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KISSAH AND DAWAT: August, Amun Jadeed and what it means to us

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ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 08 August) — These days we take our calendar as a given and for granted. We do not have a second thought about it. Yet before the arrival of the colonial powers to our shore, we may have been looking at a different calendar. Our present Gregorian calendar is solar. Counting is based on seasons and a year is roughly equivalent to the Earth’s rotation around the Sun while many of the indigenous calendars in Southeast Asia are based on so-called moon cycles, i.e. based on the shape of the Moon’s sunlit portion as viewed from Earth.

In the case of the Moros, both the solar Gregorian calendar and the lunar Hijri calendar are used. The former is part of daily life, from birthdate to going to school, work, and government transactions. The latter remains important for religious functions. While we are now in the month of August 2021 in the Gregorian calendar, the Moros are keenly aware that we are wrapping up the month of Dhul-Hijjah 1442. Dhulhijjah is the last month of the Hijri calendar. The Hijri day on August 9 will be the first day of Muharram, the first month in the Hijri calendar. Therefore, it is Amun Jadeed, the beginning of our new year 1443[1].

There are two ways looking at Amun Jadeed of the Hijri new year – the traditional and the new. Those who favor the traditional ways would celebrate it like we observe the Gregorian new year with fireworks and gun-firing. It is a belief that gun should be fired at least once a year, and the Amun Jadeed is an apt excuse to see if is still in good condition. The noise is supposed to drive away evil spirits, to keep them in the past year and frighten their way out of the new year. There will be traditional food on the table, pancit/beehon/sotanghon for long life, sticky rice for stronger family bond, and a plate of round fruits to attract prosperity. The family may be in polka dots dress to symbolize prosperity and family unity. However, with many ulama (religious professionals) formally schooled in kulliyah (Islamic college), these traditional practices are subjected to austerity. The faithful are reminded that there are only two eids (feasts) worthy of celebration – Eid ul Fitr (Feast of the Fast) and Eid ul Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) and traditional practices and superstitions not part of Islamic jurisprudence.

August is popular as “Buwan ng Wikang Pambasa”[2] and “History Month”[3], and often celebrated in schools with academic and co-curricular activities that showcase students’ proficiency of the national language and its associated culture. August is also the month for Farms Safety, Lung Month, National Electrification Awareness, Breast Feeding and National Census. Unknown to many, the concept of farms safety is part of a year-long advocacy on safety and prevention. Lung-related diseases, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, continue to be among the DOH priorities. Our latest census informs us that we are now a country of more than 109 million citizens with a population density of 363 persons per sqkm[4]. The observance is to inform us about the importance of the periodic national censuses as they inform us the state of our population, housing, agriculture, fisheries, business, industry, and other sectors of our nation-state.

The electrification awareness this month should remind us that while we pay for our electricity, the cost has become a burden for many families. Aside from the private players in urban areas, our rural communities are primarily serviced by electric cooperatives. Affordable and stable power is critical to local development. As we observe electrification awareness this month, we in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) should be reminded that based on the 2019 Performance Assessment of the National Electrification Administration, four out of the ailing eight electric cooperatives in the country are in the BARMM – LASURECO in Lanao del Sur, BASELCO in Basilan, SULECO in Sulu and TAWELCO in Tawi-Tawi. Although not ailing, CASELCO in Cagayan Mapun (Tawi-Tawi) and SIASELCO in Siasi (Sulu) are in the yellow category, meaning, they have also failed to meet certain categories in their performance standards. MAGELCO in Maguindanao was not evaluated[5]. Left on their own, without proactive, and constructive engagement from the regional government, any regional efforts on economic growth and productivity will continue to be stymied by seemingly perpetual power outage. Steady and reliable power supply is also crucial to the success of the desalination plants the BARMM is putting up in several island communities.

