The presence of a Muslim cemetery in sitio Ka Teves, barangay Guba in Cebu City left residents there with few livelihood options.
“We were no longer allowed to plant vegetables in the area because this was already donated to the Muslims,” said farmer Benny Alcantara of the two-hectare lot filled with Muslim graves.
He said some neighbors chose to work as grave diggers for P100 to P200 per day.
Alcantara said he shifted to raising corn plants in a still unused portion of the graveyard.
He also makes barbecue sticks from fallen tree trunks which he sells at P1 to P2 per bundle.
“Kinahanglan ko maninguha para maka kwarta (I needed work to raise money),” said Limotan, a father of seven.
Limotan said Muslims buried their dead in Ka Teves since 2005.
But it was only two years later when the cemetery was formally opened for public use after the site was donated to the Office of the Muslim Affairs in Central Visayas (OMA 7).
Guba barangay captain Renerio Limotan said the Muslim cemetery now has over 100 graves.
Since Muslims don’t use tombs in burying their dead, their graves are barely visible.
Some were marked with plants while others were surrounded by concrete fence made out of two layers of hollow blocks.
The remains of male Muslims were buried on the upper most portion of the hill.
The female remains occupy the middle portion while the burial site for children is located below, near Alcantara’s corn plants.
Alcantara said only very few Muslims visit the graveyard, the reason why it is poorly maintained.
Cebu Daily News visited the area and saw that most of the graves were already covered with tall grasses and fallen twigs.
Some of the graves are no longer visible after its top soil cover was washed by rain.
A walkway which leads to the graves on the lower portion of the hill is steep and gets slippery when wet.
The Muslim cemetery occupies one side of a hill in sitio Ka Teves I.
A community road separates the two-hectare cemetery lot from a nearby residential area.
The site which has a creek located below it, used to be a farm land planted with string beans, bananas and native chili peppers.
The other side of the hill is also used to have vegetation.
But Alcantara said were asked to stop growing crops in the area after the cemetery was built.
“I also stopped because I feared for the crops I was growing,” said Alcantara.
A few years passed and Alcantara said he noticed that a nearby spring which he uses to water his corn plants had a yellowish and oily substance mixed in its waters especially during rainfall.
Alcantara said some graves would emit foul odor when there is continuous raining.
He said there have been instances when the soil covering of the grave would cave in.
If he only had another water source, Alcantara said he would no longer fetch water from the spring located near the children’s burial grounds.
However, Alcantara said he cannot be certain if the substance indeed came from the cemetery .
Barangay captain Limotan said they have not noticed any change in the water quality near the Muslim cemetery.
He said diarrhea cases that were earlier reported in the area where traced by health officials from another cause.
Limotan said the city government first offered to relocate the city jail into their barangay.
“We were a bit apprehensive of having a jail in our place so we chose to have the cemetery instead,” the barangay captain told Cebu Daily News.
Rep. Tomas Osmeña of Cebu City’s south district thanked Guba officials for housing the Muslim cemetery last Wednesday.
Osmeña facilitated the donation of the two-hectare property for use as a Muslim cemetery before his term as mayor ended in June last year.
The Guba cemetery is the first Muslim cemetery outside of Mindanao.
Osmeña promised them P2 million worth of projects, programs and medicines.
He said he was prepared to give barangay Guba P1 million from his pork barrel a year as his way of “thanking Guba residents.” /Doris C. Bongcac, Chief of Reporters