News

It was an interesting religion

NEW CUSTOMS: Mrs Mercedes Solano (left, in blue headscarf) with her mother-in-law, Madam Mahani Arip, and her husband, Mr Ashafi'e Mohd. TNP PHOTOS: GARY GOH

Her interest in the religion came in 2005, during a history lesson while at university in the Philippines.

"For me it was an interesting religion and for the longest time, what I knew about the religion I learnt by myself," said Mrs Mercedes Solano, a Filipina who is also known by her Muslim name Siti Aisha Solano.

Nobody drew her to the religion, said the 26-year-old, adding that she did not have a Muslim boyfriend at that time.

Last year, the petite housewife, who first came here to work at a restaurant three years ago, took the plunge and started attending classes at Darul Arqam on her own.

On Oct 26 last year, Mrs Siti Aisha embraced Islam as her new faith. She is experiencing Ramadan as a Muslim for the first time this year.

Her family, who live in Manila, are Catholics. They have been supportive of her decision, she added.

Said Mrs Siti Aisha: "They said I should do whatever that makes me happy, they only wanted to know that I am serious about converting, which I am."

LOOKING FORWARD

She lives in a four-room flat in Ang Mo Kio with her 29-year-old husband Ashafi'e Mohd, a civil servant, and his family.

The couple married earlier this month after a two-month courtship. She is current awaiting approval for her Long-Term Visit Pass-Plus (LTVP+).

The scheme was introduced in 2012 in response to the trend of increasing marriages between Singaporeans and foreigners.

The LTVP+ will be granted first for a duration of three years and then for up to five years for each subsequent renewal. LTVP+ holders will also be eligible for health-care and employment benefits.

While Mrs Siti Aisha said she has been looking forward to this year's Ramadan, she admitted that fasting for the first time will be a challenging experience for her, especially in Singapore's weather.

"Even before I converted, I tried to fast to practise, but I still find it quite hard. But I am trying to do my best, with the support of my husband and my in-laws," she said.

She is looking forward to the festivities at the end of Ramadan, but she said she is also looking forward to performing the rituals of the fasting month, which include the normal prayers and Terawih prayers, which are performed at night during Ramadan.