August is also Breastfeeding Month based on Republic Act 10028 or the “Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009”[6]. It is encouraged by the State because of its distinct benefits to the child and mother. Thus, this law creates an environment where basic physical, emotional, and psychological needs of mothers and infants are fulfilled through the practice of rooming-in and breastfeeding. It is the first preventive health measure for the child. Breastmilk is the best food since it contains essential nutrients completely suitable for the infant’s needs. It is also nature’s first immunization, enabling the infant to fight potential serious infection. It contains growth factors that enhance the maturation of an infant’s organ systems. Breastfeeding enhances mother-infant relationship and by promoting such practice, it has practical economic benefits too, reducing cost associated with milk formula and its import.

Aside from the monthly observances, there are weekly observances as well – August 1-7: World Breastfeeding Week (Proclamation No. 1113, s. 2006), August 6-12: National Hospital Week (Proclamation No. 181, s. 1993); August 13-19: National Language Week (Proclamation No. 19, s. 1988); August 17-23; Made in the Philippines Product Week (Proclamation No. 76, s. 1936); August 24-30 National Coconut Week (Proclamation No. 142, s. 1987) and August 29-September 5 Rice and Corn Week (Proclamation No. 304, s. 1964).

Coconut advocacy is important for our country. Coconut is present in 69 out of 79 provinces. Coconut farms cover some 3.3 million hectares (ha), nearly 30% of farmlands. Coconut-producing regions host among the largest number of rural poor and are sites of insurgency. Coconut products contribute nearly half of agriculture exports. Coconut lands have among the largest potential for diversification among the major crops. it has a huge, untapped resource pool for industry development (the coconut levy funds) which has been locked in legal battle since 1986[7]. Coconut is among the top crops in the BARMM. This is because, according to a Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) briefing guide on the subject[8], the BARMM provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Lanao del Sur are “highly suitable for coconut production,” meaning, they produce in excess of 2.5 t copra (in nut terms = or higher than 11,250 nuts/ha); while Maguindanao and Tawi-Tawi are “suitable,” meaning they are in the 2nd priority for government support. Either way, this month’s advocacy is crucial to the local coconut industry, especially to farmers and their families. The BARMM is also a key producer of corn, which is an alternate crop for the region.

Another set of advocacies for the month of August is without specified dates and includes the following – Week 1: Sight-Conservation Week (Proclamation No. 40, s. 1954); Week 2: Asthma Week (Proclamation No. 442, s. 1994) and Philippine National Research System Week (Proclamation No. 1309, s. 2007); Week 3: Brain Attack Awareness Week (Proclamation No. 92, s. 2001); Last Week: Barrio Officials Week (Proclamation No. 282, s. 1964); and last Monday of August: National Heroes Day (Act No. 3827 and Republic Act No. 9492).

This week, the BARMM Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) validated and adopted its Research and Development Agenda. The process was facilitated by the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP). However, an agenda is just a piece of paper without resources, commitment and network. Aside from echoing relevant items in the National Research and Development Agenda (NRDA – 2017 to 2022)[9], the regional agenda also tried to reflect and prioritize development areas unique to its culture, ecosystem and people.

As we observe Philippine National Research System in the 2nd week of August, we need a systems-thinking frame at the whole research and development (R&D) system in the region. Albert, Yasay and Gaspar in their paper “Examining Processes in Research and Development at the Department of Science and Technology” (2015)[10] inform us that research and development (R&D) is one of the critical components to improve a country’s productivity and competitiveness as well as people’s wellbeing. Notable advancements in agriculture (for the development of new variety of crops), health (to improve nutrition and combat various diseases), industry (to develop new products and services), as well as in climate change adaptation and mitigation are products of R&D.

Towards this end, the BARMM needs to reflect and be critical about the low R&D intensity in the region as well as limited resources for R&D; government or public research institutes as partners of firms towards innovation; low R&D efforts towards agricultural productivity; the distribution of R&D expenditures within the regional government; multi-sector drive towards yielding outputs and outcomes with big impact to the region and its people; the need to improve thrusts for R&D agenda; the need to improve Monitoring and Evaluation of R&D activities and the need for clearer rationale and focus of RDIs and Research Councils.

