News At Bangladesh’s OIC campus, international students recreate Eid atmosphere of home

MANILA: Muslim and non-Muslim Filipinos flocked to the Halal Bazar in the Philippine capital during Eid Al-Fitr celebrations in search of authentic dishes and in support of the minority community in their predominantly Catholic country.

Organized by the Philippine Ulama Congress Organization and the local government, the Halal Bazaar was a celebration of Muslim culture and cuisine accompanying Eid Al-Fitr festivities in Quezon City, Metro Manila, on Wednesday and Thursday.

Muslims and non-Muslims gathered at Quezon City Memorial Circle in Metro Manila, where they could try diverse dishes ranging from the local cuisine to ones from the Middle East and South Asia.

“We want to support the Muslim community,” said Rashdi Laurente, a student who visited the bazaar with his mother.

“Finding halal food is very difficult and, to add to that, most of the halal restaurants and halal food products are actually local. So this is also a way to support local businesses that come from far areas.”

Muslims make up about 10 percent of the Philippine population of more than 110 million. Most of them live on the island of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago in the country’s south, but the capital, Manila, is also home to the community, with hundreds of thousands of Muslims living there.

Focus on the culinary traditions of Filipino Muslims has been on the rise recently, as the Philippines is investing in expanding its halal industry to become a major Asian hub. A growing interest in Middle Eastern heritage has been reinforced by the presence of dozens of Filipino-Palestinians who were evacuated from Gaza after the deadly Israeli attacks that began in October.

Many Filipinos have been trying to learn more about Palestinian culture, and one way is through cuisine. During Ramadan, Gaza evacuees and Philippine activists have introduced many Filipinos to the most iconic Palestinian dishes at the pop-up Little Gaza Kitchen in Quezon City, which served traditional iftar meals.

Filipinos buy food at a Palestinian stand at Halal Bazar in Quezon City, Metro Manila, on April 10, 2024. (Quezon City Government)

“What I really look forward to and one of the hardest to find is actually maqlouba,” Laurente said, as he arrived in the Halal Bazaar in search of the iconic rice meal cooked with fried vegetables and either chicken or other meat.

“We tried it with the Palestinians last time when they hosted the Little Gaza open house and we love it,” Laurente’s mother, Swelin, said. “The love that Palestinians give to their food is the same love that we see that they have with their families in Gaza.”

Eating Palestinian dishes felt to them different than having any other Arab food.

“Whenever we see them happy when they’re cooking and they’re eating, we feel the same love and happiness as well,” Laurente said.

Friends Cristine, Jane and Dom, non-Muslim students from Metro Manila, planned to come to the Quezon City Memorial Circle after learning that Palestinians would be there.

“We found out from a post on Facebook that there will be a halal bazaar today, that’s why we came here to also support the refugees from Palestine,” Jane told Arab News.

For Cristine, it was also a way to get closer to the experiences and traditions of others living in her society.

“In a community where there are many Muslims, it’s good to have one like this,” she said. “For us, non-Muslims, it allows us to taste and experience their food and culture.”

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