MY, MY, MY MARAWI: So many memories, an amazing, grace-packed journey

MAKKAH (MindaNews /04 June) — God Almighty gifted me with wonders…. family, friends, great campaign teams, mentors, volunteers, working hands near and far. Some gave up their jobs, some gave up family time. It was an unbelievable journey, so much love…. I am thankful despite “torture” by trolls ūüėČ

A candidate by accident, taking in what God gave me, I was asked to run in April 2018 by civil society in Manila. Totally impossible under my evacuation circumstances, I dismissed the offer, but asked to consult around Mindanao, my base, even going to Davao City advisers.

Now seven months later, I am a woman, still the same but not the same. While shaming me online was ever present, there continues to be an outpouring of tears and concern for me on emails, messenger, and twitter. Some drawings of me seem so surreal, even tagged me an Arya who slayed the enemy Night King… I am no hero, but the youth are looking for someone to look up to, to talk to.

I lost the Senate, but I won and gained in friendship immeasurably so much more. I am speechless in gratitude, despite resources and logistical support at bare minimum, as our team survived every day with generous souls who believed in our advocacies arranging, giving, feeding Otso Diretso-initiated or my own activities.

I must share some of my wonderful memories.

God showed many positive signs through His creation – a shooting star at a black night sky from Caticlan, a shower of rains in El Ni√Īo areas, safety from a possible accident, a four-passenger plane unable to fly …

So many warm welcomes, grace in many areas, in over 50 locations all over the country, public markets, homes, schools I visited. Hinterlands and places where no national official, much more a senatoriable had ever visited, the seasides and shores of our fisherfolk facing the West Philippine Sea, a Yolanda housing area in Cavite, farming communities between Iloilo and Capiz.

Even overseas in Hong Kong where my ticket was bought for me by dedicated and patriotic domestic helpers.

Despite meeting with thousands in crowds, handshakes to as many, God did not tire me. He was my strength. I had enough energy to be at the airports at 2 in the morning, start speaking 6 a.m. on radio, trek through public markets, sweat dripping down my back, return to a hotel or back to Makati with my nanay in the evening, often past midnight. It was a whirlwind…

Romblon was a night in kindness with the mayor at her restaurant treat telling me whoever senatorial candidate who spent time here was blessed with good fortune and providence.

A leprosy victim was seated beside councilors in a gymnasium in Quezon. He seemed so positive I shook his hand and hugged him.

Every path took me to meet someone who had something special to share.

In one Isabela barangay, one farmer with a sombrero grabbed my hand, he told me fight for our lands, ‚ÄúMiss, fight against ownership of foreigners‚ÄĚ.

Once, I made it five minutes before boarding a flight, dashing…. I was on a banca fit for just a few bodies, I could not sleep lest I fall into the water … For two hours, I could not nap, I held on to the kawayan… I awaited dolphins, a Life with PI movie moment…

Caravans organized for me with my face on posters on motorcycles introduced me to ‚Äúthe showbiz experience‚ÄĚ, drumrolls here and there, welcoming… At a street in Pasay, they wrote my name on cardboards and we marched, nakakaiyak. ¬†Muslims aspire for representation and I give them my voice….

On TV and press conferences, I would cringe at first, but I had to collect my thoughts, articulate….

A guard would assist me to go beyond the long line, VIP treatment often cannot sink in. Even to this day, selfies seem unnatural even if I am friendly by nature.

So many memories, an amazing, grace-packed journey.

This is a moment to share a thank you to a wonderful country that has so much kindness and positivity and dreams in them through ordinary folk in every barrio.

I continue to dream and work in the community, I promise this. 2022? I am a public face by accident, no human plans these things. It is fate, qadar. Let it be a natural flow of God’s design for us. I submit.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Samira Ali Gutoc-Tomawis, Ll.B., co-founder of the Young Moro Professionals resigned as Commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission in late May 2017, days after the Marawi Crisis started, citing personal reasons and policy questions. Samira was one of the organizers of the Ranao Rescue Team, a group set up to respond to the crisis. She had earlier served as an assemblywoman, women sector, of the Regional Legislative Assembly, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; was former director, Al-Amanah Islamic Bank, Inc. and former director of the Marawi Resort Hotel, Inc. She was the lone woman candidate of the Otso-Diretso senatorial slate in the May 13, 2019 mid-term elections and landed first among senatorial candidates in her province of Lanao del Sur).