In the Times of Martial Law
It was six in the evening on the second day of chaos on May 25, 2017. Black smokes made from the tear gas, burnt houses, and burnt tires of the broken and exploded cars nearby made Marawi City, Mindanao in the Philippines become the venue of dreadful horror. It seemed like a motion picture though, but it was not. In the distance, random gunshots supplemented the horrifying sounds to the growing terror in the battle between the terrorists and the military officers. Moments by moments, sounds of detonated grenades set off elsewhere that left some scattered debris of bricks, pieces of wood, and broken glass windows of houses and establishments. However, such noises of fears disappeared in silence in the shadows of darkness in which, inch by inch, the military officers needed to come closer where the terrorists reside. Here and there, a respite between these bullet exchanges occurred. On the ground, hundreds of lifeless and deformed bodies stacked and dispersed along the streets due to the explosions. Some wounded people with arms and legs forcedly detached from their bodies grew in numbers, and from all directions, they yelled in pain. Block by block, corpses of young children and old people sprinkled along the streets while burnt cars and trucks continued to discharge fires and dark smokes. Of course, we started packing our personal belongings. Horrified by the blasts outside, we slinked through the floor, slithered along toward the kitchen doors, and walked resolutely towards the gate of our building compound. My mother who could not walk due to heart stroke signaled his eyes to stay in the house. She knew she could not make it, but we did not want her to die in the middle of the war. We could not imagine ourselves leaving her in the middle of the war between the military officers and the terrorists and faced the pain of terror by herself. For that reason, we pulled her from her wheelchair, transferred to our car, and laid her on the backseat driving towards the neighboring city. While we were riding on our car, we could still hear an exchange of gunshots and bomb explosions to remind us that the war was still on.
Marawi City Under Siege
Under the Martial Law
Two hours passed. We then arrived at our destination in Iligan City. Next, we searched some hotel vacancies to seek refuge since we never had any relatives in the area. As we sought for any vacant inns, hotels, or any lodges that could give us a night to sleep and rest, we remembered how we strived to survive from the situation. It was eight in the evening then, but we were unable to find a hotel to stay. In effect, my father decided to go to another city a hundred kilometers away from Iligan – Cagayan de Oro, where we could ask for a help. On our way towards Cagayan de Oro, several military officers stopped and asked our identifications. Due to our ethnic origins and religious backgrounds, we were strictly searched and asked to get off from our car. Since we are Muslims, we are thought to have linked to the terrorists. They strictly searched us for any weapons we had. Because we are Muslims, we had to comply with the pursuit requirements so that we no longer faced any untoward incidents. Perhaps, the terrorists who killed and beheaded many Christians in Marawi City put us under fire of scrutiny and stern search in the city. We did not have a choice though but to obey the rules. They detained us for a while and examined us if we had guns and other weapons. Though I understood that the military officers only wanted to maintain peace and order by searching us all and ensuring their military procedures, I never realized the President of the Philippines declared Martial Law. The declaration of Martial Law added to our fears that we might be subjects to scrutiny. The rigid type of search for our belongings might be due to our religious backgrounds. I did not know. In the first place, we never knew we were under Martial Law. Therefore, we did not know everything. As our lines of communication and electricity were dead, we were surprised that we had to face such tremor in the crossfires.
Marawi City Under the Terror
Thinking to Survive in the Middle of the Siege
“Do you have any relatives in Cagayan de Oro where you needed to go?” A calm officer asked while staring into our eyes. There were no signs of peace and trust in his eyes. Doubtful, he still let us pass while capturing our identifications.
“No officer.” Terrified by the look of the officer with the rifle hung on his shoulder, my father replied. He muttered and stammered every time he spoke. I felt sorry for him. He never encountered this situation before, and he could not handle this anymore. So, I replied to all the remaining questions to the officers.
“Where do you stay for tonight?” The officer continued asking while probing our luggage and our body. My father and I told them that we wanted to stay in the hotel for a while. Of course, we got the approval and were allowed to stay in the city. Two days after the battle, we could still hear the battles between the military officers and the terrorist groups. We did not know if these terrorists were members of the ISIS Organization since they called themselves as the Maute Group. Right then, my father got worried since he could not perform his jobs. He could not earn for living while we could not also go to school. Every night, we were afraid that the situation got worsened. All prices went up. Security became stern. And then, all system turned very complicated. We never knew what would happen with our lives during and after the war. We would lose everything. We never had any support from the government and we only lived in uncertainties and shocks. My father would be unable to find his job while my sisters, brothers, and I stopped schooling for a year. If we could survive this life in the times of the Martial Law, we would also mislay everything we had. We had to go back to square one to start over and fix everything before we could recover from our losses. I knew it would be a long journey ahead of us; however, I had to move on.
Bags and Shoes
Running Out of Food Supply
Conversely, we needed to think how we could last from this terror. In this commanding condition according to the demand of the political era, we needed to survive to tell the young generations the ill of the society and the world itself. We had to inform them that they needed to work out on love, mercy, peace, social justice, and tolerance to achieve unity. Nevertheless, we asked ourselves such same questions. For whom we are we going to blame all this happening? Are we blaming the President of the Philippines for his war on drugs? Are we going to blame President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines? Or are we blaming the terrorists who perpetrated this horror? It seemed that terrorism in the Philippines is like a movie I watched in the American films. American films about terrorism were exciting to watch, and yet, the impact was dreadful. Yes, it was terrifying, alarming, and awful. I could say it because I experienced it myself. I was there in the middle of the upsetting episode of war under the Martial Law that brought me tears. We could not withstand this strife even longer. I could not personally take it. Whatever we thought about it, we had so much struggle to do. We did not have water to drink, food to eat, and shelter to sleep over. We ran out of food and medical supply. As my mother was still ill, we never knew how to live and overcome these challenges. We thought we could not endure the pain and impact of this political discord. As the Philippine President declared a sixty-day Martial Law, we needed to tighten our food budget, the water, and medicine so that we could survive this one. We could say “two days down, fifty-eight days more to go”, but we never knew what would happen next.
Finally, we needed help from these people and from you- my readers. I just thought you could help us overcome this challenge. In the times of the Martial Law, we could still make a difference. Cents matter now. You could send your donations in cents, dollars, pesos, or any preferred currency through my PayPal account address at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy to channel and distribute your donations to our friends, neighbors, and family members. By the way, it was 10:00 in the evening, and the Martial Law still heated on.
Written by Ennis Del Mar
Cagayan de Oro City, Mindanao, Philippines