[BALIK MSU. “Somombak Tano sa Pantaw a Mareg” (literally: Let us earn our education or let us be enlightened at the Rolling Hills) is a campaign launched by Elin Anisha Guro of Marawi City, Director of the Mindanao State University Press and Information Office who is on study leave to finish her PhD at the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne in Australia. With the help of fellow alumni, the campaign initially offered 100 free shirts and free transportation to students who would return to campus, later increasing this number to 300 with the support of MSU President Habib Macaayong — to encourage students to return to the MSU main campus in Marawi, a city under siege since clashes between government forces and terrorist groups started on May 23.
The university campus is located some five kilometers from the main battle area. The government’s armed forces and campus security have met to ensure the safety of students.
With more alumni from the Philippines, UK, USA, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and Australia supporting the campaign, all 600 students who participated in the online survey and fifty other students who joined the trivia and games, are provided with white Balik MSU T-shirts, named as Lawanen shirt referring to one of the early lady dormitories of the University, the Princess Lawanen Hall. Guro asked what returning to MSU means for the students. Here are their answers.]
Mark Beinson C. Lutcha, 18
Bislig, Surigao del Sur
BS Civil Engineering, 3rd year
I used to think that when an MSUan gets his prize it would be a “hello” no more to the University. That they would forget their mother who gave them the good life they are living. Those were my thoughts. Until this campaign proved that I was wrong.
Yes, I’m neither a Meranao nor a Muslim. I’m just one of the hundreds of students from different provinces of Mindanao who went to MSU to study. I’m one of those always late in every 7 a.m. class and sometimes enter class without bath and breakfast. I’m one of those you could see walking in the covered-walks, staying in the golf course, going to the library just to pretend to be a good student, always cramming before exam, and buying cheap goods in the ComCent.
This was my life before those guns and bullets started tearing Marawi apart, when the sounds of crying women, flying helicopters, roaring bombs, and dying innocent souls became the nightmare that lingers in our ears wherever we go. Nightmare that planted the fear and doubt in our hearts and minds from going back to MSU. The fear of dying far from your parents and failing in our purpose in life.
I hate to imagine the “what ifs” that could possibly happen like what if I die, then started seeing in mind my mother crying over my coffin. A very painful scenario no one would want to happen.
All of these changed when I started to realize that the most dire thing that could ever happen is the death of MSU.
If students choose not to go back, more lives will be doomed in the ashes of war and die in vain. This campaign (Balik MSU: Somombak tano sa Pantaw a Mareg) is one that encourages students to think beyond ourselves, to be selfless, and to be morally responsible individuals toward others.
Going back to MSU is the best action to counter terrorism and to prove that a real MSUan never forgets his mother. A real MSUan, wherever in the world will always remember his Alma Mater. This is I think why this campaign, Balik MSU: Somobak tano sa Pantaw a Mareg was realized.
The people behind this are the true and loyal MSUans. Long live to them! Now, as a student of MSU, I will stand and be one of the movers to give breath to MSU and life to Marawi. I believe that it takes no religion, no tribe, no politician to attain Peace and Unity. It only takes a brave MSUan.
If Game of Thrones has “A Lannister always pays his debts,” MSU says, ” An MSUan always goes back to his University.”
To those who know me and to my friends, stand up! Somombak tano sa Pantaw a Mareg!
Kaline Amick M. Gonzales, 20
Bachelor in Library and Information Service, 4th year
It’s just one of the many ways of the MSU alumni in giving back to MSU, that was once their home and the other MSUans, their family. That without MSU, they will not get to where they are now (well, aside from their own hard work also). They became one of my inspirations. They just showed us what MSUans can do, in spite of different cultures and beliefs, we can be united as one in giving back to our beloved MSU.
Hannan Amer, 21
Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur
BSEE, 3rd year
As the siege in Marawi continues, we, students of MSU, are having doubts whether to return to the campus or not due to the danger it may bring us though it’s far from the war zone.
Rumors have been spreading that these ISIS-wannabes are planning to penetrate the campus. This is also a factor why some students hesitate to return.
This campaign (Balik MSU) is a great motivation for the students to return and continue their studies in the University. Its main objective is to encourage us to return to MSU despite the ongoing conflict in the city.
Also, it tries to imply that the University is literally a safe zone. Besides, the University Officials, especially the President, will make sure that the campus is safe for everyone. Above all, this campaign is trying to show that MSU-Main is incomparable with other universities.
Not bragging but it’s the truth. Dakilang Paaralan ang MSU. And as I always say, it’s more fun in MSU!
Charity Niel Casas, 21
Ramon Magsaysay, Zamboanga del Sur
BSBA Management, 4th year
Do you know that feeling when you are about to let something go because everyone thinks it’s hopeless then somebody held your hand and you realized you are not alone? Then you saw a ray of light-hope?
