Marawi of my dreams: A Sentimental Journey

The Outside View

By Judge Bing Mimbisa (Ret.)

On remembrance of the 4th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities

“I see that you had been thinking lately and I had been thinking too about the way we used to be or how to start anew. Maybe I am a hopeless dreamer but I’d like to go where the grass is green and you might want to come along.”

These are the fist few lines of the timeless song splendor in the grass and is a picture of me and what I had been going through, emotionally, since the siege of Marawi that had put her in ruins. It is with deep sense of nostalgia that I write this piece and add my voice to the cries and moans of pain, despair and hopelessness that continue to be heard from the thousands of victims of the brutal and bloody confrontation between the military and the militant Maute group. It has been four years since the first gun was fired and since the first fatality fell on the ground, but the scar of wound remains as fresh as it was first inflicted precisely because despite the lapse of time there is little to show that a meaningful rehabilitation had been put in place.

I felt a driving urge to set foot on ground zero to feel and savor its vibration and breathe the air of remembrance and hope that I will be thrown back in time when Marawi was still the Marawi of my dreams. It was the city that I used to know that wakes up to the soothing sound of the morning breeze and drizzle of the morning rain that waters   the pasture of green embroidered with pearls of dew for the birds, the butterflies and their kind can quench their thirst.

Indeed, the City of Marawi is lovely in the day as it is lovely in the evening. This is a magical loveliness given the lack of boulevard’s glittering lights or skyways, skyscrapers, fancy restaurants that serve fine dining or malls and department stores where one can promenade and window shop. It has only the famous Banggolo where people used to converge to have their shoe shine or participate in a discussion of current political events or simply watch a movie in a nearby movie house. There is also the equally famous Padian or market place where one can almost buy anything under the sun from vegetables to fruits to clothing and apparels and expensive jewelries. Padian is also the entry point for motorized ferries coming from the surrounding towns and municipalities around lake Lanao.

for those of our readers whose knowledge or information on Marawi only stem from reports and news items, they may want to know that she is also historically referred to as the Simla or Summer Capital of the South as Baguio City is to Luzon and Malaybalay City is to Northern Mindanao. This is of course due to her almost perfect climate from a low of a 15 to a high of a little over 20 degrees centigrade all year round. It is sprawled over an area of 8,755 square kilometers of grassland with an elevation of 3,500 feet above sea level which explains its cool environs. Touching on a bit of history its original name of Dansalan, translated point of destination, was created as a municipality and made capital town of the undivided province of Lanao by virtue of a resolution adopted by the legislative council under the commonwealth regime in 1907. It was later renamed and made a chartered City in 1940 pursuant to RA 1522 sponsored by Senator Domocao A. Alonto. In 1986, its name was changed to the Islamic City of Marawi pursuant to Parliamentary Bill No. 261 of the Batasang Pambansa during the Presidency of Ferdinand E. Marcos. The city is host to the main campus of the Mindanao State University System, the flagship and biggest campus of the state university system in all of Mindanao. This is located on a scenic plateau with an area of more or less 1000 hectares of what used to be farmland overlooking the majestic lake Lanao.

The city is also home to such educational institutions as the Kamilor Islam College, the Pangarungan Islamic Institute, the Pacasum College and the Danselan Junior College a satellite branch of the Siliman Universtiy in Dumaguete City. It boasts of some of the biggest and most beautiful mosque one can find anywhere in the country as well as houses that feature unique maranao carvings called ukir. Decorative brassware, the so-called bladed weapons of Moreland and beds made of brass and metals are also in sight to enrich the eyes and festive minds of the native residents of the city and visitors from various parts of the country. All said, the Islamic city of Marawi is the center of Islamic education and indellible cultural and tra- ditional heritage of the Filipino-Muslims.

I am not a native son of Marawi but I was raised and grew up in Marawi and studied there from elementary grades up to my graduation in college. I love the place as my own, because it is where I have learned the realities of life, its ups and downs, its highs and lows, and how it feels to win or lose in the battle of emotions. The Bridges over the mighty agus river that link the city proper and its expansion area to the north side of the river are mute witness to the  great battles fought in the name of self-preservation first in 1972 in the so-called Battle of Marawi and the second in 2017 in the now famous Marawi Siege.

I write this article in the hope that it will rekindle memories of what was once the beautiful Marawi and ignite interest for its rehabilitation, even it will not be in its old fame or glory as this will never happen, but to ensure that expectations and commitments made will find fulfillment and usher new beginnings to re-trace our way back in time. More than the material wealth lost, rampaged or destroyed by the guns, canons and bombs that bombarded and flattened the city, it is the tears that flowed from the eyes of a lost and forsaken people, the perspiration that cover their faces the pangs of hunger that they have to bear will always haunt them to eternity

After more than four (4) years since the first bomb was dropped to signal the intensity of the military assault to uproot the Maute group from their fox holes and enclaves the people can only cling to their hopes on the efforts to rebuild Marawi. The calls for definite and concrete efforts to make good on the government commitment to rebuild Marawi had been incessant and unmitigated, and will not be until our voices are heard in every nook and corner of the country.

 Let us keep our faith in the Maranao leadership that they will uphold in honor and dignity the legacy of our forebears standing strong, firm and unafraid against foreign invaders and going as far as declaring the independence of Danselan from the Commonwealth government and sending this message to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the United States of America the lone super power at the time.

But more than all of these, let us keep our faith in God Almighty that in our lifetime, the Islamic City of Marawi will stand vibrant and glowing again like the song of old, a Psplendor on the grass.

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