Muslim crew on visiting 'balangay' vessels break fast in Brunei

From: The Brunei Times
Date Published: 26 August 2010

Brunei Tourism Director Sheikh Jamaluddin (C), Arturo T Valdez (R), leader of the Balangay voyage from the Philippines and Dr Ted Esquerra on board the replica of the fourth century Balangay Sail Ship.
Picture: BT/Rudolf Portillo

The six Muslim crew members on board the visiting Filipino balangay sailing vessels yesterday broke their fast and experienced performing the prayers during their overnight stop in Brunei.

Speaking to The Brunei Times after arriving at Serasa, Dr Ted Esquerra, the assistant expedition leader and one of the six Muslim crew said that he felt blessed to have the opportunity of performing his religious obligations in Brunei.

"My impression, because I am a Muslim, it's like I feel at home. The brotherhood of the Muslims is a realised brotherhood," Esquerra said.

He added that the first time he asked the officials that welcomed the flotilla was where the nearest mosque was.

"Alhamdulillah, I'm glad because the (culture) here is more towards Islam, because in the place where I come from, I am a little bit isolated as a Muslim," he remarked.

Esquerra shared that during the Philippines leg of the international 14,000-kilometre voyage, they had visited mosques in the Southern parts of the multi-island nation.

"When we pray, it's side by side. Whether you are rich or poor, as long as you go early in the mosque you are in the front. If you are the governor and you are late in prayer, you are at the back," he said. "Every time I see a Muslim community, I feel the brotherhood and I long for it."

When asked how he and the Muslim crew carried out their prayers and fasts onboard, he explained that even if they faced problems with the directions of the qiblat or similar challenges, it was the "intent" that mattered in the end.

He said that they could also estimate the time of the fardhu prayers by judging the position of the sun in the sky. Given that the boats kept to the coastlines, he added that the calls of prayer could also be heard from the mosques ashore.

"While entering the channel here, I did a prayer," he shared, pointing out that the larger of the three vessels had a deck wide enough to perform the prayers.

"For the most part, during fasting, we know that it is time of fasting because all the time there is always the mosque," he added.

The three boats, built to replicate the ancient wooden watercraft used by the people of the Southeast Asian archipelago, are on the year-long journey to promote unity among the people of the region.

"These bodies of water, in spite of the reefs and typhoons, were not obstacles to our forefathers. The waters unify us rather than divide us," said expedition leader Arturo Valdez.