinsuat and Datu Blah Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

The youth group has roamed around several communities and delivered the goods consisting of dried dates, noodles and fruit juices to the identified beneficiaries.

In the Bangsamoro compound, the Minister of Interior and Local Government (MILG-BARMM) provided emergency assistance and Ramadan package to around 350 workers, mostly former rebels turned frontliners and regional staff  in the COVID-19 response of the region.

The food aid consists of one sack of rice, tray of eggs, multivitamins, face mask and alcohol, fruits and vegetables, bread and peanut butter, canned goods and fresh fish, beef and dressed chicken.

“Practically our workforce are almost restless since the start of the response and it was just timely to provide them with emergency assistance as most will observe  Ramahan, they need it most and also it  discourages them to join the flock of people in supermarkets to buy goods in preparation for Iftar,” he said. (Ferdinand B. Cabrera / MindaNews)