So why are we, a predominantly Christian nation where 86 percent of the population professes to be Catholic, celebrating a Muslim holiday today?
Last week, President Duterte signed Proclamation No. 729 declaring Eid al-Fitr a national holiday, to give “the entire Filipino nation… the full opportunity to join their Muslim brothers and sisters in peace and harmony in the observance and celebration of Eid al-Fitr… and bring [its] religious and cultural significance to the fore of national consciousness.”
Eid al-Fitr means the “festival of breaking the fast,” a Muslim holiday that marks the end of the month of Ramadan when believers of the faith refrain from eating, drinking and intimacy with their spouses from sunrise to sunset. The evening, when fasting gives way to enjoying a communal repast, is also reserved for prayers in the mosque.
Muslims believe that, having felt what it was like to go without food or drink for 12 hours, people who fast are bound to become more sympathetic to those less fortunate than them. Such voluntary deprivation, in turn, should cause people to be more generous to help end hunger among the poor.
Aside from fasting, many Muslims spend Ramadan in sincere devotion—giving to charity, refraining from evil thoughts and performing good deeds as a way to draw themselves closer to Allah. As these acts of devotion are done collectively for a whole month, Ramadan is often considered a high-intensity period of expressing the faith, much like the Christian Lenten week when sacrifice and prayers concentrated within a few days are expected of the faithful.