They were a group of Meranaos, temporarily taking chances at life in a foreign city, a little faraway from inged, from home. In one of those times, while stories brewed in the afternoon twilight, and coffee warmed the cool air, these young fellows spoke of home with words tasting like nostalgia despite the bitter tang of coffee.
They chattered of home before — when Banggolo teemed with vendors, and the food district accommodated friends like family more than any coffee shops ever did; when schools sheltered childhood and teenage memories; and houses breathed lives and stories. They talked of memories of home, because what was left of them were remnants which they can only revisit nowadays in the deepest corners of their minds. Because after all, how do we speak of home without the mini-daggers stabbing themselves in the portion of hearts reserved for home—our family and every person who forms part of our individuality in that place. And isn’t home, our inged, our very own which we know in its every bend in the corner, the same way we memorized the fault lines of our palms?
The young policeman talked of their neighborhood, and how the distinct memory of his childhood entangled with every other child in their neighborhood — how each of them knew one another from slippers to habits, like an extended family. He spoke of his mother, and how she enforced rules in their family, rules which took precedence over laws. Yet these were the same rules that gave a path to peace in their home. He joked that his mother was such a peacemaker, he could foresee her winning landslide in a barangay election. The values imparted to him glowed in his eyes, as if they were codified in his irises.
And the aspiring lady lawyer narrated the steady gossips of her neighbors as they convened every other day like it was a daily ritual. And she giggled in awe, as memories rushed through her mouth long before she could think of the words: when someone in the village cooked food, its aroma spread around like wildfire. But it was the memory of people sharing food, no matter how meager, which overwhelmed her. Indeed, inged is home and the people in there are families.
The young engineer, albeit not a resident of the city but lived there when he went to college to the prestigious university overlooking the ranao, the lake, mentioned warm fragments of his memory of the place which at a certain point in time became his home. It was in that same city where he first built his dreams, amidst the stories of buildings that was the foundation of his knowledge of bricks and cements. He talked of how the wisdom of a good foundation will not easily permit the collapse of a building, which took root in the deepest part of his heart.
The conversation continued. The siege was discussed, of course. It is impossible to keep mum about the tragedy that paralyzed half of the splendid city. The before and the after. The cause and the effects. A part of the culture that were now ruins. The people involved—the children, the fathers and the mothers, the merchants, the vendors, and everybody else who we were not so lucky who situated their lives according to their distinct circumstances.
These Meranao young fellows, representing a portion of the Bangsamoro youth identified the problems. They tried to troubleshoot the problems, always predicated with a hopeful solution underscored by the dream to go back to inged, to home.
The place may no longer be the same. Houses, establishments and buildings may no longer appear the same in years to come. Roads and alleys will no longer point to the same direction. The shared memory of home will continuously bridge differences, politics and class.
As long as the ranao survives, and as long as the people of the lake thrive (the kalumbayan), the youth can make the tides turn favorably.
The past is history. The narratives can vary. The flow of the story can be revised, depending on your vantage point. The generation of youth nowadays stands on a vantage point of their own, too. The youth shares a common experience of this history, of locations which are now ruins, of memories which were so inexplicably strong that they can almost vacuum you back to the golden past where there is still home in the map.
The future is a blueprint. The youth can draw the map’s way back to home. It can start from scratches, from harmless coffee discussions, to plenary ones. The vital matter is the desire to recreate what is now a mere splinter of memories which echo to be lived again.
The youth longs for the comfort of home that has always been singular in form. And the youth yearns to be back—they can because they have the power to wield to change the course of history.
(BATANG MINDANAW is the youth section of Mindanews. This piece by Aleah-Hidaya A. Hadji Rakhim of Marawi City won 3rd prize at the ARMM Essay Writing Competition)