This is my entry to the 11th Founding Anniversary of Eastern Mindanao Command (Armed Forces of the Philippines) Essay Writing contest Category B open to all Youth aged 15 to 30. This creative non-fiction essay won 3rd place with a score of 96% judged by EMC heads and Mindanaon Davao-based writers/columnist.
It’s been an hour but I still can’t think of the best introduction to this essay. The goal is to make whoever reads this one feel the emotion and message that I want to impart. My mind is definitely in war; the thoughts are in chaos. One thing is for sure, I am neither reluctant nor afraid of expressing myself. War?, I have plenty to say about it. We always have that in our house. Change and development?, I always try to craft a better version of me from time to time. I have spoken to people about my advocacies; I’m a youth development advocate. I’m a person who targets the heart when he talks or persuades someone, a romanticist. Wait, I just realized, I’m taking this personal already. Okay, shall I begin? Of course yes.
Hell is what it feels like to be inside a battlefield. An adamant fact is that the world itself is a battleground and life and honor is what we protect and fight for, it may be ours or for the sake of what we believe and the people we value. I’ve watched one mind-opening movie entitled Hacksaw Ridge, a 2016 biographical war drama focuses on the World War II experiences of Desmond Doss. It triggered my thought about how agonizing it is to be in a war. Desmond is a Seventh Day Adventist and he pledged to never fire a gun in war that makes it difficult and different for how peculiar it is to face a battle weaponless. It is equal as saying that you want to die. Jump off to the ending, sorry for spoiling, he survived and saved a lot of lives. The film left me aversion of violence and chaos.
Our soldiers are offering their lives to protect our motherland. I can still recall myself as a child that I once dreamt of becoming a soldier. My friends would probably laugh at this. I cannot blame them for today, I’m 20, stiff and enervated. I lost it, gave up of that dream but never the way how I look up to our cavalrymen. The place where I live at is near the 30th Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. It’s like I’m basically living together with them. I meet the armies in or out of their uniforms, see their smiles and positive outlook of life. But I am aware that those faces aren’t hiding the reality that they are people ready to die. Anytime a call for sacrifice will invite them to be in catastrophe. This havoc will test their ability to fight death, living their families the uncertainty of seeing them again alive.
The recent Marawi siege is a clear example of how we can delineate war as Gehenna. It’s the people inside the perimeter of bullet exchanges that feels the agony. As simply as we already can see ourselves in their situation; the personal stories of the people affected by the conflict melts our heart. Days of intense skirmishes, of fear and death, still in hope to achieve the unattainable peace. The people behind the attacks may have their reasons for fighting but these things aren’t eradicating the truth of selfishness. Selfish for it is not a fight for glory that really matters, this is TERRORISM. A lot are directly affected in this attack. Selfish for most of the pledged terrorist are from Marawi itself; born, educated, and grow up there. These people are removing any conscience that will block their detestable endeavor. Innocent lives are being killed; lives being sacrificed. The Philippine Army is trying it’s best to get back our land from this national traitors. We honor them that they’re living as to what we sing from our national anthem, “…ang mamatay ng dahil sa’yo”. Nationalism is what we can learn from them, it is not just because it’s their duty. They entered the military with the choice of risking their precious lives.
In this tragic spectacle of the Philippines, it is sad that this kind of scene is becoming normal. The world faces multifaceted discords and some leads to violence and war. If we try to ponder the different sides of these battles, it will never be possible to think about progress and development. A world where places and the people should live harmoniously is not achievable considering the effects of whatever the cause of such desolate event. Anywhere in the Philippines can be the next Marawi. Internal conflicts in each locality must be addressed and resolved before it becomes a national issue. The government, authorities, and the people should be congruous. Our Army will be our partners to achieve the accord. National policies should be respected and each individual should be aware and reminded of their self and social responsibilities as a citizen of this country. Peace process between the government and rebels is being pushed through. Seeing NPA rebels surrender their weapons to the government is a sign that the efforts of our government and the AFP is working. The AFP leads the campaigns against extremism and other possible violent insurgency that not only the national aspect of security is affected but also the humanity as a whole.
I am still seeing a progressive Mindanao in the future. I won’t lose my hope to the place that molded me. One day, if not tomorrow, next month or the few years to come but slowly, progress and development will be reached. Our soldiers will no longer offer their lives to grim reaper. Civilians will live peacefully without the fear of any trouble that might welcome them anytime. Our native land will be in tranquility as it soars high and grow to become a progressive nation. In between the war is disorder and graves. I pray for all of this to stop.
I will end this essay with an untitled poem that I personally made to honor the men who are sacrificing their lives to our beloved country. May they be protected by the grace of God and our nation.
Today as I walked through the street of Rizal
I saw a man in his camouflage
As I come closer to him
I noticed his eyes so dim
Little do I know his story
His name and where he come from
What I know is his future
An uncertain one
He might be lucky as of today
But what I don’t know if he’ll still be.
So I gave him my best smile,
He smiled back brightly
I jokingly offered a salute
He laughed and returned the gesture
This man has pledged his life
For me, my family and friends
This man has pledged his life
For his wife, his children
This man has pledged his life
For the nation’s victory and glory.
– End –
Featured Photo from PhilStar, Unicef: 50,000 kids affected by Marawi siege