“AREN’T you going to leave that war-torn city yet?” some people from other cities ask me whenever they learn that I live in Marawi.
“I still don’t know,” I always reply to them with a small chuckle.
A few years ago, my high school teachers in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan cocked their heads in wonder why I would “still” choose to go to Mindanao State University – Marawi for college.
Before I sent my application, several graduates of our high school had already packed their bags to return to Palawan from Marawi. They also bagged stories about Marawi being a really dangerous place where tanks and guns were normal and that non-Muslims were a minority—even a prey in some situations.
Some would even remark, “Mag ingat ka sa mga Muslim. Baka lasunin ka ng mga ‘yan (Be careful of the Muslims. They might poison you).”
So far, I haven’t really heard of cases of poisoning here. But the guns and tanks were true (Well, the tanks were still a rare sight, though).
First year in college—our boarding house was shot a few times by probably an M16 because of barangay election issues.
Second year—there were several cases of kidnappings. Following it were short films by students that retold how they escaped their captors.
Third year, there was an “ambush” near the gate of the University. A few minutes after the incident, news have been circulated through SMS that “Marshall Law”’ will be imposed in Marawi with a republic act that “backs it up”.
For college kids who have just endured a round of ricocheting gunshots, we all immediately believed the text messages and notified our parents right away— only to find out that it was fake news with a silly R.A. and that even martial law, in the text message, was spelled wrong.
There were other gun feuds that happened in some barangays inside the campus because of the “Coco Scam” and the issue on the cleansing of the voter’s list in Lanao del Sur.
In 2017, the historical Marawi siege happened.
For some of us who have been sandwiched several times in violent situations, running away from gun violence was not new.
A few years after I graduated from college and even after the war—I am still here in Marawi.
Years ago, we chose to study in this University because from someone who came from a financially-struggling family, MSU Marawi was our last hope of acquiring a college degree.
A lot of us also refused to give up on the university, despite its dangerous location, because of its quality education which is insanely affordable.
MSU Marawi’s College of Nursing was also ranked as the third best performing school in the country, and the university also produce topnotchers in the recent social work board examinations, like it used to in the previous years.
Back when I was still studying, a lot of classrooms and equipment in the university were dilapidated. Still, we hanged on and eventually graduated, also because of the endeavors of the instructors, paired with the sheer will of the students to continue.
Many Christians and other non-Meranaws have also decided to stay here because their livelihood and jobs are in the City. Many families rely on their members who work in Marawi.
Some chose to endure the impeding and lurking dangers just to feed and provide for their loved ones.
Marawi isn’t dangerous because of the tribal affiliation or religion of the majority of people there. It was because of some people’s evil tendencies which can manifest, regardless of one’s race, gender, religion, or appearance.
Therefore, we beseech the authorities in the security and safety in Lanao del Sur and in Marawi to double their measures of ensuring the City’s peace and order. We implore you to assist them in keeping their lives and make their risks of coming here worthwhile. (firstname.lastname@example.org)