AS ABSURD as it sounds, I don’t want the Marawi I’ve lived in for the past decade to be back.
People are gradually returning to the city and have started to rebuild their homes and their lives.
But this is not enough for me.
For many years, this city and its people have been the ‘normal’ life of enduring poverty, illiteracy, conflict, and discrimination.
My city has been plagued with being mistakenly feared to have ‘wars all year ‘round’ or the Meranaw people here stereotypically called as terrorists in other parts of the country.
The Muslims have been called by many names such as ‘moklo’, ‘terrorist’, ‘ignorante’, and many other painful labels.
For being called such, the people try to protect themselves and their identities and may thus cause conflict. By protecting themselves, they get victimized by labels and people start to turn their back from them. And so, the cycle continues, going back to discrimination, which will bear another conflict.
Lanao del Sur is also ranked to have the lowest literacy rate in the Philippines. Employment and income opportunities are even limited.
Some kids are forced to leave school and do labor like selling on the streets just to help out even a bit in the family’s income. Other adolescents settle with early marriage rather than opting to go to school, often because of the lack of opportunities to decide on a better path to take.
Aside from arranged marriages, low literacy rates, and lack of education, there’s also the problem about rido or family feuds – and it’s definitely not the fun type.
The government and local Sultans and Bae a Labis of Lanao del Surhave been trying to prevent and settle erupting ridos for years now as it causes families to go all out with each other, causing unnecessary deaths and distress.
I have my own share of ridos before. A student of mine had to leave school just so they could shelter somewherein fear that the other family might shoot a bullet in their head anytime. Others had to leave Marawi City and go to larger cities to not be confronted with guns and attempt to dodge death.
Since people are afraid of Lanao del Sur and its people, they do not come near the place anymore. This place would have really needed interaction from the world outside Lanao del Sur to learn and be enculturated with matters about peace, understanding, respect, and unity.
We could have helped in changing Marawi and Lanao del Sur by sharing to them these merits, but instead, we shy away from this responsibility, or even back off completely.
Now that the country – and even the world – has already taken notice of Marawi because of the recent siege, I wish they would also take notice of the deep-rooted problems long plaguing Marawi and even the whole Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
This paper might not be able to tell all that Marawi and Lanao del Sur have been suffering from, but nonetheless, I don’t want the old Marawi that everyone thinks they have already gotten used to.
I want reforms.
I want a Marawi where education is not only accessible to all, but will also train students to become competent individuals and eventually, professionals.
I want a Marawi where the children will not inherit the former stigma and will be able to choose a freer future, not having to be burdened with feeding or raising their families at a young age.
I want peace education and campaigns to be genuinely implemented in the Region as to inspire people to never opt for bloodshed to settle disputes ever again.
I want Marawi to have its former branding removed and its people to change genuinely.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 21, 2018.