DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 August) — A firefight in a neighboring town delayed by a few hours the welcome ceremonies Tuesday, August 22, the first day of the first semester of schoolyear 2017-2018 at the Mindanao State University (MSU) main campus in Marawi.
Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of Joint Task Force Marawi said the firefight did not stop the university from opening although she admitted it delayed a bit the opening rites.
The Marawi Crisis, which started on May 23 with clashes between government forces and the Maute Group, entered Day 92 on Tuesday although military officials claim the battle zone some five kilometers from the campus is now confined only within half a square kilometer out of the city’s 87.55.
Classes were supposed to start on August 7 but the military gave its clearance for an August 22 opening.
Petinglay said the 5:30 a.m. harassment of a detachment in Marantao town, was “about three kilometers away” from MSU and that the firefight ended at around 7 a.m. One alleged member of the terrorist group was killed.
The firefight delayed the departure of the 12-bus convoy of students from the Overton in Iligan City to the MSU campus in Marawi, delaying also the start of the welcome rites in front of the administration building.
Sent off by Iligan Mayor Celso Regencia, the convoy was supposed to have left Iligan at 8 a.m., in time for the 9 a.m. welcome rites at the Marawi campus. It arrived at around 11 a.m.
Aside from MSU officials, Aiza Seguerra, chair of the National Youth Commission, was among those who welcomed the students back to the 56-year old university.
Ronald Silvosa, Information Technology Officer and head of Information Systems Department of College of Information and Technology told MindaNews Tuesday night that as of 5 p.m. on August 17, they had a total of 9,129 enrolees. “Out of 9,120 enrolees, 8,168 enrolees have confirmed their enrolment; 5,845 students are officially registered.”
MSU President Dr. Habib Macaayong told MindaNews last week he is “happy” the students are returning. He assured security arrangements have been made by both the military and the university’s security sector.
The August 22 opening was the second “first” in two months for the university.
For the first time on July 13, graduation rites were not held in Marawi but in neighboring Iligan City because of the war. For the first time, on August 22, the first semester opened in the midst of a still raging war.
Hundreds of students returned to campus proudly wearing their white “Balik MSU: Somombak Tano sa Pantaw a Mareg” shirts donated by alumni and the MSU President.
“Somombak Tano sa Pantaw a Mareg” (literally: Let us earn our education or let us be enlightened at the Rolling Hills) was a campaign launched by Elin Anisha Guro, Director of the Mindanao State University Press and Information Office in Marawi who is presently on study leave to finish her PhD at the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne in Australia.
From Melbourne, Guro launched the campaign, urging fellow alumni and students to urge their classmates to return to campus.
The campaign initially offered 100 free shirts and free transportation to entice students to return to campus. With additional support of MSU President Macaayong, the number of shirts reached 300, generating additional support from alumni in the Philippines, UK, USA, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and Australia. By school opening, 640 students who participated in the online survey and those who joined the trivia and games, received their Balik-MSU shirts, said Guro.
She said she was “extremely thankful, relieved, and privileged to have been a significant part of a historic event where MSU students put their lives on the line, not because MSU is their ONLY option, but because they understand what the country stands to lose if MSU falls” as “it would have rendered the annihilation of Marawi City, total and complete.”
What defines true-blooded MSUans are their indomitable spirit, boundless courage, and endless hope spiced with unparalleled humor, and not religion nor region.”
She said the students returned to Marawi not only to finish their education “but to make a stand for the country and defy those who want to kill the dream of a better Mindanao and keep us pitted against each other.”
“This day shall be remembered as the day that MSU students stood for their beloved institution. MSUans do not wait out the war, they bring in the peace,” Guro said.
“In defiance of violence and anarchy”
Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, majority floor leader of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Regional Legislative Assembly and spokesperson of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee said Tuesday’s opening signified that “academic freedom broke the chain of intolerance and fear.”
“MSU triumphed today. She rejected hate and embraced openness – a character she’s known for,” said Adiong, also a member of the MSU’s Board of Regents.
Adiong congratulated the MSU administration and staff, faculty and students and everyone who contributed to the success of the Balik MSU campaign. He also thanked “the parents of non-Meranao and non-Muslim students” as well as non-Meranao teachers and employees, “for the trust” and “for not leaving us.”
“A few years from today, outsiders will come to Marawi and will do research on the siege. Let them remember not the day the City was forced to kneel down but the day when MSU stood firmly on her feet in defiance of violence and anarchy,” Adiong added. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)