Editor’s note: The writer, Jo Antonette M. Cañete, is a fifteen year-old, Grade 11 student at Corpus Christi School-Macasandig. She dedicates this to the soldiers, many of whom are fathers first, currently serving in Marawi City.

A PROMISE is forever. But the promise of a good future for his son was ruined for Corporal Joebert Cofino and his family. On the twelfth of June, the corporal’s death was made known to all of the citizens of the Philippines.

A firefight between government forces and the members of the Maute Terror Group prevented this courageous soldier from fulfilling his promises. The corporal’s hopes and dreams of marrying his childhood sweetheart and his hopes and dreams that his 11-month old son growing up with a father ended that day.

An innocent child who knew nothing of the world and its ways, a child who was born with no single stain of fault in his heart; a child who entered into this world with a good chance of a family and a bright future, was robbed of one essential thing that every single person in this world would kill to have, a father. Because of the injustices that resulted from this ongoing war, this child will have no father to hold his hand at night and tell him he’ll drive away the monsters, no father to tell him he’ll catch him at the end of the slide, no father to cheer “That’s my son!” as he receives his certificate of graduation, and no father to tell him it’s going to be alright when the days seem dark. At just 11 months old, this child is left fatherless.

Taking into account the recent events and casualties that have happened these past few weeks, the sound of helicopters flying in the sky and the wailing of ambulances on the streets leave my heart beating at a faster rate. With every sound of helicopters, the great chance of flying in soldiers from different parts of the country to Marawi City comes to my mind. And with this thought comes the upsetting notion that there will be another set of people endangering their own lives and may leave their family without a father, a son, and/or a brother. With each wail of ambulances, there may be a father, a mother, a sibling, a wife, and/or a child, holding on and praying earnestly to the dear Lord for the well-being and safety of his/her loved one, not knowing that it was too late.

I was in Quezon City when I first heard about the horrendous news that there was an Isis invasion in Marawi. This happened together with the explosion in Manchester, the bomb attack in Bangkok, and the car bombing in Syria. I was deeply overwhelmed by all of these tragedies. Fear and concern enveloped me as I immediately thought about my family in Mindanao. It all happened so quickly.

First, there was the attack, then, soldiers being deployed in Marawi to protect the civilians and to drive the terrorists away from our country, next, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao. Next thing I knew, several innocent people and selfless soldiers were killed in the process. News from the crisis were all that filled the television programs for days on end.

Reports were turning in everyday showing several people killed, residents of Marawi forced to leave their homes, families losing their loved ones, and most especially, the poor children who have lost their childhood and innocence because of the war. Seeing these things in television is like getting stabbed in the heart over and over again. You can feel the pain behind every cry of the affected citizens and the fear behind every gunshot and explosion. The feeling of helplessness makes its way to us as we watch these people making huge sacrifices for us, their fellowmen, who know, will never be able to repay them. These people don’t have a single bone in their body that deserves to be faced with this immense catastrophe.

Knowing that the peace and security of one’s beloved country is being threatened by notorious terrorists are more than enough to cause hysteria amongst the citizens of the country. Everyone was frightened that maybe their city or province might be the next Marawi and their family might be the next targets.

According to a news report, as of June 06, the death toll increased to 202 in which 134 of them were terrorists, 38 were government troops, and 30 were civilians. With the celebration of Father’s day, this makes one think. Within that death toll, how many of them were fathers? How many wives were left widows? How many children were left orphans?

It’s easy to feel sympathy, empathy even, to the families of the soldiers who showed bravery and selflessness for our country. However, we must acknowledge the fact that these terrorists are also fathers, son, and/or brothers. It makes us all wonder how they are able to take the lives of these people who also have families who love them dearly. How are they able to live with the amount of deaths in their hands? Don’t they see the souls of their own families in the eyes of the people they kill? Aren’t they haunted by screams of the women and children they terrorize that remind them of their own wives, sons, and daughters? Have they no mercy for the people that deserve nothing less than peace? By killing these families, aren’t they, even for a second, bothered by the sole fact that what they’re doing is like killing their own? Even for just a single heartbeat, aren’t they the least bit guilty of leaving hundreds of innocent children scarred for the rest of their lives?

I am not a soldier. I am not a resident of Marawi who is feeling the wrath of terrorism firsthand. I had not lost my home or any of my family members because of this siege. But I am a Mindanaoan. I am a citizen of the Philippines. And, above all, I am a human born with a soul. The loss of my fellowmen is my loss. The cry for help of my fellowmen is my cry for help. The happiness of my fellowmen is my happiness. We shall stand united in these times of trials, for no amount of gunshots, bombs, and attacks shall ever make a united and strong nation falter.

To all of the people who are affected by this atrocious war, the most important thing that I would like all of you to never forget is the presence of the Lord. God is with us always and He will never leave us no matter what we face, where we are, what our faith is, and who we are.

Everything happens for a reason in God’s watch. I know how difficult it is, at times, to believe that God does everything for the best, especially when tragedies like this fall upon us. But, God is all-knowing. God knows what the past contains, what the present brings, and what the future holds. He knows what each of need and when the right time comes, he will give it all to us in even greater forms. God will always provide. Our prayers are always with you. Your utmost safety is as important to us as your loved ones.

To our soldiers, all of your sacrifices are deeply appreciated and we will be eternally grateful for all of them. You are our lifeline in these difficult times and we have confidence and trust in all of you. Words are not enough to explain how much we admire all of you and how much you inspire us, the next generation, to serve our country as best as we can, like how you all did.

No child on this earth deserves to grow up not having a father. No one. Not even the likes of these terrorists attacking our country. I, personally, feel fortunate that I have never missed the celebration of Fathers’ Day because of the presence of my father here with me in our home. However, to all of the children whose fathers are soldiers and mostly away throughout the whole year, especially on Fathers’ Day, please never think that your fathers put their country and the lives of the civilians they are protecting before anything else because your life is of less value to them. All soldiers are built with great patriotism for their country or they wouldn’t want to serve it in the first place. Most of your fathers want to protect the country because they love its citizens, as to why they love its citizens, you are part of them.

Each and every one of us, Filipinos, would be honored to call them our country’s soldiers. Most of us would be honored to call them our superheroes. But only you, their children, received, receive, and will receive the highest honor of all for being able to call one of them, your father.
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