'Pablo' victims thank Muslim brothers for aid
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - December 26, 2012 - 5:12pm

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - Victims of Typhoon Pablo in Davao Oriental, most of them Christians, are grateful to employees of the Integrated Provincial Health Office of Maguindanao, majority of them Muslims, for holding a four-day  relief mission last week in their communities despite the distance of the province where the health workers are deployed.

Five doctors from the IPHO-Maguindanao and a driver were even badly injured when their vehicle crashed in Baganga, Davao Oriental, while en-route to the areas they were to serve.

Among those injured in the highway mishap was the chief of the IPHO-Maguindanao, physician Hadji Tahir Sulaik.
An evacuee, Perla Manriquez, 35, said she is grateful to the “Maguindanaon-speaking” nurses and relief workers that provided them medical and dental services.

About ninety percent of the members IPHO-Maguindanao relief team are Muslims, something evacuees in Davao Oriental’s adjoining Cateel and Boston towns never thought of.

Sulaik is himself an ethnic Maguindanaon Muslim.

“It’s nice to see our Muslim brothers and sisters serve us, Christians. We have realized that Moro people are not war mongers, the way they are projected in news reports. They are humane people who have big hearts for their Christian compatriots,” a fish vendor, Merta Ignacio, said.

Sulaik said their relief mission was an independent initiative of their office, bankrolled by their savings from their funds.

A tricycle driver, Ramon Reyes, 45, said his “wrong perceptions” about Muslims in Maguindanao, encouraged by reports about the Mindanao conflict, were overtaken by good and lasting impressions based on how he saw Sulaik and his subordinates attended to the needs of people in Davao Oriental.

“The fuel, all the medicines we brought there were produced out of our savings,” Sulaik said.

Local officials in Davao Oriental also expressed gratitude to the IPHO-Maguindanao.

Sources from the Christian religious communities in the two towns the IPHO-Maguindanao employees served were quoted in radio reports as saying that the teams lead by Sulaik treated hundreds of villagers from various ailments, including diarrhea.

Muslim communities in the towns served by IPHO-Maguindanao were also thankful, seeing Muslims from Maguindanao provide them with medical and dental care.

Sulaik’s relief team was comprised of sanitation experts, physicians and nurses from the rank and file of IPHO-Maguindanao.

The IPHO-Maguindanao is based in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao, some 700 kilometers southwest of the adjoining typhoon-ravaged Cateel and Boston towns.

Sulaik said the accident that injured several of his team mates has not dampened their enthusiasm to serve the calamity-stricken areas in Davao Oriental.

Muslim religious leaders were elated with the impressions generated by the relief mission of a predominantly-Muslim team that attended to the needs of the evacuees in Davao Oriental.

Even a commissioner of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, cleric Esmael Ebrahim, said he was delighted to hear positive comments from the Christian communities in Davao Oriental about the humanitarian effort of the IPHO-Maguindanao.

“It was through the permissiveness of Allah that our friends in the IPHO-Maguindanao were given a chance to show goodwill to non-Muslims. It’s heart-warming to know that the people they serve have good impressions now of us, Muslims,” Ebrahim said.

Ebrahim said Islam has extensive advocacy for community service, particularly in times of distress.

He said the Islamic concept of humanitarian mission transcends boundaries and tribal or racial identities.  - John Unson

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