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REPOST: My vile experiences during the 2014 Haj

Atty. Bayan G. Balt

I don't expect that my PAL tickets i bought for U$1,300.00 with route Manila to Riyadh and vice versa will not be accepted to support my Haj visa application at the Saudi Office of Consular section, (Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). I bought the tickets with nine others to join the 2014 Haj and with the assurance from (NCMF) that a haj visa will be issued in our favor. Barely ten days before my departure, the NCMF called up with the information that our Haj visa application were not acted upon by the Saudi Consul. The reason given is that our port entry under said PAL tickets is Riyadh, Saudi authorities prohibit pilgrims to enter Saudi Arabia via Riyadh, thus the port of entry for pilgrims from the Philippines were the ports of Jeddah and Madinah only. With this bad report, our group were constraint to purchase new Saudi Airline costly tickets (Business class) with route direct flights from Manila to Jeddah and vice versa.

Upon our arrival in Jeddah Airport (September 20, 2014), we expect to proceed to Madinah, as per arrangement in Manila, we will be proceeding to Madinah while our three (3) days hotel and meal accommodations plus transportation fees are prepaid included in our paid Mutawiffs fees. 

Unfortunately, we're told by NCMF welcoming party in Jeddah that visit to Madinah has been closed and banned by the Saudi Police authorities. We were not convince by the NCMF people instead, we charter or rent a car and proceeded immediately to Madinah, during our trip from Jeddah to Madinah, no police or authorities attempted to stop or prevent us from entering Madinah as a matter of fact people of various nationalities were arriving sojourn daily in Madinah.

In Makkah, we were housed at the Meridien hotel, alleged five (5) star hotel, but actually the hotel amenities are three (3) star. for each hotel room with an area of 4x4 sq.mtrs, is occupied by four (4) persons. In Mina, 20-25 pilgrims were housed in a 4x4 sq. mtrs. very hot tent (air conditioned is not enough). the tent has no foam, blanket, pillow or amenities of an inhabitable place. the same situation in Arafat and even more worst in Muzdallifah.

In Manila, we paid our Mutawiffs fees worth P77,535.00 (U$1723) or equivalent to SR7,200./per pilgrims housing and meals accommodations, but this rate goes down to P29,700 (U$675) in view of hotel rooms over supply as a result of the construction of 24 Hotels by the Saudi Ministry of Haj and the reduction of haj visa quota of countries due to the construction/expansion of the Haram mosque. Hence NCMF maybe benefited from this hotel glut (must refund pilgrims the difference). NCMF have sent 139 more or less delegations to the 2014 Haj most of them physicians to assist the pilgrims, but when my wife got sick in Minah, I have not seen their tent.

Pilgrims supposed to hotel at Al-Koshai were reported house in other faraway boarding house, because the Al-Khosai hotel are yet to be constructed despite the fact that a contract was signed by the NCMF and the Al-Raya hotel provider, more very discouraging is the reports that the contract between Al-Raya hotel provider was signed by outsider not connected with the NCMF but a person working with the BIR in the person of Sohayli Pandapatan. 

Many Maranaos prospective pilgrims were denied to join the haj on the alleged pretext that they did not make it on the registration deadline on (June 16, 2014) but some of them said, that the haj visa intended for Muslims Filipinos were given instead to Malaysians and Indonesians pilgrims. How true are these allegations? There is need to investigate so that "JUSTICE TO THE 2014 HAJ PILGRIMS" maybe served.
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