IN THE afternoon of March 26, 2018, my eldest son, Ethan-Jamal, called me up and informed me that his grand uncle, Datu Teng Ambolodto Sinsuat, peacefully passed away at his hospital bed at the ICU of the Davao Doctors Hospital. He was the only uncle of my wife from her mother’s side of the family.
Datu Teng is my second cousin from my mother’s side of the Sinsuat. I call him Kaka Datu Teng. He was the barangay chairman of Barangay Sibuto. He was the son of Datu Mini Sinsuat and Baiminabai Ambolodto Sinsuat. His grandfather was Datu Odin Sinsuat. He was 59 years old. Kaka Datu Teng is survived by his wife, Auntie Ann, his children, nephews, nieces and grandchildren.
I was in Marco Polo Hotel at that time for a three-day training on Diplomacy when Ethan-Jamal called me up and informed me of the bad news of our family. I went straight to the hospital. I was not able to finish the training.
On the way to the hospital, I called up my wife, Bailallie. Holding back tears, she told me that she will take the evening flight from Manila.
As Muslims, funeral arrangements must begin immediately after the death of a loved one. The Islamic law or Sharia provides that they must be buried as soon as possible.
The family in Datu Odin Sinsuat (DOS) were told to prepare for the funeral traditions. After settling all the hospital bills, my in-laws left Davao City around five in the afternoon for our hometown.
My wife arrived at almost twelve midnight. We went straight to DOS and arrived at 1:30 a.m. of March 27. On the drive, my wife was crying. She was very close to Kaka Datu Teng. I told her stories about the good life of her uncle and that somehow made her smile. We arrived at 5 a.m. The walls of their residential compound were covered by white cloth.
After consulting our relatives and imam, the family of Kaka Datu Teng decided to bury him after Duhur prayer (a prayer performed at 12:30 p.m.). At around 11 a.m., the panditas (learned man in traditional Islam) started to perform the Islamic funeral rite that was consisted of two rituals called Ghusl (washing) and Kafan.
In the Ghusl ritual, only close family members of the same sex as the person who has died wash the person who has passed away. For Kaka Datu Teng, it was his two sons, Datu Little and Datu Tiwi, and nephews who washed his body three times. The washing was almost similar to the ablution ritual before performing salat or prayer.
The Kafan involves the covering and wrapping of the person with large white sheets, one on top of the other. The material and colour of the cloth may vary according to regional customs, but in our case we use white cloth. Before this ritual was performed, all close family members of Kaka Datu Teng were given a chance to say a prayer for forgiveness or goodbye. Then, after Kafan, we carried Kaka Datu Teng to the nearby mosque to perform the prayer ritual. Around a hundred people offered a funeral prayer.
After completing the funeral prayers, we brought him to the burial site. In our tradition, only men are allowed carry the dead for the burial rites. At the burial site his grave was perpendicular to Mecca, he was placed on his right side facing Mecca. Prayers were said while the rites were performed.
A wood marker was placed on top of his grave. The wood had an okir design showing to the community that Kaka Datu Teng came from the bloodline of the royalties of Maguindanao. The imam also recited another prayer, and each of us, his relatives and friends threw a handful of soil into his grave.
It is part of our tradition that we gather in our home and receive guests after the funeral. Our families and relatives provide food for the bereaved for the first three days and seven days after the funeral.
While I was observing the funeral rite of Kaka Datu Teng, I remembered the poem of Rumi about death. The title of the poem is “When I die”:
“When I die when my coffin is being taken out you must never think I am missing this world
"Don't shed any tears don't lament or feel sorry I’m not falling into a monster's abyss
"When you see my corpse is being carried don't cry for my leaving i'm not leaving i'm arriving at eternal love
"When you leave me in the grave don't say goodbye remember a grave is only a curtain for the paradise behind
"You'll only see me descending into a grave now watch me rise..."
This poem helped me get through the process of grieving. I accepted Kaka Datu Teng’s death and I look forward of seeing him someday.
Rumi also said, Ï learned that every mortal will taste death, But only some will taste life”. Kaka Datu Teng had a meaningful life with his family, friends, and relatives. He may have died too soon, but his memory lives forever in our hearts.