War-torn Lanao Norte town lights up Christmas display

KAUSWAGAN, Lanao del Norte (MindaNews / 2 Dec) – This once war-torn municipality, usual hot spot in the war between government soldiers and Moro rebels since the 1970s, switched on its colorful Christmas display Wednesday evening, giving joy and hope to its Christian and Muslim residents as hundreds came to the municipal hall compound to witness the opening night after being locked down in their homes for almost two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The municipal hall of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte on Wednesday night (1 December 2021). MindaNews photo by RICHEL V. UMEL

The municipal hall façade was covered with multi-colored Christmas lights. Atop are the words “Sikad Pa Kauswagan” – short for Sustainable Integrated Kauswagan Development and Peace Agenda.

In March 2000, shortly after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) attacked the town and occupied its municipal government compound, tanks and other armored vehicles were stationed at the public plaza fronting the municipal hall. The attack prompted former President Joseph Estrada to declare an “all-out war” against the MILF, a war that spread in many parts of Mindanao and lasted several months.

But on Wednesday evening, excited residents, showing their vaccine cards, came to the municipal government compound to see fireworks, a giant Christmas tree and globe, and colorful lights radiating around the flagpole. Voices of local singers filled the air.

“It’s nice seeing all these, considering we miss Christmas last year with the lockdowns,” said Randy Queruela, 52, a resident of Upper Tacub.

“Together we fought and survived for almost two years fighting the unseen enemy, COVID-19,” Mayor Rommel C. Arnado said in his message.

After being locked down in their homes for almost two years, residents of Kauswagan came in droves to witness the opening night of the municipality’s Christmas display. MindaNews photo by RICHEL V. UMEL

“This is a symbol of peace, hope and strength. We thus celebrate life together and thank God that we survived in spite of the hardship and trials. Let us pray for the eventual recovery of our economy,” the mayor added.

He noted that Kauswagan has not recorded any COVID-19 cases the past 10 days.

Arnado hoped that most of the residents will be fully vaccinated “to achieve herd immunity before the end of December.”

The following day, the municipal government distributed rice and grocery items to residents as part of its Christmas offering.

Noraisa Bansil, 50, of Baraason, said she received five kilos of rice and various grocery items. “I’m glad they treat us Muslims and Christians equally during this season,” she added. (Richel V. Umel / MindaNews)