There are daily observances in August as well. August 8 is the Police Service Anniversary (Republic Act No. 6975 of 1990). The recent death of a police director and a policeman in Sulu should move the entire PNP workforce into a soul-searching of sort over professionalism, cultural sensitivity and altruism. August 9 is National Indigenous Peoples Day (Republic Act No. 10689). The Bangsamoro is an aggrupation of Islamized indigenous groups in Mindanao, Sulu Archipelago and Palawan (MinSuPala).  While they are now a majority in the BARMM, the same negative treatments and injustices they experienced from the country’s majority should not happen again to those minorities, indigenous or migrant. The BARMM has the opportunity to demonstrate how the regional government can be inclusive and equitable with the minorities in its midst. Because at the end of the day, we are all human beings with the same human rights (August 7 is International Humanitarian Law Day – Executive Order No. 134, s. 1999).

On our shared humanity, 10th-century Islamic philosopher Abu Nasr Al-Farabi reminds us that “an isolated individual could not achieve all the perfections by himself, without the aid of other individuals” thus to “achieve what he can of that perfection, every man needs to stay in the neighborhood of others and associate with them”[11]. Therefore, the development and progress of the BARMM cannot be achieved by just a group of people to the exclusion of others in the same locality. BARMM needs to make true about its inclusion promise. We can start anew this month of August.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Noor Saada is a Tausug of mixed ancestry – born in Jolo, Sulu, grew up in Tawi-tawi, studied in Zamboanga and worked in Davao, Makati and Cotabato. He is a development worker and peace advocate, former Assistant Regional Secretary of the Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, currently working as an independent consultant and is a member of an insider-mediation group that aims to promote intra-Moro dialogue.)

[1]   https://www.islamicfinder.org/islamic-calendar/2021/August/?type=Gregorian

[2]   Proklamasyon Blg. 1041, s. 1997 – https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1997/07/15/proklamasyon-blg-1041-s-1997-2/

[3]   Proclamation No. 339, s. 2012 – http://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2012/02/16/proclamation-no-339-s-2012/

[4]      Highlights of the Population Density of the Philippines 2020 Census of Population and Housing (2020 CPH) – https://psa.gov.ph/population-and-housing/node/164857

[5]   2019 Compliance Report on the Performance of ECs – https://www.nea.gov.ph/ao39/phocadownload/ECs%20Classification/2019%20Compliance%20Report%20on%20the%20Performance%20of%20ECs%20for%20the%201st-Qtr.pdf

[6]   Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 – https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2010/03/16/republic-act-no-10028/

[7]   Rolando T. Dy and Senen Reyes, The Philippine Coconut Industry: Performance, Issues and Recommendations – https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/Pnadh939.pdf

[8]   “Coconut Industry Production Status, Growing Zones, Productivity and Potential to Increase Nut Supply in Coconut Farms through Practical and Efficient Farming Technologies (PEFT)” – http://pca.da.gov.ph/coconutrde/images/gen8.pdf

[9]   National Research and Development Agenda (NRDA – 2017 to 2022) – https://www.dost.gov.ph/phocadownload/Downloads/Journals/Approved%20Harmonized%20National%20RD%20Agenda%20%202017-2022.pdf

[10]  Albert, Jose Ramon G. A, Donald Yasay and Raymond Gaspar (2015). “Examining Processes in Research and Development at the Department of Science and Technology”- https://www.dbm.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/DBM%20Publications/FPB/ZBB-2014/2.%20Examining%20Processes%20in%20RandD.pdf

[11]  Amber Haque (2004), “Psychology from Islamic Perspective: Contributions of Early Muslim Scholars and Challenges to Contemporary Muslim Psychologists”, Journal of Religion and Health – https://www.jstor.org/stable/27512819

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