Saturday , May 26, 2018

Notes from Marawi: A story of survival

IT was the 23rd day of May 2017, the first day of the Marawi clash. I was in our cottage with my roommate when the battle started at around 2 p.m. We thought that it is just a family feud or the so-called ‘Rido’ that is normally happening in the town. I was busy that time writing my articles for our laboratory publication and studying for our final exams when the bombs exploded and the firefight began.

I did not get any decent sleep that night and I cannot help but cry as I scanned photos and posts that appeared in my social media accounts.

In fact, Mindanao State University’s (MSU) students, instructors and residents are used to hearing gunshots inside the campus or even in the city of Marawi. We thought that it will come to an end and everything will be alright, then we can go back to our normal lives.

But the bombing and gunshots became ceaseless. We were afraid when we heard reports that the clash occurred in the Basak Malutlut area of the city, which is near our campus, fearing that terrorists may penetrate the MSU compound. The reports also said that the Maute fighters occupied the Amai Pakpak Medical Center and killed the guard. Terrorists allegedly replaced the Philippine flag hoisted in the hospital with the Black Standard used by the ISIS.

We were told not to panic, but panic was felt everywhere. We all knew that it is not a simple conflict. Because of our fear, we locked our doors and turned off the lights, but we still didn’t feel safe at all. While the battle is ongoing, our loved ones bombarded us with so much comments and reactions to our posts in social media. I appreciated very much all the people who prayed for our safety in the campus.

On the second day, the situation in the campus worsened, there is no more food because stores were closed. There was limited supply of water and electricity was down. We were stranded in our cottages and so we decided to pack our bags and prepared to evacuate and go home, uncertain of what the future holds for us because we all know that after all this battle, MSU will not be the same again.

We went to Princess Lawanen Hall (PLH), a girls dormitory, and we patiently waited for the military to rescue us. Help did not come immediately because the troops were busy with their operations.

We did everything that we can to get out of the campus. Good thing that the MSU administration provided us with a van that would take us to Iligan City. We were stranded in the municipality of Saguiran for seven hours, luckily, our Muslim brothers and sisters there offered us free food, water and the use of their toilets.

Right now, I am safe here in Cebu and started having my on-the-job training. But still, even if I’m safe now, my happiness is not complete seeing my second home still in complete destruction.

It is sad to say that terrorists don’t care that we are losing our brothers and sisters, losing our love, values and respect for one another, which is causing this turmoil.

It is high time to show our love and unity. Let us pray for Marawi and hope that the clash will come to an end, for the only good thing about war is its ending. Arnold Tucong, MSU-Marawi Intern