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Filipino Muslims fly to Mecca for Hajj on Saudi tab

By: - Reporter / @TarraINQ
/ 02:19 AM October 13, 2013

The sun sets behind the minarets of Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University mosque in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Everybody flies for the Hajj, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Going on a pilgrimage to Mecca has been a lifelong dream for lawyer Samina Macabando but the hefty price of the journey—up to P200,000—was always a barrier.

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This year, the Marawi City native is finally making the sojourn that Muslims around the world make their life’s mission. The 31-year-old lawyer is among 47 Filipinos the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is flying to and billeting for free in Mecca this month for the Hajj, in Islam a defining expression of devotion to the faith.

“I’ve been dreaming of this ever since I was young,” said Macabando.

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“It’s very important. It’s one of the five pillars of Islam. If you go on the pilgrimage, your faith is complete,” she told the Inquirer.

Officials of the Saudi Embassy in Manila and the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) feted the pilgrims at the embassy in Makati City on Saturday where they were handed their plane tickets, the Ihraam (the sacred white clothing that Muslims wear for the Hajj) and other gifts.

The group, selected from around the Philippines through a stringent process, will be provided “luxurious accommodations and other services that befit them as guests” during their 10-day trip, said the embassy’s chargé d’affaires, Abdullelah Aljebreen, in remarks on Saturday.

The Filipinos are among 1,400 Muslims from 80 countries making the Hajj under the sponsorship of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under its longstanding royal Hajj program. A total of 22,000 pilgrims from across the globe have been granted the privilege, Aljebreen said.

“This royal program emphasizes the leading and prestigious stature of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the Islamic world level… I am hoping that all of you may reach the Holy Land in peace and may Almighty Allah reward you with more compensation, accept your Hajj and good deeds,” Aljebreen told the pilgrims.

Some 5,600 Filipinos are undertaking the Hajj this year, a figure close to the annual average of 6,000 Hajj departures from the Philippines, said NCMF Commissioner Mirkarl Allian.

For regulatory purposes, the NCMF approves and accredits annual Hajj trips to ensure that Filipino pilgrims are provided with safe and adequate billeting facilities and transportation upon arrival in Saudi Arabia.

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The NCMF is also sending a 15-member medical team to look after the Filipinos during the pilgrimage, where they are expected to be exposed to the heat and crammed conditions.

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TAGS: Hajj, Marawi City, Mecca, National Commission for Muslim Filipinos, pilgrimage, Samina Macabando, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Embassy
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