It was starting to drizzle as I passed the ornate gates of the largest Muslim mosque in Manila.
I thought back to the afternoons when usually I catch a glimpse of Quiapo's shining mosque through a jeepney's window with the lowering sunrays glinting on its gleaming dome. This house of worship for our Muslim brothers had always intrigued me and I can't believe that I'm actually about to visit and photograph it.Dubbed as The Golden Mosque or Masjid Al-Dahab in Arabic, its name originated from the huge gold dome that sits on its rafters. But besides that, it seemed everything else inside the mosque is also painted in yellow gold.
The mosque has quite an interesting history, being originally built in 1976 by the former First Lady Imelda Marcos to accommodate then Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi's failed visit to the country. Despite missing its intended host, it now serves as the Manila's center of Islamic faith.
Before entering, we were required to remove our shoes; for females, shawls are obligatory as their heads should be completely covered.
I really have no idea what an inside of a mosque looks like, and I was quite surprised to find it bare of pews or benches that are typical of Christian churches. What it has are multitudes of columns; lots and lots of columns. And located on the foot of these are Korans that the faithful uses in their prayers.
The Muslims have a different way of worshipping than us Christians.
They usually pray five times a day and do so by facing Mecca which they consider to be the holiest place on Earth. They recite a series of prayers; standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting. Well it's obviously more complicated than my simple description as I've observed inside their temple.
Mosques or Masjids as they call it are more than houses for prayers too. Here the community gathers for information dissemination, education and dispute settlements.
The architecture of the Golden Mosque is very much in keeping with typical Arabic architecture; pointed arches, multitudes of columns, gilded finishes, ornate iron works, colorful mosaic walls, domes and minarets. It was as if I was suddenly transported to the southern islands of our country.
We spent more than hour at the mosque; thoroughly documenting the structure, photographing the kids playing nearby and some were even lucky to photograph the school out back that teaches Arabic to the community.
The Golden Mosque of Quiapo may not have been impressive as the mosques I've seen on books and postcards, but being inside it was a rich cross-cultural experience that made me appreciate the spiritual side of our Muslim brethren.
The Manila Golden Mosque and Cultural Center
Globo De Oro Street