Maria Lourdes Penero. A Filipina national, 36, working as a senior coordinator at an event management company in Dubai. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Name: Maria Lourdes Peñero

Age: 36 years

Nationality: Filipina national

Occupation: Senior coordinator at an event management company

Emirate of residence: Dubai

In the UAE: For 14 years

“Ramadan is known to the whole Muslim community around the world as a holy month. It’s a month dedicated to the Almighty, a month to bring yourself closer to Him by fasting. As a born Christian in the Philippines, I had limited knowledge of Islam. I knew the purpose of a mosque and the fact that Muslims pray five times a day, because we learn this information in school.

“But, I have truly known Ramadan since I moved to the UAE in 2002. I started experiencing its true essence in 2003, but it still didn’t have a clear effect on me, until I became curious and started asking questions. To cut the story short, I eventually embraced Islam in 2007 and that’s when I started taking the month of Ramadan seriously.

This, to me, was the most unique experience. It has completely changed me as a person. It was during the month of Ramadan that I decided to convert and received my certificate.

“Fasting helps you experience the whole concept of abstinence, especially from the things you are used to doing on a daily basis in the remaining 11 months of the year. I benefited a lot from Ramadan, in terms of my health and spiritually.

“Before knowing Ramadan and understanding its purpose, I believed in the Almighty, but I didn’t know the real essence of so much dedication, to the extent that you fast from dawn till dusk.

“This month is unique in every possible way. The feeling of giving food to those who are fasting cannot be described. And sometimes it is even more special when you have iftar with these not so familiar faces and yet you end up smiling at each other.

“I usually break my fast with a glass of milk and two dates and then have a heavy meal after offering the Maghrib prayer.”