the muslim students association (msa) of the university sent out a general invite to their grand pagbuka held Friday last week.
i went together with a co-teacher and the husband and i am so glad i did because it was such a beautiful and eye-opening experience for me.
as far as i understood it, a pagbuka is simply the breaking of the daily fast during the month of Ramadan. the grand pagbuka was called thus because it was the breaking of the fast before the most important day of the holy month, the last day, the hariraya.
it was explained during program that the hariraya is expected to be around september 21 yet but since there were no classes on that day or on the eve of that day, i guess the msa decided to celebrate with other members of the university community on a school day, the Friday before Sept. 21.
it was held at the LRC quadrangle and it was full of people: students, teachers, university staff. there was a short program of prayers - one was chanted by a male student - and short talks. as this was happening, male students went around the filling up the tables with food. the last speaker intentionally extended his talk for exactly five minutes because he was timing his speech to end at precisely the time when the fast should be broken. i am not sure if that time was 6pm. as he looked at his watch for the final time at the podium, he broke into a smile and said "now we can break the fast", opened the mineral water bottle he was holding and took a long, long drink.
at that point people started digging into the feast before them. msa very nicely provided the guests with water stations where they can wash their hands, saying that the washing of the hands would normally be done BEFORE the prayer and eating but i guess they made concessions for us who were not of their faith.
i excitedly took pictures of the food. i was testing the cam in my new cellphone (a birthday gift from husband. pwede na. haha). there was kulma (very spicy beef stew in gata), tyula itum (very spicy beef cooked in broth flavored with burned coconut meat -- i swear, this tastes way better than it sounds), a beef steak (sweetish), fried chicken, and pansit. it was all very good but what i still think about to this day is the rice that went with all those food. it was a yellowish rice, wrapped with banana leaves and formed into pyramids. the teachers seated on my table went into an involved discussion into what it could be. i forgot if it was sir bong or ma'am peña of the social sciences department and the accounting department respectively who gave the most authoritative answer: rice cooked in gata flavored and colored with turmeric and other spices. it was very good.
(i still can't figure out how to download photos from the cellphone camera)
but aside from the good food and the good company, i will remember most that part of the program where everybody hushed up to offer their personal petitions. the speaker said that there are three important prayer periods during the day. i don't remember the times exactly but roughly, they are the time before the sun rises, the time late in the afternoon before the breaking of the fast, and the time after the sun sets. the gathering at the lrc garden was during the second one. during the second one, the speaker said, anything that you pray for, ANYTHING AT ALL, will be granted. he then enjoined EVERBODY to take a moment to pray, and that whatever it was we prayed for, he said with conviction, it will be answered.
i don't think a multi-faith gathering in the university has ever had a more solemn, more quiet 30 seconds than what was happening at that point. it was so quiet. a peaceful, gentle kind of quiet.