Peace Mission Reflection by Glendford Lumbao
Got a chance to visit 3 evacuation centers (2 in Iligan, 1 in Lanao Del Norte) last weekend.
When we arrived at the first evacuation center, I was stunned. The population was overwhelming. As a facilitator, my task was to gather the kids, sing, clap, play with them, and teach them art, but there’s a voice inside of me saying “Mag docu nalang kaya ako” because the place was overcrowded and I personally don’t know how and where to start. Also, I’m a bit scared to start a conversation with the kids because of the language barrier; I can’t understand Maranao or Bisaya.
A few minutes later, heaven shed tears.
The sound of heavy rain hitting the metal roof echoes and we have no lapel microphones or megaphones to amplify our voices. We prepared several games for kids, unfortunately, there’s a limited space for us in the gymnasium and we can’t go out in the field because of the current weather condition. We struggled. But under any circumstances, my excuses are nothing compared to what these people went through. These people are displaced, with insufficient food, water, and clothes. These people are in pain, sadness, loneliness, or in fear. Who am I to complain about inconvenience?
So we walked inside, gathered and kids, and started our psycho-social activities. A few hours later, the sun smiles, like the smile on their faces, as they receive our gifts – a piece of Hope.
A rainbow appeared that day.
On our second day, We visited another evacuation center, located at Balo-I, Lanao Del Norte (just 18km away from Marawi), and there, I met a child named Jonn Jonn, around 7 to 9 years old. Before the incident, he lives near Mindanao State University. Now he’s living in an empty field-turned-evacuation center, together with the other victims of the Marawi siege.
As part of our psycho-social peacebuilding activity, we ask the kids to draw their answers to the questions we’ve prepared. There’s this one question from the module I was using; “Ano ang nagpapawala ng takot mo/nagpapalakas ng loob mo?” Jonn jonn drew himself, lying in a bed. He explained to me that whenever he’s afraid, he goes to his bed and hides under his blanket… Now, he is sleeping on a cold and concrete floor. Sack of rice as his pillow, tarpaulin as his blanket. The siege took away his refuge, his comfort zone, but definitely, not his hope.
“Gusto ko maging pulis!” Homeless but not hopeless.
After distributing stuffed toys, bracelets, peace notes, art kits, hygiene kits, and some snacks, Jonn jonn saw empty carton boxes from our van and asked for it;
“Akin nalang po, gagawin kong higaan”
When we are about to leave the center, he asked me another question; “Babalik pa kayo bukas?” “Dito nalang po kayo matulog kasi ma-mmiss namin kayo” he added. My heart, shattered.
On our last day in Iligan, we visited another evacuation center. A Madrasah – with two halls, two rooms each – the new home of 180 families (originally lives in Gimba, Marawi City). We distributed the remaining goods we had.
Our brothers and sisters affected by the siege are in need of food, clean water, shelter…and especially, prayers.
Here are some of the shots I took on our memorable trip! https://flic.kr/s/aHskXKjR78