OUR MARAWI: Every Holy Month will be a reminder that our city was once bombed until nothing was left

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Downtown Marawi City one sunny afternoon circa 2004, before all the devastation due to the fires and the aerial bombings no thanks to the still ongoing skirmishes between government forces and the Maute Group that caused the evacuation of most of the city’s population. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 July) — I have often fantasized my future trip to Davao City where my father works as a humanitarian worker when I happen to space out. I dreamt of visiting as a tourist or as a youth volunteer or sometimes as a scholar… but never as a ‘bakwit.’

I feel very detached to the word ‘bakwit.. I have seen so many tragic events in this country that I have become indifferent to the term. When you are used to seeing bakwits, you often lose a touch of sympathy. After all, feeling hurt for their sake over and over again would destroy your heart eventually and completely. At least that’s what I thought.

Now, I am one of them. The place where I used to watch unfortunate events has been ravaged. The safe haven that protected my people from storms, typhoons, and earthquakes was annihilated until it resembled Aleppo, the city I used to watch in horror from afar. Who would have thought?

To add salt to injury, the tragedy happened in the month of Ramadhan, the month where Meranao families feel the happiest. We were supposed to put up Ramadhan specials and devour food feast during Iftar. We were supposed to spend our nights with aching legs because the Imam recited a really long Surah during Tarawee. I used to hate that after several days, but now, how I wish we had Tarawee in Marawi and I would not have minded if it lasted until the following morning.

Instead, we left all the fruits of our hard work behind in the hopes of saving the lives of our family, praying every night that the war would stop.

I was fortunate that I didn’t have to spend my days huddled in an evacuation center, wishing for relief goods to sustain me. Davao City welcomed my sister and me and although I had spent time exploring the city like a tourist, always at the back of my mind, the thought of Meranaws sleeping on the cold, stone floor would remind me that I am no tourist. I am just a Meranaw bakwit who left home to avoid spending sleepless nights listening to loud and limb-shaking bombs falling.

I already had enough difficulties evacuating my two beloved cats, Snowbell and Roger. Their vet has kindly taken them in while we are still bakwits and are unable to go back home. Whenever I miss them so much, I comfort myself with thoughts of other fellow bakwits. I can only imagine how much more difficult it is for single parents with ten children, orphans, old people, pregnant women, handicapped individuals… the list goes on and on.

Sometimes I feel guilty when I think of my cats more often than bakwits like me. But how do you explain to cats that they were not abandoned, that I will someday come and get them? They will not know until I come for them and we will be able to go home. But when?

After this, we would mark every Holy Month as a reminder that our city was once bombed until nothing was left, that it became the graveyard of so many lives unceremoniously buried under the rubble, and that many of my people have no place to go back to anymore.

After this, people would once again associate us with terrorists, forgetting the fact that it was our city that terrorists destroyed in the first place.

I always thought people who feel bad for every single person, like my Mom is, are weak because the world will always be a nasty place and it would do no good to keep giving your heart away. Every single time. I was wrong.

It takes a really strong heart to feel hurt for every ‘bakwit’, for every person in need. It takes a strong heart to endure the constant breaking of the heart. That is why people who help bakwits in any way are the real heroes.

The world is a horrible place but it brings out the good in humanity. This realization made me a little less cynical than I used to be. I used to worry if and when I can go back to school. Not anymore. I just brace myself to have my heart broken again. And again.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. OUR MARAWI is open to anyone who wishes to share his/her thoughts on what is happening in Marawi City, the country’s lone Islamic City. Elinisha Rojan C. Guro, 17,  longs to return home, to Marawi City where she will be in Grade 12 at the Mindanao State University-Marawi Senior High School. Elinisha describes herself as a “poet, debater, editor, essayist, fictionist, painter, graphic artist, public speaker, Singkil dancer, environment and cultural activist, chef and–youth leader.” Exposed in local, national and international multi-cultural settings, she is a driven and sometimes overly confident individual with equally strong passion for animal rights. She has used her various skills and talents to volunteer and sometimes spearhead in many organizations here and abroad whose advocacies she supports. She strongly believes that with great and many talents come the many windows to help and reach out)

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