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Hope in the middle of Affliction

Words By Shri Tahanie B. Macaumbao
Art By Peppi Escasa

Fear crept inside my veins as I heard the roaring sound of the drone above our roof, followed by another loud bang of an airstrike that shook the ground. My blood ran cold as I heard approaching sounds of deadly gunshots. The crying souls of the innocent seeking help were making my ears bleed.

I was on my wit’s end as I saw a river of blood flowing towards me. I wanted to run for my life but it was too late. A bomb had exploded, and everything went blurry. I woke up with bated breath and sweat on my forehead; it’s been three years but the memory of agony is still vivid in my mind. That nightmare will forever be engraved in the hearts of every Meranao—Marawi Siege.

Time flies so fast. It’s as if we started fasting yesterday, and now it’s the end of Ramadhan. It is the 24 th of May 2020, and we are about to mark the end of our holy month as Muslims. I’m a little bit sad because I was unable to feel the essence of the month. Everything went by so quickly due to COVID-19, a deadly virus that caused a lot of changes in our community such as home quarantine. Even though we knew we had to compromise for our own sake, our actions have become limited, and it was hard for us. This made us miss a lot of traditions and practices during Ramadhan. We were not allowed to go outside to pray for Taraweeh nor do Iftar at the Masjid. It was very disappointing, but we have to follow the community quarantine to make this pandemic disease vanish faster. On the other hand, yesterday was the third anniversary of the unforgettable Marawi Siege, which made everything more melancholy.

As I am preparing for Eid’l Fitr, I recall the events of the Marawi Siege that had happened during Ramadhan, knowing that now we are faced with another adversity. I start to have random questions in my mind, “Why—all of a sudden—have these havocs happened in our holy month?” But as people always say, maybe everything happens for a reason. Nonetheless, I realize that both of these chaotic events—the virus and the siege—caused the same things to my community: death, crisis, suffering, and affliction. Both taught us to remain tough amidst all uncertainties. The only difference is the warriors that fought in these battles. In the siege, there were soldiers who fought for prosperity and peace, while in the pandemic, we have frontliners—heroes trying their best to stop the spread of this plague. I hope that in both situations, one saying will apply: there will always be a rainbow after the rain.

As we celebrate the end of Ramadhan, we prepare inside our homes because social distancing is a must. This is the first time we are celebrating it without many people in a wide space praying as one. Still, I’m happy that my faith helped me and my family reach the end of Ramadhan despite all the struggles. After listening to a prayer led by the Imam, something he said caught my attention. He mentioned that “Allah (S.W.T) loves you. That’s why He gives you challenges. This life is a test. This is temporary.” At that moment, I realized that every difficulty has its ending, and that we should choose to see the light amidst the wariness.

We don’t know when this pandemic will end, just like how we thought three years ago that the siege had no endgame. Until now, I can still recall the sounds of bombs and gunshots ringing in my ears for almost three months, as well as the sleepless nights that loomed over us upon the heartbreaking news of death every single day. We thought this would go on forever, but look—we are now free. The epilogue of the war was marked after the terrorist mastermind was found dead along with the retreat of other rebels. After that, it was over. The whole city cheered upon the declaration of the end of Marawi Siege. The news flashed all over the country, as well as the whole world. At the end of the day, peace and tranquility were restored.

We have to exert that same hope to end this battle. Our journey to a post–COVID era will be long and full of doubt, but this ride requires teamwork. We have to do our job as a community to follow rules and to put an end to this affliction. Regardless of circumstances, I hope that this Eid’l Fitr brings peace to all the aching hearts, hope to the purposeless, and light to the lost. And together, we can pave the way to end this pandemic disease.

Notes of translation:
Taraweeh - ritual prayers performed by Muslims after Isha prayer during the holy month of Ramdhan
Iftar - a meal that is served at the end of each day, marking the daily breaking of the fast
Masjid - Mosque
Eid’l Fitr - the festival of breaking the fast
Imam - leader of a mosque

AUGUST 2, 2020