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'Honesty bench' in Maguindanao gives free iftar during Ramadan amid COVID-19 threat

COTABATO CITY - An "honesty bench" in Barangay Macaguiling, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao has earned praises again from netizens for the act of kindness during Ramadan.

The "honesty bench" could be seen outside the AQ Mart.

Instead of the usual concept of "honesty" stores though, where it is up to the person how much to give as payment, the "honesty bench" gives away food packs that Muslims can eat during iftar, the meal after sunset during the Ramadan period.

Anyone can freely get a food pack.


Free food packs are laid out on the 'honesty bench' in Barangay Macaguiling, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao for those who need a meal for iftar after sunset during Ramadan.  Photo courtesy: Mohammad-Pak clan


According to the Mohammad-Pak clan, owner of the grocery store AQ Mart, Ramadan is not only about fasting. It is also giving essence to the sacrifice to enliven the message of faith by giving to those who are in need especially during this time of COVID-19 pandemic.

“Just before 5 p.m. on the first day of Ramadan, we have displayed a few dozens of food packs for a free iftar consisting of rice, chicken flakes, eggs and dates. It was soon gone. Other neighbors knocked on our store asking if there were some extra food stuffs,” said Nageah Mohammad-Pak Pak.

The generosity of the Mohammad-Pak clan in Barangay Macaguiling has earlier made rounds in social media after they left bags containing rice and dried fish on the "honesty bench" outside their grocery store for those in need.

“Whoever family that has nothing to cook today, just pick one bag, just one so that others can avail,” read a paper posted on the bench.

Residents who availed of the generosity expressed gratitude in social media since they have not met the donors to thank them personally.

Mobile Kapagatul

Meanwhile, also on the first day of Ramadan, a youth group in Maguindanao launched Mobile Kapagatul.

The term "Kapagatul" is a Maguindanaon word derived from the phrase "to serve" in the English language and/or "maghain" in Filipino.

Mobile Kapagatul aims to provide IFTAAR Packs (ready-to-eat food) for families who are daily wage and/or low-income earners and are forced to stay at home and rely mainly on the relief goods provided by public and private sectors.

Mobile Kapagatul aims to feed 700 families in the first week of Ramadan 2020 in selected barangays of Cotabato City, Sultan Kudarat, Datu Odin Sinsuat and Datu Blah Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

The youth group went to several communities and delivered the goods consisting of dried dates, noodles and fruit juices to the identified beneficiaries.

In Bangsamoro, the Minister of Interior and Local Government (MILG-BARMM) has provided emergency assistance and Ramadan package to around 350 workers, mostly former rebels turned frontliners and regional staff in the COVID-19 response of the region.

The food aid consists of one sack of rice, a tray of eggs, multivitamins, face mask and alcohol, fruits and vegetables, bread and peanut butter, canned goods and fresh fish, beef and dressed chicken.

“Practically our workforce are almost restless since the start of the response and it was just timely to provide them with emergency assistance as most will observe Ramadan. They need it most and also it discourages them to join the flock of people in supermarkets to buy goods in preparation for Iftar,” Minister Naguib Sinarimbo of MILG-BARMM said. —KG, GMA News