The Battle We’ve Won So Far

Marawi should be saved from further destruction.


( It has always been man’s practice to chronicle the battles, exploits, and wars among communities, countries, and civilizations. And yet an accounting of the damages, deaths, and the extent of the destruction is done only after the conflict has ended, when the barrels of guns have been muted by either a ceasefire, or when the other side has decided to surrender or when a party has been completely annihilated.


Death and destruction are the harbingers of what the conflict is about and how it should end. A prolonged battle, meanwhile, as a rule in the playbooks of generals, means a loss in the game.


However, the ongoing battle in Marawi City needs a real-time assessment of what we’ve won so far as a country. We need to account for each day as the toil of the conflict in Marawi gets into everyone’s nerves, as the country experiences unnecessary distress with every passing day of the ever extending conflict, and as both Filipinos and Moros are being bombarded by daily news, fabricated or legitimate.



When the Maute Group entered and attempted to capture the city on May 23, they came with the intent of destroying the Islamic City during the Holy Month of Ramadan. Several days after the attempted takeover, the government imposed martial law on the entire island of Mindanao. The battle has raged on since then, between state and non-state forces, as the old and idyllic city along with its Muslim inhabitants in the middle of their fasting for the Holy Month of Ramadan were left perturbed in between.


As of June 5, the government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has already counted 239,887 persons displaced, 2,348 reported as still stranded inside the city, and 63 individuals reported to be missing. Casualties among soldiers, terrorists, and civilians have been increasing by day.

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We counted dead and mangled bodies, we endured whatever emotions the images of a destroyed city can bear upon us, we argued nonstop online, we isolated people and close friends who held an opinion on the conflict contrary to our position, we sent donations, and we cursed the other side to damnation. It was a national feast in war, fear, and famine.


What has left us amidst all these is the truth that it has just begun; that this spectacle of ruins and loss is just an exposition to a larger, expansive, and longer struggle that visit us again and again unless we begin an introspection with accountability to this madness. We have to admit to ourselves that long before this debacle, we chose a side as a prelude to this conflict: the side of violence in language and in actions.



What we’ve won so far is the promise that we saw as we recognized the immediate and strategic importance of critical Muslims, learned and progressive ulama (Islamic scholars), and an ever expanding space for more artistic and intellectual discourses that will highlight the knowledge of Islam and its teachings on tolerance, engagement, and diversity.


Marawi, one of the Bangsamoro’s centers for learning and high culture for centuries, the home of the Darangen, is an Islamic City that should be saved from further destruction.


When the government declared martial law, the divisions in our country widened, many of which are longstanding divisions among Filipinos that became more pronounced during the national elections in 2016.


A country has become divided in different ways: between Moros, among Filipinos, between Filipinos and Moros, Luzon and Mindanao. A country has become divided as the military artillery leveled a vibrant city and the number of internally displaced people increased in various evacuation centers. Until now, the country is struggling to reconcile these differences on how to frame the decision of the government to impose martial law in the entire island and how to manage the citizens' reaction to its effects.


In the midst of the chaos and online debates, the Moro’s voices on martial law, on the history of atrocities in their communities during the Marcos regime, and the privilege of a narration of a ‘Mindanao’ to entire nation were drowned in national debates fought in social media platforms or in national television. When the smoke somewhat settled in ground zero last week, not everyone was ready to see several bodies piling up in the streets, countless houses burned and destroyed, and the images of families suffering in evacuation centers.



What we’ve won so far is the truth that we are still a divided nation after last year’s election and yet the promise of peaceful communities for Moros under the Filipinos is still there, a promise to be realized hopefully within this millennium.


The battle is still being waged in Marawi City and in social media as of this writing. Meanwhile, we fail to refuse to wait for institutions to fulfill their mandate, something that has turned us into a nation capable of forgetting and forgiveness, thinking that passivity means patience.


Tomorrow, and perhaps the day after tomorrow, we will continue to count our victories in our fingers until we finally get tired of waiting for the promised day to come. Hopefully, when that time comes, Marawi is still a city standing, and not a just story told in the past tense.


Amir Mawallil is a member of the Young Moro Professionals Network, the country’s biggest organization of Muslim professionals. He is also the executive director of the Office on Bangsamoro Youth Affairs in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

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