COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 25, 2008) — The past president of Cotabato City’s Muslim Chamber of Commerce and Industry makes sure his workers get the year’s take home bonus pays, days before Christmas and Ramadan corresponding to his Christian and Muslim workers.
Engineer Hadji Muhammad Basar, whose family runs a chain of hardware stores here, said their establishments had to be tended by Christians and Muslim salespersons, because they rarely close on holidays—as big malls do.
Basar said shifting of Muslim and Christian workers on their respective holidays has made possible for a “business as usual” climate, all-year rounds.
But Basar said his business had to equally pay bonuses to Muslim or Christian employees in months of their important holidays.
In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, lawyer Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, ARMM solicitor-general, said Governor Zaldy Uy Ampatuan had directed heads of agencies to release thirteenth month pays to their employees on time.
“A Muslim employer should be paying the worker, before his sweat dries up, as taught by the Prophet Muhammad (peace on him). We pay Christmas bonuses to our Christian employees and Ramadan bonuses for the Muslim workers,” Basar said.
His wife, Sandra Sema-Basar, said business establishments should be giving their workers take-home pays “by whatever name one may call it,” on seasons so important to them, like Christmas and Ramadan.
Ms. Basar was referring to other Muslim business establishment owners who, she said, would rather call their workers’ Christmas bonuses a “charity” or “reward” for being consistent to their duties and responsibilities, and given on days significant to their faiths.
But Christmas carolers usually evade Muslim-owned establishments, where they usually get prior advices that Muslims give charities voluntarily, as they did not want it sought through traditions practiced by followers of other faiths.
Meanwhile, “thanksgiving” was the term used by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on a Christmas party tendered by its Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
DAF-ARMM Secretary Kesie Tan Usman was not around to attend, but sent a word that his office held the occasion “for partners of the ARMM of Governor Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan.”
ARMM senior information officer Ramundo Pelaez explained to ARMM workers, mostly Muslims, that “thanksgiving is also the term used in the Holy Land” for Christmas parties, especially where, aside from Bethlehem, Christmas celebrations are discouraged by authorities.
Avelino Acoymo, ARMM information director, said his office a constructed a website in which one can find “every information that you need to know about the ARMM.”
Acoymo said his office has pursued a memorandum of agreement that seeks close working relationship between Malacañang’s Bureau of Broadcast and the ARMM’s Bureau of Public Information.
In a related development, Christian residents were seen hiking the highways in small groups early dawn for the traditional “Simbang Gabi” in predominantly Maguindanaon Muslim municipalities of Datu Montawal and Mamasapano in Maguindanao.
Mamasapano town had been the site of recent fierce fighting between government forces and guerrillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Maguindanao.
On the other hand, Datu Montawal has been carved out of Pagalungan town, ancestral home of the political Pendatun and Matalam clans and of the late MILF chairman, Ustadz Salamat Hashim.
Barangay auxiliary police volunteers here have also been on full guard of dimly lit streets and alleys, clearing ways for midnight-to-dawn churchgoers, on orders of village chiefs and City Mayor Muslimin Sema. (Nash B. Maulana)