(A tale of oneness and hospitality in the face of adversity)

While it was not easy for them to cross the fine thin line between risk and safety, from one city to the other, there’s always a good side of every story believed to be worst.

About 5 minutes upon arriving home safe, I’ve had a serious but funny talk to my cousin, who is about 2-decade younger than I am, about an authentic version of his personal exodus from a place near the battle ground in Marawi City toward the welcoming abode in Iligan City. For the purpose of this piece, I conveniently call him Kuya, a name we used to refer him at home.

Kuya is senior college student of the Mindanao State University (MSU). From day one to the third, he along with his classmates and other students were staying in a place while the fire-fight was going on. He related that on the onset of the battle between the government forces and the Maute group, they had no idea they were just a couple of kilometers away to and from a real war zone.

On the night of the first day, they trooped to the roof top of one of MSU’s building and see for themselves a scene only seen on movies, exchanges of arms firing from one camp against each other that resembles a display of fireworks usually observed during new year.

On the second day, the news broke from various sources describing what has been going on in the heart of the Islamic city of Marawi. News and features flooded the social media, legit or otherwise, which prompted them immediately fled the school campus they called home and relocate themselves to Iligan, a city immediately next to their location. The situation, as he described it, was on panic mode and avalanche of people and cars line up along the only escape route toward Iligan. They attempted to quickly move to Iligan, through the help of a born-again Christian ministry volunteers, but the condition of traffic provided them with no escape. Tensed and restless, they patiently waited with the high hope that sooner or later they will reach at the desired destination of safety.

On the third day, the moment of hope finally arrived. On the chartered jeepnies, young students including Kuya, they fitted themselves like “sardines in the can” inside and on the top-loads of the PUVs. On a personal note, Kuya see the light at the end of the tunnel when the vehicle he rode on rolled its first gear shift and journeyed along the road where hundreds of other vehicles and people line up with the same destination in mind.

Their journey was long but satisfying. They left MSU at 8 o’clock in the morning hoping and expecting to arrive the other city as fast as the usual travel time. On a normal condition, Marawi to Iligan is about one hour and thirty minutes or less but not during emergencies. Kuya’s journey, just like the other escapee like him, took them like travelling from Davao City to Butuan City along Maharlika highways on an average kilometer-per-hour trip. The choke points at the bridge midway from Marawi to Iligan made the shorter distance a longer time cruise. For the purpose of security and safety, government forces established checkpoints near the bridge and one-by-one, personnel of the AFP and PNP checked people and vehicles before a green light is issued for safe passage. Thus, it took them 7 hours to reach Iligan.

They reached Iligan safely and satisfied but not forgetting one value Kuya made emphasis on his stories. Stranded along the road before the checkpoints, they experienced exhaustion, hunger, thirst while experiencing tension and insecurities. Immediately after going through strict and meticulous inspections by the agents of authorities, they were welcomed with food, water and warm positive smile and gestures with reassuring utterances of people whom Kuya called Maranao volunteers. Regardless of ethnic origin and religious belief, Kuya experienced the goodness of people to share and serve fellowmen in times when sharing and serving are necessary, relevant, practical and timely. For Kuya, it was oneness and hospitality at their best just in time during chaos and adversity.
We ended our conversation smiling and happy because Kuya was finally home. I left him bringing with me the thought that his experience was unique and distinctively unusual especially compared to mine and other souls who only have TV and Facebook as source of information.

Like what we usually seen and heard which are mostly harsh and exaggerated on the one hand, there are always the other sides of these stories which provide us with lessons and teachings worthy to be shared on the other hand.

(Photo credits to the owner – rappler.com)


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