The military has no heart; they love to kill the Muslims. They came to our place to take away everything from us. This is the kind of thinking I had since I was a child. I could vividly remember when I was in Grade 3, I saw a group of soldiers pass by our house shouting, “Mga Moros pamahawa mo diri kay pamatyon mo namo,” (Moros, you leave this place because we will kill you”).
My family feared for our lives. We had to leave our house and seek refuge in the municipal gym, the church, the school, and even the municipal wharf, because of fear of being fired at by both the government troops and the Moro fighters. We were frightened by the helicopters hovering over us. This made us paranoid that anytime a bomb would drop, the sea would become a sea of blood.
With this experience from those soldiers, I grew up in fear. This fear never faded as no soldier would approach us and talk to us comfortably, unlike they did with the non-Muslims. There was a barrier of trust, a discrimination against us as a people that we could not understand. That is why whenever we see men wearing camouflage, we are terrified. I grew up believing that my community was excluded from the list of the priorities of the government in terms of protection. It was very difficult to be a Maranao.
The negative view I had of the military was transformed into appreciation when I met a military man who was very engaging. He organized the Multi-Sectoral Advisory Board in Lanao. He went to the municipalities and participated in the electoral reform campaign of the province. He engaged the local leaders, the civil society organizations, and the residents themselves. He was a well-loved soldier in Lanao. The community and the military had a very good relationship during his time. The brigade was open to us civilians, and there was a hotline that could be reached if there were any security problems. It was a very good working environment for the military and the civilian communities. This opened my eyes to what the military is all about, though it could change a little depending on who engages the community. The influence of the late BGen Daniel Lucero made a huge impact on the Maranao community. Even my personal reaction on how the military should be regarded during this Marawi crisis was changed because of the positive impression made by the late General in terms of his community engagements with the various sectors.
(This entry is part of Chapter 4: Envisioning the Future of Marawi City.)