Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — In between prayers, Precious Imam quietly sobs alone in her flat in Manila.
Had the coronavirus pandemic not forced lockdows around the country, Imam would be celebrating Eid'l Fitr in her hometown in Iligan City, Mindanao, with her family, and with her one-year old son. But the archipelagic nation has yet to flatten the curve, and as a doctor, Imam still needs to fulfill her duty as a frontline health worker.
"This will be my first celebrating Eid'l Fitr away from home, and as a parent," Imam says.
Muslims around the world and in the Philippines entered the Islamic calendar's ninth month, Ramadan, confined to where they were when lockdowns hit. Social interaction had been greatly limited at a month when every Muslim is expected to be out and about engaging in charitable deeds and congregating in Mosques every night — a month when togetherness is the norm.
As soon as she finished the Salat al-Eid, a prayer commemorating the end of Ramadan, Imam headed back to the kitchen. She had to cook food that she will share with Arielle Dado, a Christian friend and a fellow health worker.
“I actually have a family here,” Imam says. “Meron akong kapatid na nasa Manila. But I can't go there. He also has children. Police, frontliner din. And recently na-diagnose siya with COVID. He's still recovering. Kaka-diagnose lang niya last week. Kaya mas lalong hindi kami magkikita sa Eid. Ang sad 'no?”
The end of Ramadan is as celebrated for Muslims as Christmas is to Christians. Feasts are served, families gather, gifts given.
But this year's holy month is different almost in every way. For Imam, Dado fasting with her is just a small act, yet a much appreciated semblance of Ramadan she has had this time. "It fills that tiny hole in my heart," Imam says.
"I felt the heaviness in my heart when Eid morning came, and it sank into me that I will spend it alone for the very first time," Imam says.
"But I know Allah has better plans."
This project was funded by the National Geographic Society.