Hajj is a Muslim’s pilgrimage and is one of the pillars of Islam together with Shahada (Daily confession of faith), Salat (Daily ritual prayer), Zakat (Paying the alms tax) and Sawm (Fasting). Muslims are expected to commence Hajj at least once in their lifetime. Hajj is done in Mecca, the sacred city of Islam, during the Dhu al-Hijja (last month of the Islamic year).
The activities of Hajj on its first stage includes walking seven times around the Ka’ba, then kisses or touches the Black Stone, prays towards the Station of Abraham and the Ka’ba, and run seven times between mountains of Safa and Marwa. The 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijja is the second stage of the Hajj where pilgrims do sermons and rituals. The tenth day is Eid al-Adha (The Feast of Sacrifice) where the pilgrim sacrifices an animal and throws seven small stones at each of three pillars on three consecutive days. The pilgrim returns to Mecca, the head is then shaved or hair is trimmed, which marks the end of the Hajj.
In February of 2010, Republic Act 9997, an Act Creating of National Commission for Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) was signed by the government to further avow the importance of Muslim Filipinos in nation building with respect to their beliefs, customs, and traditions.
But since late part of 1970’s, the Department of Health (DOH) through the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) has been rendering health services to Muslim Filipinos attending to Hajj. In 1983, the Bureau assumed the administration of cholera and typhoid vaccine as compliance to requirement of Saudi Arabia government for
Hajj pilgrims. On 2000 to 2001, the required vaccine was changed to Meningococcemia, while Flu and Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) were added as a requirement on 2006 and 2014 respectively. From 2006 up to the present, the NCMF assumed the provision of vaccines for Filipino Muslims attending to Hajj.
Photos: (1) BOQ Zamboanga Station Officers preparing the vaccines while Muslim Filipino pilgrims are lining up in Marawi City last October 2012; (2) Ms. Marina Deiparine administering Meningococcal vaccine to a Muslim Filipino in Palawan last September 2010.
Figure 1: Number of Filipino Muslim Pilgrims Administered with the Required Vaccines
In2012, Flu vaccines were provided by the ARMM for pilgrims coming from Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga.
Source: BOQ Immunization Section Umrah and Hajj Vaccination Report 2006-2015.
During the outbreak of MERS-CoV in 2014, the DOH asked Muslim Filipinos to postpone attendance to Hajj. But to revere Muslim Filipinos’ beliefs and customs, the BOQ has to intensify its monitoring and surveillance in the ports and airports of the country. The BOQ developed Health Declaration Checklist to properly screen arriving passengers from MERS-CoV affected countries; they also strengthened its partnerships with the MIAA, NAIA and Bureaus of Customs and Immigration; and they capacitate laboratory skills, quarantine facilities, and hospital linkages to accommodate suspect cases.
Photos: (Above) Muslim Filipinos in Marawi for administration of Meningococcal and Flu vaccines; (Below) Ms. Maribeth Calimbas (center) and Ms. Grace Brown (center to first left) from BOQ Manila together with the NCMF members lead the administration of Meningococcal and Flu vaccine in Marawi last 2012.
In 2015, the DOH and the BOQ in coordination with the NCMF established pre-departure and arrival orientation to Muslim Filipinos attending to Hajj. This year, pilgrims will be attended with medical teams, where each team will be trained for basic hygiene, information of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (EREID) and surveillance reporting system. The administration of required vaccinations will be more accessible with facilitation of different quarantine stations (Cebu, Davao, General Santos, Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro).
As part of DOH’s campaign of Kalusugang Pangkalahatan, the BOQ and its partners ensure healthy community and Filipinos regardless of beliefs, customs and traditions.