Walking along the Kampong Gelam area I stumbled upon this old Muslim cemetery with these beautiful weathered unornamented tombs. There are two mosque that I know in the area, the Malabar and the Sultan. Obviously I’m no expert in Islamic history but I’ve always been fascinated with Islamic culture and history, how it shaped South East Asia. Manila was ruled by Mohammedans before it became Catholic. So when Muslim friends refers to Filipino Islam converts as “Balik-Islam”, they’re stating something that’s historically accurate.
I remember a story from a former colleague who witnessed a traditional Muslim burial. She recalls how shocked they were when the body of her father, wrapped in white cloth, was lowered to a dug up earth. She and her siblings were raised Christian, while the father, a former rebel in Mindanao remained loyal to his ancestors faith. The simplicity must have been overwhelming for that family who has only known Christian traditions.
If you’re into old historic buildings Kampong Gelam is a must see. Colonial shops and houses dots the entire historic district. All these structures adds a historic tone to an area surrounded by modernity and odd skyscrapers. How they retained this area, with all the pressures of commercialization, is in itself an astounding accomplishment. Remember, this area is but a stone throw away from the business district.