Let me tell you how I feel the burn: It is hard to love the Philippines. It is so very difficult, the kind of difficult where it seems like every last effort ends in having to endure some more. It is exhausting to endure. Yet endure we must, and burnout is a bogeyman we could fall prey to if we let ourselves do so—and it is so tempting when we see the suffering in Marawi.
It drains one’s energy, getting used to counting dead Filipinos day in and day out—too many of them Moros—among the mess of cadavers left by the ongoing battle to oust ISIS-inspired terrorists out of Marawi City. The lassitude we are left with in the aftermath of this grim math called a body count is almost paralytic. We must do more than just count bodies: Moros must bury their dead even as the lives they built are razed to the ground—communities, homes, what small livelihoods they’d grown.
This is the unimaginable grief of the residents of Marawi, the Philippines’ only Muslim city. Even these stark words are insufficient for describing the experience of being a resident of that city, a citizen of this country where a city can be leveled in four months of steady warfare that has yet to end. All of the civilians in this city have been displaced, and yet the battle continues even as I write this piece. We Moros, and the Maranaos who call Marawi home, are people of peace bludgeoned with a steady stream of warfare, caught in the crossfire between the Maute group and the military.
We must explain these things to the children who witness them—the ones who yet live and will survive this horror. They have watched their homes get battered by fusillades of artillery and aerial bombing runs.
Yet even as we struggle to explain this to the kids, we struggle with our own questions. Why does it look so easy to reduce all we have worked—nay, struggled, fought—to build, holding on to the faith that we Moros can someday live in peace to just how many have died and been displaced?
The Philippines’ only Muslim city burns and has been burning for four months, all in the name of purging the country of terrorists who call themselves Muslim. The battle has grown protracted and, with each day that passes, the burden on the shoulders of Marawi’s people weighs interminably more. Daily we are told to hold out just a little more, that the conflict nears its end. But so, I fear, does our endurance. Maybe Allah will refresh our flagging endurance, and if He does, then we go on faith again, as we did before. As we always did.
It is exhausting to watch a city decimated with savage violence because it is a Muslim city where terrorists roosted, cussed in their resistance.
It drains body and soul to face down and fight discrimination each blessed day simply because the name you carry, the name that identifies your person, is undeniably Muslim.
We have a crisis on our hands and, even with all the help, the best solution is an end to the fighting and immediate efforts to rebuild what was destroyed—at least we can rebuild the physical structures and the businesses, if not the lives lost, the lives irrevocably changed.
I feel a weariness to my bones, that deep ache of exhaustion over being Filipino, over being a Filipino Moro. I see Filipino children and youths living in the nightmare that is Marawi today, beneath bombs and bullets. My endurance is pushed to the limit simply by being a Moro in the Philippines, simply by being a Filipino, and this prayer leaves my lips: Mercy, Allah, may your mercy touch us as we endure what must be endured to survive. We submit ourselves to Your will, for You are great.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.