It was literally impossible for men to stare out of lust. They were staring because I looked different.
If I will summarize my experience as a one-day Muslim, it would have to be in these three words – what a day!
When I was choosing which activity to cap my learning in Madrasah Education, I wanted one that would have me immersed in the very experience. I thought that merely observing prayers or sacred rites would not make me feel how it is to live and breathe Islam, hence, I ended up choosing...
seemingly the simplest activity on the list but, boy, was I wrong!
For this experience, I chose the longest scarf that I own. Picking the hijab to use was the easiest part. The next attempt to complete my ensemble was not easy. I had to rummage through my closet to find a long enough blouse, and then I had to choose the skirt.
Most of my skirts are knee-length or a tad shorter so I had just this one skirt that I have not used for a while. This long black skirt, I thought, would have to do as my skirt for that entire day.
I then proceeded to eat my breakfast, hijab and all. Of course, my meal had to be acceptable. My halal breakfast consisted of sauteed ground beef, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. I wrapped these with a tortilla.
All the while, it was my daughter who shot photos of me as I did my regular chores for the day. Preparing and cooking the meals were easy and so were doing my work online and taking care of my ill 12-year old kid who kept asking me what I was doing. I explained that it was for Mommy’s immersion activity on living for just one day as a Muslim. And then the questions just kept pouring. I tried to answer each with patience.
Going out was a totally different experience. Normally, people do not even give me a second look as I do love to blend in.
That day was different.
The photo above is proof of just one of the many glances, stares, and double-looks that I got because I was dressed up differently. My fellow villagers also kept looking at me as I swept outside our home.
A weekend activity that we often do as a family is to buy our week’s groceries. This time, I shopped at Puregold, Santa Rosa City. Normally, I would just enter the mall and the security guard would either ignore me or pretend to look for a second or two in my bag. Again, today was different; as I strode in, the security guard thoroughly checked my bag. And when I reached the next entrance which is by the grocery, another security guard checked my bag.
My daughter noticed, too, how security guards are more alert while other people either stared or ignored me. It felt odd and awkward to have people stare at me. I was the only hijab-wearing shopper at that time so that is one, and second, I simply stood out from the rest.
As of 2017, there are about 100 million Muslims in the Philippines or roughly 5-6% of the entire population.
I am usually one of those who ignore or do not stare at other people even when they are wearing something different. I would have loved to just be ignored but it was impossible, somehow, this day.
I have a renewed respect for Muslim women. I told my daughter that I was just given a day to experience this but Muslims have to live this way, each and every day. And they are proud of their religion and their lifestyle. They are doing this for their God and their faith.
And then we went on to choose the foods for the week. Of course, I was a Muslim shopper so I had to pick halal foods. My daughter and I kept checking the back of labels for the halal logo. Not a lot of products place the logo on their packaging.
We chanced upon Liwayway Corporation’s Oishi and other snack foods. This company dutifully places the halal logo on their food packaging, so, good job for them. Just to be safe, we stayed off the aisle where the bacon and hotdogs are. We settled for vegetables, fruits, and chicken for this week. We even bought vegetable oil and, yes, we bought the Oishi snacks.
Creating the grocery list was different this week because I had to review the list of halal ingredients and even the vitamins that I take every day.
After grocery shopping, my daughter and I walked back home. Again, with the stares. It seemed like every passenger-filled jeepney that was stuck in traffic took the time to look at me. My daughter kept telling me that they were looking.
One other thing that I noticed was that those who stared did not stare because I was wearing something inappropriate or revealing. So, scientifically speaking, it was literally impossible for men to stare out of lust. They were staring because I looked different.
I then capped the day by, again, preparing our dinner still in my full Muslim clothing. May I just add that I had to spend more time in our air-conditioned room today because I simply was not used to wearing longer pieces of clothing. This is yet another thing that Muslims have to bear especially when they come from a tropical or arid region.
When I finally took off the clothing this evening, I felt good. All in all, it was a good experience. I literally put myself in a Muslim’s pair of shoes (or sandals in my case). Like the Muslims, our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) members also wear a sacred piece of clothing. Ours are undergarments, though.
Both these religious symbols mean a lot to the Muslims and LDS respectively. And both are also the focus of many controversies. We, too, are being taunted for wearing magic underwear. It hurts, of course, but then, if you know your faith and how it completes you as a person, then you do not even think about what other people would say.
I believe my Muslim brothers and sisters believe this same thing.
E.S. Villamor has made a career in writing for a decade now. Her online business - GIML (Gabriela Isabel & Miguel Lucas) Publishing started in 2014. She advocated for women's rights and was once enamored with imparting financial literacy through training and blogs but she is now focused on propagating all things Filipino. This site is also being groomed as a rich homeschooling resource.