Filipina maids in shelter treated to iftar feast

Filipino Muslims will gather at a women's shelter next week to share an iftar meal with more than a hundred Filipinas who have fled their employers' homes.

DUBAI // Filipino Muslims will gather at a women's shelter next week to share an iftar meal with more than a hundred Filipinas who have fled their employers' homes. The special feast will take place on August 13, what is expected to be the first Friday of Ramadan, at the Filipino Workers Resource Centre in Dubai. The women will be treated to dishes native to the Lanao province, a predominantly Muslim region in southern Philippines.

The annual iftar project is in its third year and is provided by the Maranao Community (Marcom) in the UAE. Maranao is a term used for the people of Lanao. There are between 600 and 800 Maranaos in the UAE, the majority of whom live and work in Dubai and Sharjah. About 40 members of Marcom are expected to join between 120 and 140 women for iftar at the shelter.Dishes on the menu include soup, a chicken dish called pyarun, beef rendang, Maranao sweets, and various fruits, including dates.

"Ramadan is a very special month for us," said Hanifah Ampatua, the president of Marcom. "This project is our way of showing our care and concern towards our compatriots during the holy month." The shelter, which is managed by Filipino labour and welfare officials, is located within the premises of the Philippine overseas labour office in Dubai. "Apart from the obligatory zakat, we've decided to share an iftar meal with the wards," said Sahron Roy Tamano, the adviser and former president of Marcom, who is funding the meal and will serve the food along with his wife.

"During our quarterly visits, we witnessed their suffering. Although they're being cared for by our officials, they suffer from mental torture. They're faced with uncertainty as they do not know when they'll return home." Reasons the women sought refuge include not being underpaid, long hours, lack of food, verbal abuse, sexual assault, and physical cruelty and rape, according to a report released by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) in Washington in June.

Ms Ampatua said they will deliver an "inspirational" talk to both Muslims and Christians inside the shelter. "It will not be a Ramadan lecture," she said. "We will tell them not to lose hope amidst the situation they're in right now." Amilbahar Amilasan, the new labour attache in Dubai who assumed the post in March, said the iftar gathering initiated by the Maranao Community was reminiscent of the festivities in his native Sulu province in southern Philippines during Ramadan.

"Every home in Sulu is open to receive guests wanting to break their fast," he said. "And I'm pleased that members of the community are coming together to have iftar with the wards here." rruiz@thenational.ae