School relents on use of veils by Muslim female students


ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Pilar College, which is run by an order of Roman Catholic nuns, has agreed to allow Muslim female students to wear veils to school, after reaping widespread criticism for banning the wearing of veils on campus in July.

But Sister Ma. Fe Gerodias, Southern Mindanao representative of the Religious of the Virgin Mary who spoke on behalf of the Pilar College administration, said Muslim women students may wear the “hijab”— a veil that covers the hair and neck but not the face—to school starting in June 2013. The ban on the “niqab,” which covers the whole face will stay, however, she added.

Anne Piccio, dean of school’s College of Business Administration, told the Inquirer that allowing Muslim women students to wear the hijab was “not an easy or overnight decision.”

She said it was a product of a series of consultations with all stakeholders that, Gerodias said, “took us a month.”

Gerodias said the school administration was grateful to the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, headed by Commissioner Mehol Sadain, for facilitating the dialogues.

Pilar College found itself in the middle of a controversy when it barred Muslim women students wearing hijabs and niqabs from entering the school. It cited security as main reason for the ban, which Muslim parents said was against religious freedom.

Upon reaching puberty, Muslim women are required by Islamic law to wear veils that conceal their hair, nape and ears.

Lawyer Yasser Apion of the NCMF  said the hijab “is not about fashion.”  “It’s obligatory, and girls reaching puberty have to wear hijab,” he said.

Piccio, whose husband is a Muslim, said that while the school’s administration has decided to allow the wearing of hijabs, “not all the parents and students, and even the staff, were amenable.”

But “we need to meet halfway and the way how to meet halfway is to educate everyone until we reach full acceptance,” she said.

Gerodias said the school’s administration will continue to conduct dialogues with various groups as they “need time to process attitudes, mindsets, sentiments, biases, and prejudices.”

Among the steps it will be undertaking before June 2013 comes around is to establish linkages with Muslim institutions to deepen the understanding of local Muslim culture and traditions, particularly in the areas of commonality and partnership opportunities with the Christian community; the inclusion of comparative religious studies in the school’s religious studies courses; the conduct of Marian (Sitti Maryam) dialogues and spirituality forums; regular updates on Christian-Muslim relations; and encouraging interfaith and intrafaith dialogues among Muslims and Christians.

She said the NCMF has committed to assist Pilar College in implementing the programs.

Piccio said the college’s administrator, Sister Nina Balbas, also “started studying Islam to make her fully understand everything.”

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  • renato

    Piccio said the college’s administrator, Sister Nina Balbas, also “started studying Islam to make her fully understand everything.”

    Not even in a lifetime that one can fully grasp Islam.  Studying Islam is like studying Christianity–it is an unveiling of layer after layer of truth– the fullness of of which is Allah (God).  The Qur’an like the Gospels are shades of light for our mind to see God.  But it is only one with the pure of heart who can grasp the meaning and truth that is in the Qur’an; and the Christ of Christianity.

    • mark_john21

      I agree with you. But Sister Nina Balbas  can have a better grasp of  Islam in a shorter if she gives ample time to her reading. She doesn’t  need to be a “know all” machine to get a better perspective on Islam. Obviously, she doesn’t look like aiming to be a specialist on Muslim issues.

      • ALDEA

        Think more before scribbling out something, readers can figure out that you’re a Muslim using Catholic Saints name, which is a show of disrespect to us if it is true… you know, better approach Sister Nina Balbas and offer sponsorship to her to embrace Islam… People around the world just got into sensitive religious issue that went viral last week to this day, and I don’t like to mess with it because I do respect everyone’s religion, but people like you should also understand that we have several other religions in this world that we all need to respect, and observe their beliefs.

  • regd

    Sis. Nina Balbas studying Islam? She need to study how to read, write and understand Arabic language then. You cannot understand Islam until you know it’s correct interpretation.

    • renato

      Many have claimed to know Islam just because they read Arabic.  Of course knowing Arabic does help in studying the Qur’an; yet the proof that one has understood Islam is seen in one’s compassion and just dealings with others regardless of religious belief, and yes even with the so-called kufrs.

    • mark_john21

      Islam can be learned in English and even in Filipino. You can easily google Islam on the net. While knowledge of Arabic is essential it is not an absolute requirement to understanding Islam.


    what a f…, they knew in the first place that Pilar College is a non-muslim school, actually it is a Catholic school run by nuns of Religious of the Virgin Mary, that goes opposite to their beliefs… it’s so brainless that this people wants everything to be look upon as religious discrimination… use your small brain, go to your kind of school where everything will work as you pleased, or to coed private colleges or state universities, stop penetrating into catholic school then demand your cultural rights which is opposite of what affiliation and beliefs that Pilar College are into, it is only as simple as that…

    • mark_john21

      You’re brain is smaller than what you think. Haven’t you read about the Philippine Constitution’s freedom of religion? If you still haven’t then better go back to grade school.

      • Martin

         Yes, though the freedom of religion is protected by the constitution, can you say the same to the Pilar College community’s freedom of religion.  The muslim students know they are entering a catholic institution which is very much different from their belief.  They have their own muslim academic institutions where they can freely and fully express their religious belief.  Do you think a Catholic student can enter a madrassa and then tell them that I have my right to religion and I would like to put crucifix to each rooms because thats how my religious belief is.  Think man, all freedom has its own limitation and you have to use your common sense.  And dont use the word discrimination to get what you wanted at all times.

      • Pitbulldog

        Burqa nga talaga pagkaintindi nyo.  Iba yan sa belo at di dapat ipagbawal. Freedom of religion is alright but security of everyone is paramount.  In many instances, terorrists’ suicide bombers, etc. use this burqa to surreptitiously attack or harm their enemies. 

  • Pitbulldog

    Okey lang naman naka-belo ang babae, Muslim man o hindi. Veil (di ba belo, takip lang sa ulo yan?) which is being used by religious Catholic, Jewish and Orthodox women usually.  So di naman dapat ipagbawal iyan naman, naman.  If that is Burqa, of course inappropriate naman talaga yan at di dapat ipagkalat pati sa Catholic school ng mga engot na primitibong Muslim.But let us all meet halfway pag iyong Burqa ipagpilitan nila.  Okey lang, takpan na nila ng Burqa lahat sa pagmumukha nila, pero pumasok sila ng naka-underwear lang. Di ba kapag nahubaran ang dilag at di na kayang takpan ng mga palad ang dapat takpan, mukha na lang nila tinatakpan nila?  Gawin yan sa kanila, okey lang, di naman natin sila makikilala. 

  • dequis

    hindi naman kasi about religion ang paglalagay ng mga babaeng muslim ng veil sa mukha, may essay ang isang Iranian writer (babae) si Najmeh Najafi ang pamagat Time for Suitors nasa librong Adventures in Modern Literature. ang purpose ay para hwag makapang akit ng lalaki kasi ang mga babaeng muslim hindi naman nililigawan ang mga iyan kundi betrothal, magbibigay ng dowry bago pakasalan. mamaya nyo dian mga christians o kaya kapwa muslim din liligawligaw napaibig tapos itatanan, di ang laking gulo magagalit ang mga magulang. iyon ay sa kanila, hwag na nating pakialaman, igalang ang kanilang tradisyon, total tayo hindi naman pinakikialaman ng mga muslim ang mga tradisyon natin.

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