Datu Toto Weds Sharifa in ‘Walima’ Wedding Ceremonies in Cotabato City

Guest author:

  • NASH B. MAULANA, Journalist, Author, Father, and Lover
A Muslim wedding ceremony.
Ustadhz Iskak Katambak officiates the marriange of Datu Toto and Beauty Queen Sharifa in Cotabato City. (Credit: Ali G. Macabalang)

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WHERE does one start writing about a “Walima” Wedding in which known personalities tie the knot amidst all odds, the pandemic, the possessive character in women as wife, a reality in many Moro families that withstands a perverted socio-religious indifference on man’s polygamous nature in a largely Catholic Philippines?

For Maguindanao Second District Congressman Esmael “ Datu Toto” Mangudadatu and Miss Asia Pacific International 2018 Sharifa Akeel it was the perfect time to meet relatives and friends to best express their fair share of each other’s love — prior officiated in Islamic rites as a husband-and-wife couple in 2019.

The groom, a political leader, who has gained much of the nations’ sympathy — and familiarity — following the killing of his first wife, Genalyn Tiamson-Mangudadatu, his sibling Eden Mangudadatu, and two aunts, along with 33 media workers, in the gruesome Maguindanao Massacre on November 23, 2009.

A Muslim man is allowed to marry up to four wives — to lay down with one day at a time and each with justice in a long white gown.

There’s a passage in the Islamic Holy Book the Al-Qur’an that says (not exact words): “Marry women of your choice, one, two, three or four. But if you cannot treat them justly, then marry only one.”

On the other hand, has anyone heard of what Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Founding Chairman Nur P. Misuari used to say about polygamy: He said Muslim are allowed only four wives. But five or more wives, that’s for Christians. He might be joking, perhaps, but he was apparently thinking about the many movie actors, or politicians, who have or had many women in their lives.

Forget about Henry VIII or even the biblical King Solomon who had more number of roommates than are allowed in Islam which sets one difficult condition upon the man — that is, if he “fears he cannot deal with them (two, three or four wives) justly, then (he should) marry only one.” (Qur’an,  Surah Al-Nisaa, 4:3)

The groom’s brother, Khadafeh Mangudadatu, a member of the Bangsamoro Parliament, even cracked a joke in his traditional counselling of the couple, saying he hoped this was the final stage of his brother’s long-journey along married life in the parable of a long-travelled path with several stopover stations to refill.

“I proposed marriage to her,” recalls the Datu Toto Mangudadatu, when he was almost through an uninterrupted three, three-year terms as Maguindanao governor — and at the time Sharifa (now Mrs. Mangudadatu officially) emerged triumphant from the national beauty pageant preparatory of international tilts, as the crowned 2018 Miss Philippines-Asia Pacific International. She had prior known then Governor Toto Mangudadatu albeit barely from news reports of his public engagements involving his program of governments, including scholarship grants for poor and deserving students and, among others,  entrepreneurship projects for elderly women beneficiaries of Gender and Development (GAD) programs as locally implemented.

Neither grand or lavish

Modest and unassuming, Sharifa needed time to weigh things over — when one is literally “torn between two loves,” romantically on one side and passion for goals on the other.

At long last, love prevails and she drops all her plans of joining the subsequent Miss Asia-Pacific Pageant. The Wali (guidance), her uncle, Datu Gordon who stood when they previously exchanged vows for the first Islamic rituals, was also present this time at the Walima ceremonies on August 25 at the Grand Convention Hall of the Al-Nor Complex in Cotabato City.

Scholars have defined Walima (Arabic: وليمة‎ walīmah) to mean “marriage banquet” and is “the second of the two traditional parts of an Islamic wedding.” The occasion itself is a “feast in Arabic for walima to show domestic happiness in the household post-marriage.”

Simply put, Walima is the reception, the celebration after the first ceremony, the solemn rites in Ijab wal qabul which means “proposal” and “acceptance.” The officiating imam or ustadz (of high learning on muamalah (Muslim secular affairs) and aqeedah (spiritual teachings) in this first stage, delivers a khutba, the Islamic counselling to the new couple.

Ustadz Ishak Katambak did the honor for the marriage of Congressman Mangudadatu and Beauty Queen Sharifa Akeel in the previous first ceremony unannounced sometime in 2019 and which the ustadz recapitulated on the later, this time, the Walima Celebration of the Wedding.

The wedding was not-so-grand, and was certainly not lavish, following Islamic doctrines on celebration of marriage. But rituals aside, the Mangudadatu-Akeel Walima Ceremonies will be long remembered as an occasion regulated by health protocols in time of pandemic — including a must wearing of facemasks and maintaining of social distancing among guests from circles of friends and relatives.

Datu Toto and Beauty Queen Sharifa during Inaul Festival in Buluan, Maguindanao. (Credit: Ali G. Macabalang)

The color inspiration of the Walima Wedding Motif was Neutral also known as Nude.

Thousands of relatives, friends and supporters flooded social media posts on the Wedding Reception with congratulatory notes and well-wishes for Mangudadatu, 53, and Akeel, 24.

He admits having been struck by her beauty seeing her in her early teens for the first-time in Lebak, Sultan Kudarat.

Then it must have been love at first sight when he met her up, close and personal when she graced the Beauty Pageant Segment of Maguindanao’s annual Inaul Festival on February 14, 2018 — already as Miss Asia Pacific International.

Organizers of the Walima Wedding were all apologies that, “Though we love to have our friends and relatives on our Walima celebration, yet, for (coronavirus pandemic) safety protocols, we are allowed limited guests only.”

This writer is among the invitee-journalists in a note transmitted electronically on Facebook messenger by Nur-Eeman Aljani, the congressman’s senior legislative assistant, and the master-of-ceremonies broadcast journalist Jeffrey Mendez, a friend of the couple.

Some 400 guests graced the occasion mostly from broad network of relatives, political allies, as well as select journalists with whom the couple shared the opening chapter of their love story.

Celebrities, too, sent their best wishes, notes, and congratulatory messages to the couple:

Former Mutya ng Pilipinas President Hemilyn Escudero-Tamayo, also crowned Mrs. Tourism Universe, is quoted by a society page writer as saying: “wishing Toto and Sharifa happiness together.”

“Through the storms of life, may your love for one another be steadfast and strong. May this union mark the first of the rest of your lives together, filled with love and true friendship. Congratulations on your marriage and best wishes always,” she wrote.

Jacqueline Tan-Sainz, president of the Miss Asia Pacific International pageant, also wished the couple well.

Movie actress Ynez Veneracion also sent words, saying she was happy for him, thus:

“Happy ako for him. Okey lang naman na kahit ilang beses siya magpakasal, basta huwag lang niya papabayaan ang mga anak niya. Sana manatili siyang responsableng ama sa mga anak niya,” said Veneracion in a news item posted on the Philippine Entertainment Portal.

Under the Code of Muslim Personal Laws (PD 1083), the Philippine Muslim counterpart of the Civil Code, the congressman disclosed having divorced a nurse whose revelations of their domestic affairs on a popular TV program drew some heights of controversy in his public life — and privately, in relation to the beauty queen.

The precedent marriage, now null-and-void, had been officiated under PD 1083 which legalizes divorce for Muslims in cases specifically defined by Muslim personal laws on marriage and divorce. (✓)


The author at the footsteps of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC., US.


Featured image of rings credit and thanks to @sandymillar on Unsplash.

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