They say it is always darkest before dawn. And for the small city of Marawi, the days of the conflict couldn’t have been darker. The sound of gunfire, booming explosions and cries of fear, of grief, of loss echoed throughout the city. Each explosion lit up the night sky like a new sun and the smoke would block out the night sky. One needed not to look up to find the stars as bright flashes of gunfire illuminated the city making it seem that the stars had fallen to the earth. Death seemed to walk along the streets and the bullet-riddled buildings stood as a testament of the violence.
Hundreds of miles away, we watched this all unfold. Watching it from the safety of our television sets and mobile phones, all huddled up inside the comfort of our homes. For us, when the nightmare ended with the news reports that the conflict was over. Life went on. For the victims of ground zero, life would never be the same.
Former commercial and residential areas inside the town properAs we switched to different channels to watch our favorite soap operas, survivors had to watch out for active bombs and mines scattered all over their city. As we sat comfortably in our houses enjoying a cup of coffee, our brothers and sisters sat on their makeshift beds in evacuation centers wondering where they will stay after the home which housed generations of their family could collapse at any moment because of the number of bullet holes. As we clutched our children in our arms, a mother still mourns the death of her little child. Her baby whom she thought was in her arms during the evacuation during the 3-hour ceasefire, only to find out that a water bottle was in the towel where her baby was supposed to be once she left the city. As we cried and cheered for our favorite sports teams to win, this mother cried out in horror seeing the city burn and the military restraining her from going back for her child.
It was a rainy December evening when we arrived in Marawi. The strong sea wind couldn’t put out the burning desire we had to help the youth whose passion shone brighter than fire that was razing during the conflict. The volunteers from the National Youth Commission who picked us up from the airport were survivors. Both lived through the pictures and videos we would see in the nightly news and the internet from the comfort of our homes. Being in a middle of a warzone would be enough to fill a man with fear that the knees turn into jelly. However, when they shared their experience, their stories went beyond fear. They talked about their desire as well as the youth of Marawi to do their part in raising their beloved city from the ashes brought about by the conflict.
The team from TrainStation with members from the National Youth Commission and Volunteers from the LGU of Marawi
And it was December 19 to 20 of 2018, over the course of 4 sessions where we met over 500 inspiring young people. Each took a day to be part of the seminar we facilitated. In partnership with the National Youth Commission and the Local Government of Marawi, we equipped these young people with resources to improve themselves and others. It was through their stories where we learned how brave and resilient these young people were.
A 20-year-old survivor described how they were trapped in a building when the fighting happened. He recounted looking out the window and saw the “Itim”, the term they used to described the militants, march prisoners from the city jail, line them up and behead them. Tears rolled down his face as he described how he prayed for another chance to see his family again. Another participant recounted that she and her classmates stepped over the heads of the victims as they made their escape from the city. Another couldn’t hold back the tears as he saw parents pleading and struggling to get past a soldier so they can go back for their kids left behind enemy lines.
And the cry of each person in every single class was the same, “Gusto namin ibangon ang Marawi”.
It was hard to put into words just how strong and resilient these young people were. For us, seeing how passionate they were to be instrumental in uplifting their community was the highlight of our trip. We came in to inspire these brave group of young people and in the end, they were the ones who inspired us. Their spirit was a testament that no amount of darkness can keep out the light. No amount of hate cannot be overcome by love. And no amount of despair or violence can keep our brothers and sisters of Marawi down for long. The courage, the passion and the heart of Marawi flows through the hearts of its young people.
We have not doubt that with passionate people like these leading the charge, the future is bright for their community. The love they have shown not just for their community, but for each other is the light that gives life to the seed of hope. It truly was an inspiring thing to see.
TrainStation is planning to return once again to Marawi to once again be involved in the initiatives to uplift the community, and you can be a part of this as well. You don’t have to be physically present to be involved and any support you are willing to give to this endeavor is more than welcome. It is only together that we can help this community rise. We Filipinos pride ourselves in the spirit of “bayanihan”, and being together in this cause allows us to create a bigger impact in the direction of change and growth for the community in Marawi.
To quote what one of our participants said, “Sabay-Sabay tayo makakabangon, at gusto ko maki-sabay”. (Together we will rise and I want to be a part of it).
The darkness has left and the dawn is coming. Babangon muli ang Marawi.
If you want to find out how you can help, drop an email to [email protected]
#UlatBayan | Mga kabataan sa Marawi, lumahok sa 2-day training ng NYC
Posted by PTV on Saturday, December 22, 2018