OPINION: Marawi rising

Abdulhamid Alawi, Jr.

Posted at Jul 06 2017 03:45 AM

Residents pray inside a mosque as government troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, who have taken over large parts of Marawi City. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters/file

If a home is a house where love is, a Maranao home is a grand house where a dear relative is.

A friend of mine was one of the very few among my non-Maranao colleagues who knew that he can approach me for very frank questions about my ethnolinguistic group. For topics, we went from yellow food, to arranged marriages, to our tough accent. Often, we laughed about it. He knew that I have this love and hate… and laugh relationship with my culture. So he always knew I would not be offended.

Once, he started casually seeming to want a discussion on Maranao architecture -- or so I thought. It turns out he just wanted to criticize the way houses in Marawi are built.

He finds it eccentric that a lot of Maranao houses, even when already occupied, seem to leave overly protruding 8mm to 16mm metal rods. We agreed on a term that we laugh about: "abangers". Those "abanger" rods just wait there until the next renovation to support more posts and beams.

I usually explain this phenomenon by stating how our Maranao brains are hard-wired to a set of defaults:

(1) we always think that we'll always be successful;
(2) we always think that we'll always move up or have to move up; and
(3) we always support each other

We will win

Rare will you find a parent among us consoling a child to feel or stay positive after a recent debacle. Our brains will automatically plan for strategies to win the next round and there's almost no downtime for drama.

You can't dissuade us from opening a sidewalk stand explaining that P1,000 will not go far. We might actually lose the bet but we will still not go against our guts next time around.

I'm not sure why. Maybe because when you sit to relax in Lanao del Sur, the next breeze will always be sweet.

We don't settle, we always move up

Maybe because Lake Lanao sits among competing mountains and hills. I don't know.

After graduating high school, I briefed my parents and stated my preferred course in college as a preparatory course for law school. Many students are not only thinking of completing a "mere" four-year course. Our moms put something in our milk at age one. We dig degrees and titles we can append to our names.

You hire and then train a Maranao on day 1 in his job. On day 2, eyes are set on promotion/raise. It's not (just) about skill and intelligence, it's more of an outlook in life.

"Abangers" are testament to our unexplainable, incorrigible positivity. We build single-storey houses with posts ready for a second floor. We just can't help it. Something tells us that very soon we'll add to that, somehow, with windfall profit.

We also have the knack for such windfall profits, gains, and income. That's what sets us apart as business people.

"Disimbir" is already verb in Maranao. "Anda ka p'n-Disimbir?" (Literally, "Saan ka magdi-Disyembre") translates to "Where will you set up your stall for the upcoming Christmas rush?" Name a major wet market in any major city anywhere in the Philippines. We are always there to cash in on the Yuletide season.

Recently, we noticed that selling P5 to P20 rolls of plastic cover during enrollment days increases our chances of adding a second floor to that house. It will be a second floor "complete" with abangers for a third floor, of course.

While we agree that abangers are unsightly, we just can’t explain how we itch on the idea of sealing those rods only to alter them again anytime soon. Abnormal we may be but the trade-off, or rather, the cause is a profound confidence in ourselves.

Mutual gain mentality

We don't understand crab mentality. We find no sense in it. We think we gain when those next to us gain. In some circumstances where slots are limited, we might try to overtake others in bid to gain but pulling someone down was never the intention.

We push (or pull) up each other for a job or promotion. Yes, oftentimes we prefer a family or in the absence of family, the next nearest kin. But we do not limit it to them. In the absence of any relative, we encourage the next Maranao friend, then the next Moro friend, then the next any friend. A friend of a friend is even considered. At the first crack of opportunity, we'll assist you in some way, just stay close.

Visiting relatives seeking help for studies or a job application overseas are always in for a treat. We'll be very supportive in a sense that we readily offer our very own or if there's one, our extra room (or floor). I believe part of our want for an extra floor is for such contingencies.

A fluke we’ll shrug off

So they were able to convince a handful of our sons that disturbing everyone else and razing Marawi to the ground will work for a fresh start to rid us of their perceived ills of society. Nothing can be more foreign to our character. It goes against our moving up and mutual gain principles.

We don’t cut the rods. We reform with a forward looking social transformation. We don’t step back to lunge. You don’t tell us to simply stop doing this or that but you can convince us to tweak it to devote more time and effort to better, more rewarding alternatives. We build on what we already have. Maranao practicality dictates that. We’ve accomplished so much as a community and as individuals that way.

My aim here is to show how this crisis is dwarfed by what makes us achievers. Marawi is both the city and the people. The physical city may be in rubble but the Maranao’s strength in psyche and toughness in togetherness are unscathed. We still rise.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.