By Samira Gutoc
When I was in Saudi Arabia as a child, I experienced the Gulf War. We at the Philippine School were taught drills on falling flat on floors in case there would be aerial bombings. It was natural for Dad who worked at the Consulate to see our house teemed with OFW visitors . It was common to see some of them sleep over. One vivid memory in our small jam-packed sala is tiptoeing over one sleeping body to another.
Thus I was agitated when there were word wars and physical attacks between powerful countries, more so the USA, the leader of the Western world and Iran, one of the nuclear powers in the developing world. War is personal to me not only because I also saw it back home in the Bangsamoro areas, but because of uncertainty of life for me, family and classmate- refugees from Palestine and Africa.
We can learn a lot from the past experience of the Philippine in the damage caused by war. Needless to say, the cost of war is high for a country battered by colonial superpowers centuries ago damaged more by 70s martial law in Mindanao. The poorest island has shown that rebuilding can never be accomplished even in a lifetime.
The Jolo burning victims could not prove their losses because they could not show documents. And due to lack of opportunity, this forces many of the islanders to migrate in Sabah. Thousands did not return back ever since they chose to move out and opted not to see or claim the remnants of their properties. Despite hardship in the hands of foreigners, the Halaws who were Tausug many without passports have made Sabah their home away from home.
This lost their sense of security dignity and identity, and this is also what I fear for Marawi City’s former ground zero 2 years and 7 months later.
People with their lost titles cannot claim their own, siblings and descendants still uncertain of their share in clan wealth. After all, we haven’t divided our assets yet. Burned heritage sites can never be revived, and children and fellow-Filipinos can never experience what one of the oldest cities in the country, unmarred by modern amenities of cinema and malls, has to offer. Where there is no cultural mapping invested, there are no replicas of the Rizal Park or the old houses along Rizal avenue. How can the Filipino remember its ancient self?
There is no certainty and thus no future for a population that continues to be the topmost poorest in the country. War will also affect the million Filipinos who chose to work abroad in the Middle East. It will not just displace them but cut the source of food and schooling for their families back home.
The only anti-war weapon we could think of as Muslims’ civil society for now is coming together in a show of strength on the traditional call for peace and non-violence.