‘We will rise like the Philippine flag’ – Lanao youth leader

Marawi City – Chants of “Allahu Akbar” can be heard through sobs as the Darul Iftah led the prayers at this morning’s flag-raising ceremony in front of the Marawi City Hall – the first since the siege began five months ago.

Looking back at history, he said it is the first time that Marawi experienced a conflict of such magnitude for “our (Maranao) forefathers never allowed colonizers to occupy this land.”

Nowaim Ampuan, president of the Lanao Youth Congress, likened the flag-raising event to the catchphrase, ‘Bangon Marawi.’ “It signifies hope for us, the youth: Despite our city’s fall, we will rise like the Philippine flag.”

Salim Abdulgafur, 19, and Hidayah Tinganun, 21, are two of so many young men and women who were directly affected by the conflict. Both are students of Mindanao State University-Main Campus in Marawi.

Both of them could still remember hearing the first explosion in the afternoon of May 23.

Salim was at home with his family. He did not panic at first, since random shootouts occurred in the city every now and then. It was later that day, when he saw men in black shirts with their faces covered, that he realized that the situation was different.

In the case of Hidayah, she was at the Marawi City Hall processing her internship papers when the siege began. When she realized it was an armed attack, she wanted to go home right away, but transportation was so difficult.

After negotiating with a tricycle driver who was willing to drive her home, she immediately left the city hall.

Both heard the sound of gunfire from their respective homes.

Salim’s and Hidayah’s lives were greatly affected by the siege that lasted more than 150 days. Both were displaced, and have had to depend on relief goods provided by various government agencies and non-government organizations.

Salim said he felt dismayed that his college education was disrupted by the incident, a feeling that Hidayah shared. During the first few days of the siege, they had hoped the conflict would end soon since they wanted to go back to school as soon as possible.

And they still want to go back to school.

When the ‘liberation’ of Marawi was declared, Hidayah said the feeling was “unexplainable, but in a positive way.” Believing that Marawi will bounce back soon, she expressed hope that the rebuilt city would be “more organized, policy-wise,” so that there will be no repeats of the siege that interrupted their daily lives.

A smiling Salim is hopeful that as soon as he finishes his studies and he then becomes a civil engineer, he would be given the chance to help rebuild Marawi.

Together with Nowaim, Hidayah, and Salim were 60 other youth leaders from Lanao del Sur. (Bureau of Public Information)