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Hari Raya merry-making and goodwill transform Basilan

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Text, photos and video by Luis Liwanag, VERA Files

ISABELA, Basilan—This city became a haven of merry making as residents began the three-day Hari Raya festival marking the end of the monthlong period of fasting and prayer called Ramadan.

For those steeped in the lessons of the Quran, Islam's Holy Book, Ramadan and its end mean a strict adherence to the teachings of the prophet Muhammad and the various rituals that go with it.

For others, the festivities are like they are in other parts of the country—holidays that give people time for a trek to the cities from their island homes to participate in public gatherings, gambling and shopping with their young children.

The Samals and Badjao folk, one Basilan resident observed, flock to the city and in a happy-go-lucky and somewhat paganistic fashion, join both Christian and Islamic observance of their religions for some moments of fun. Afterwards, they all go back home to their lives as fishermen and regular townsfolk.

The festival of Hari Raya transformed the once politically-restive and tension-filled Basilan streets with the sight of non-stop merry making and goodwill, at least until the smoke clears and the fragile daily life resumes.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for "true.")

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