PANTAW A MAREG: Memories of Martial Law: Paksol

MELBOURNE (MindaNews / 18 August) — Seeing students of Mindanao State University (MSU) sleeping on the floor and covering their windows with bed foams to protect them from stray bullets reminds me of my childhood in the now vanished and bombed out neighborhood of what only oldie locals refer to as California in Marawi City.

The twin ancestral homes from both sides of my family are gone. This is where a lot of us grew up in. It was called a Mala a Walay because it is literally a big house, that houses not a family but a clan, actually two clans. We were under Marcos Martial Law then. Gunshots were expected and part of our every day life. I remember we had a “paksol” then and my Mom trained me early on to jump into the paksol whenever I hear gunshots. I would beat everybody and be the first to hide. Being the youngest, my Mom by default would cover me with her body as my double protection.


I remember there was a series of firing one night and the family had to go in and out of the paksol and open and close the trap door until finally we left the door open. All of us slept in the following day and we were woken up by a relative greeting us Assalamo Alaikom. Or so we imagined.

I could no longer remember who was it who asked, “Is it just me, my imagination, or was I just imagining seeing someone standing at the hall way and saying salam, because now I don’t see anybody.”

Nobody answered because all were still sleepy, but seeing the sun was already up, somebody opened the window and another tried to close the trap door to the paksol and then we heard two different shouts. Followed by a chorus of everybody shouting: “Antona-a nan!!!” (What’s that!!!)

It was our guest, who disappeared in the paksol but managed to remain standing and was too shocked to react and shouted only when the door was closing on her and one of my sisters shouting in surprise to find someone in the paksol staring right at her.

It was only years later did I realize that paksol isn’t a deep Meranaw term. It actually means foxhole.

I wonder what memories young kids will have of this year’s Martial Law in the future. What terms will be associated with this new Martial Law.

Maybe, irstrayk, obitin, and isnaypir. Maybe like me, they will only discover that these aren’t Meranaw words too, only later.

I shared the photo below with my cousin who I grew up with to challenge him to find out who is who. We had fun recalling our beautiful childhood with two clans living together under one roof. Few weeks after, the siege happened. Weeks after, he sent me a message:

“Ate Ayl, our ancestral homes are gone.”

What remains are memories, kept under paksols that irstrayks cannot reach.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. ELIN ANISHA “El Anisha” GURO of Marawi City is Director of  Mindanao State University Press and Information Office, on study leave to finish her PhD at the School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne in Australia. She finished her MA Media Studies at the New School, New York City as a Fulbright Scholar)