By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) on Saturday announced the death of one of the 6,973 hajj goers from the Philippines booked for the current Islamic pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
Female pilgrim Sarapia Abalimbona Taha, 57, of Lumbayanague, Lanao del Sur, died after fainting at about 11 a.m. Friday in the midst of several thousands of pilgrims from across the globe gathered to perform the congregational prayer at the Masijidial Haraam in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, NCMF spokesman Jun Alonto-Datu Ramos said.
Dr. Abdulnasser Masorong, head of the NCMF media team overseeing Filipino pilgrims, initially traced Taha’s death to myocardial infraction or heart attack, Datu Ramos said.
“The remains (of Taha) are now in the morgue of Al Noor Hospital (for) documentary processing. Her relatives have been informed of her demise,” the NCMF official said.
He said they were hoping that this year’s Islamic pilgrimage would incur fewer mortalities. Last year, six pilgrims died due mostly to old-age ailments, past reports showed.
Meanwhile, Datu Ramos said the seven Filipino pilgrims offloaded on July 17 by the Oman Air for lack of influenza and meningococcal vaccination were allowed to fly the next day after undergoing the health requirement.
“We are reminding the remaining 2,000 or more other pilgrims to under the vaccination process to avoid unnecessary delays in their Islamic journey,” he said.
In another statement, Datu Ramos said NCMF Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan has apologized for two instances of delayed delivery of food rations to about 100 pilgrims comprising four hajj teams during their religious sojourn in Madina, the host of second Grand Holy Mosque in Saudi Arabia last week.
A video posted online by journalist-pilgrim from this city went viral on Wednesday, containing interviews with a sheikh from Lanao del Sur and a key pilgrim from Maguindanao about two instances of “very late” food ration.
A Saudi-based service provider has been contracted to cater to Filipino pilgrims for three days in Madina, with the 32-member NCMF supervisory team backed by volunteering OFWs serving as food deliverers for over 5,000 hajj goers from the Philippines performing rituals in Madina.
“The delayed food ration was caused by faulty coordination and lack of manpower. Secretary Pangrarungan asked for apology,” Datu Ramos said.