GRADUATES of the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City received their diplomas at MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology, on Thursday, July 13.

Students and university officials got emotional as the main campus of the MSU system had its 52nd Commencement Exercises for the second semester of the academic year of 2016-2017.

Secretary Datu Abul Khayr Dangcal Alonto, chairman of the Mindanao Development Authority who was the guest speaker, was teary-eyed as he delivered his speech.

"We are Marawi! Together, we will go hand in hand, Maranaos or not, in rebuilding the city, our city," Alonto said.

More than half of the supposed graduates of MSU-Marawi filed for in absencia for the event, preferring to stay safe in their hometowns rather than go back to the area.

Some graduates said that they took the risk and chose to have faith in the security measures by the organizers rather than to miss the ceremony.

"I want to experience the graduation rites myself. I have worked so hard for these. I sacrificed a lot of things just to graduate. Kahit pa nung sinabi na sa main campus gagawin ay mag-attend pa rin ako," said Sheryl Lorenzo, a Development Communication graduate.

Lorenzo was one of the students who were evacuated to Iligan City after being trapped in the MSU-Main campus during the incident.

Junaid Cader, an AB English graduate who is already staring his law studies in Cebu City, flew to Iligan City just so he can attend the event.

He said nothing can replace the once-in-a-lifetime-experience of graduating even in the midst of war.

"I really wanted to go because I know that even if they say that it is not safe, I will really regret not going to my own college graduation years from now," Cader said.

Almost two months ago, resident students, faculty, and staff of the university were forced to abandon the university as fighting erupted between extremists and government forces just before the semester closed.

Tight security was implemented during the commencement exercises, as security forces only allowed few to enter the gymnasium. No one was also allowed to bring young children and bags.

Security personnel, composed of police and army, also checked everyone's clothes before entering the ceremony.

Before the ceremony ended, the university officials announced that the university will be opening for enrollment and classes come August.