Uncle Ali (THE BRUNEI-MALAYSIA EXPERIENCE, PART 4)

*I will be using pseudo-names for the privacy of the people I met in Brunei*

Amir, one of my hosts in Brunei took me to a foodcourt in downtown Brunei. This is my first day here. It was a Friday. Fridays in Brunei are different. They close everything at exactly 12noon and will open at exactly 2pm for their prayer time. They take their religion seriously. I am not sure if this is an advantage for me or a disadvantage since I only have a day to travel Brunei and the prayer time will take away 2 hours from it. But I have decided to respect it and not do anything during that moment.

The food court is like a Singapore Hawker but less the noise. Brunei is a quiet country. We were there at around 10:30am so Amir and I must go back to the flat in one and a half hours. I ordered a Beef Soto (Beef Soup) and a Teh Tarik (Milk Tea) since I cannot eat any seafoods because of my allergies. You know how hard it is for me to be a traveler in Asia and cant eat 80% of their cuisines? The story of my life.

While sipping my hot soup, Amir saw his Uncle. He said hi and offered our spare seats for his Uncle’s family to join us. Amir introduced his Uncle Ali. Uncle Ali is one funny guy. He is married with a Filipino girl. In fact, he is good in Tagalog which made me appreciate Uncle Ali more.  He interviewed me and asked the usual “What are you doing here?” , “Why are you travelling alone?”, “How long are you going to stay here” questions. But he asked me a question which i did not expected:”Are you a Christian?”

“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you if you say YES!”, he added. I grew up in a community where we fear people with religion other than ours. That is one of the reasons why I have started traveling and exploring the world–to get the right perspective and away from the  limited thinking of my community back home. The moment Uncle Ali asked me that question, I took it as an opportunity to learn from a faith system which is really controversial from my Christian-based beliefs.

“I was born and raised as a Christian, but I am now searching for truth”, I answered. Amir and Uncle Ali, both Muslims smiled at me.

“You know why we don’t eat pork right?”, Uncle Ali asked.

“Yes, because pork is unhealthy and dirty”, I answered.

“You are right. So why do you keep on eating pork?”, he asked. I was speechless because Uncle Ali was right. I know what pigs eat in our country and it’s really nasty. How they slaughter pigs is another problem. Back home in the Philippines, we eat everything, all the nasty things sold in the streets. Uncle Ali challenged me without any intentions. And then he asked me another question.

“Do you know why we Muslims can marry 4 times?”

“No. Tell me about it”

Uncle Ali explained to me everything. I will not write the explanations now because this same question was asked to me by another Muslim I met in Malaysia. I will be writing about it soon.

It was 11:30am when Amir and I parted ways with his Uncle Ali because we need to rush to the mosque. I took a picture with him then he hugged me and gave me some advises about my travels and how to get from Brunei to Kota Kinabalu.

It’s a bit sad to leave Uncle Ali because that short conversation I had with him is life changing. In fact, I already stopped eating pork.

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