ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 29 June) — Princess Annalea Abbas Cader is celebrating her sixth birthday at the evacuation center in Buru-un on Friday, June 30 and her only wish is: “I want my rabbits back.”
Princess left behind her rabbits “Bait” (Good) and “Saway” (Naughty) when they fled Barangay Mapandi in Marawi City on May 26, Day 4 of the Marawi Crisis, and the second day of massive aerial bombardment.
Her mother, Jaslia Mambuay, recalled that Princess kept crying, nudging her to return home when she saw some fellow evacuees carrying their pets with them in that long walk to the neighboring town of Saguiaran in Lanao del Sur.
“Bakit dala nila yung animals nila?” (Why did they bring their animals?) asked Princess, a gifted child who was supposed to return to school on June 6 as a Grade 2 student at the Philippine Muslim Teachers College (PTMC) Laboratory School.
“Medyo na-guilty rin ako” (I somehow felt guilty), Jaslia told MindaNews at the evacuation center inside the National School of Fisheries compound in Barangay Buru-un last Monday.
“Dapat sana nilagay namin sa basket. Di ko naisip dahil sa taranta at lakas ng bomba umuuga na yung lupa” (We should have placed them in a basket. But I could not think of that anymore as we were rushing to leave and the explosions were so loud the ground was shaking), narrated Jaslia.
At the evacuation center, Princess, youngest of four children and the only daughter, would repeatedly tell her mother they should return to Marawi to get her rabbits.
Jaslia does not know if they still have a home to return to. She believes “Bait” and “Saway” are dead but could not tell her daughter.
She said she left the rabbits some food and water. Like thousands of evacuees from Marawi, Jaslia thought the fighting would be over in a few days. Authorities had also repeatedly assured displaced Meranaws that it was only a matter of days, and that it would be over by June 12.
June 12 came and passed and they are still in the evacuation centers.
The gifted Princess is presently out of school because even as the Department of Education has announced that school requirements are waived for Marawi evacuees, the school nearby would not accept a five-year-old-going-on-six in Grade 2, her mother said.
Jaslia said a representative of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process had assured her they would pass on to the Department of Education her appeal for her daughter to enrol in Grade 2. The schoolyear opened on June 5.
Princess was in Kinder 2 at the PMTC Laboratory School and was accelerated to Grade 2. May 25 was the scheduled enrolment and Princess would have returned to school as a Grade 2 student.
She wants to be a doctor someday, Princess said.
She keeps herself busy these days playing with other children, writing down on her notebook or drawing.
Her favorite topic, which she wrote down on her notebook Monday afternoon, is the definition of noun and kinds of nouns.
Later she asked her mother for pieces of paper so she could practice drawing using a black pen. A few minutes later, she showed her mom her finished work: three rows of images, the first consisting of three houses, a tree and a car, under the title “The beautiful city,” the second consisting of a felled tree, three houses with doors and windows shut down, under the title “The beautiful city become ghost city.”
Jaslia explained that Princess has been writing “The beautiful city become ghost city” after hearing an adult Meranaw declare “wala nang Marawi, naging ghost na.”
The third row shows two rabbits, under the title “I miss my rabbit.”
She later added the names of “Bait” and “Saway” under the images.
“Mahal na mahal nya yung rabbits nya” (She really loved her rabbits), Jaslia said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)
UPDATE as of 1 p.m. 30 June 2017: Princess’s birthday wish granted.