I do. And it’s because of this campaign: “Somombak tano sa Pantaw a Mareg”.
I grew up in a small town somewhere in Zamboanga. I’m your typical country girl who went to MSU to reach her simple dreams. In MSU, I met new friends who stood as my family in the campus. I learned to not see the lines that divide people but to see just people – human. MSU earned a space in my heart.
Then this crisis came.
As the crisis progresses day by day, ounce by ounce my hope to reach my dreams in MSU vanishes.
In a moment, I felt like I lost everything that keeps me from leaving MSU. I really wanna go back to MSU. I wanna see the Sleeping Lady, my messy bed in the dormitory, everything. But it felt insufficient. And I didn’t know why.
Then, this campaign came.
For whatever reason, it relived my hope and fueled my longing to go back and reach my dreams in MSU.
Then I realized why. This campaign signifies the blood of an MSUan. The spirit of camaraderie. The “walang-iwanan-anuman-ang-mangyari” feeling. I immediately felt assured that I’m never alone. That in this journey to my dreams in my beloved university, I am never alone.
Like the anime “Fairy Tail,” I realized it isn’t me that is holding the university. Instead, it is MSU that is holding me and every MSUan.
The spirit of a true survivor resides in the heart of every MSUan. Thank you for holding me tight MSU through your sons and daughters all over the globe.
Jake B. Doloricon, 19
Bislig, Surigao del Sur
BSEd English, 4th year
I closed my eyes.
It was almost 4pm.
The crickets can’t sing between the laughter of people while talking to their friends. The breeze is as cold as the skin of the actors of true hardships and perseverance.
The setting was simple. But the wisdom was way better.
I sit in a place where the setting was pleasing to my eyes. I saw people who walk with black clothes covering all their body parts, people who wear veils, people who carry mountain of books, who sing birthday songs for their brothers and sisters, who buy their meals, and who wear “malong” as they go to their respective masjid. It was diverse. It was very colorful.
I looked down unto the book I was holding and adjusted the eyeglasses I was wearing. I grabbed a cup of coffee and indulged myself in its warm feeling. While doing so, I read something from the book and it says, “loyalty is way better than being afraid, because being afraid will not get you far, loyalty will.”
I looked again at the setting, and it was beautiful. The setting then registered in my mind and I realized that these people are loyal people. Despite the differences of their appearances, they are willing to be each other’s shoulder whenever they have problems… and they become loyal to each other.
Despite different languages, they are willing to adjust themselves just to make you understand them… and that makes them loyal. Despite failing grades for how many times, they are willing to start all over again, try all over again just to pass a specific subject… and they become loyal.
Despite the lack of well-ventilated rooms, they are willing to learn and extend their interests towards a specific subject… and they become loyal.
All of these things make them beautiful in a painting of loyalty, in a painting of respectable people, in a painting of excellence, in a painting of survival.
It was a perfect painting subject.
I helped my fingers turn the next pages of the book I was reading, and then I read, “but only a difficult situation will test a loyal person.”
Suddenly, the setting was set with terror, with the fear of bullets knowing it would not choose who to hit, with body shaking because of the airstrikes happening on the ground. Tears falling on their faces as they become more concerned. Things being packed to look for a much safer place.
The perfect painting subject now became a ghost town!
I was crying. I was trembling. Knowing I would leave the place where I started to become loyal kills me everyday. Knowing that leaving the place where people gained a lot from it – from a diverse community, academic excellence, responsibility, loyalty, is now crying because it’s left with nothing.
My heart was breaking. My hopes were fading. My university is dying.
And then I opened my eyes, found myself crying in the middle of the night.
I went outside the terrace and brought with me a book and a cup of coffee. The breeze was cold and the crickets sing between the deafening sound of silence. I opened my book and started where I put the bookmark and it says, “come back to me, son. You’re one of my greatest creations. Don’t you see? I’m doing the best I can to serve you. Come back to me, son. Come back to me for I am waiting for your sweetest hug.”
The next day, I found myself carrying my packbag going to Mindanao State University – to the place where I started to become loyal.
Nor-Anisha Schaharazhed Guro, 21
AB English, 3rd year
The campaign gives me hope as a student. The Anti-looters Campaign assured me that there are people who are not willing to stand by as our homes are being ransacked by soldiers and looters alike. In a similar vein, Balik MSU: Somombak Tano sa Pantaw a Mareg campaign assured me that there are many people who are willing to stand for MSU despite the widespread rhetoric that our beloved university is a lost cause. Secondly, it inspires me how much the students themselves, especially the Christians, are willing to do whatever it takes to finish their studies here. The campaign assures them that they are not alone in their desire to go back. Balik MSU: Somombak Tano sa Pantaw a Mareg is a much-needed bringer of hope in times of turmoil. It also helps that people are very creative in their pictures, which makes me smile. #TatakMSU.