This photo brings back memories. At the heart of the Islamic City of Marawi where marvelous Mosques ascend, yes, one house of worship for Catholics. Yes, Saint Mary’s Cathedral Church that stands along for many decades through the efforts of the Christian faithful all throughout decades from the beginning it was inaugurated. Though just a pigment in populace, Christians strive to live together with Muslims for DIALOGUE AND PEACE within the city. We respect each other’s differences. We recognize, co-celebrates and rejoice the importance of our beliefs and faith. But through the years, it’s the friendship that revel, we remained resilient.
Born, baptized and raised in Marawi as Catholic, Mary Help for Christians, our patron, the Church has been our haven. In times of sufferings, griefs and sorrows, it was in this house of worship that we can seek refuge. Apart from it, Saint Mary’s has been the blissful place for all Youth Ministry grown members who dwells to every challenges in spreading and sharing the good news. We laughed together when one or the others triumph. We cry together when one or many suffers. We slept together during nights and days… It’s so beautiful to reminisce that we share the same moments of happiness. We stick together as we eased each other’s pains. IT’S THE PLACE WHERE WE FLOURISHED THE ESSENCE OF TOGETHERNESS.
In the youth ministry, I met new faces and became my friends. I acquired many things: I learned how to become a follower. I learned to become their leader. I learned how to make fun, I learned how to clean, how to cook and how to wash dishes. I learned how to laugh and cry with friends. I learned to understand the feelings of others. I learned how to share with what I have. I learned how to sing. I learned how to pray and how to love and many other good things. It made me become a better person.
Music has been my refuge in the ministry. In this church, I learned to play basic guitars and I learned to hone the gift of my voice. I was passionate. I am blest to learn how to share it to everyone. Amongst were the children and young ones who look up to me as they want to learn how and more. We devote ourselves during holy weeks. We chant together many songs of praise and inspirations in the little chapel. We sing cool songs of carols during Christmas seasons. To every streets and corners where Christian homes lay around the city, we walked, crossed and paralleled these areas while traversing the roads of unknown just to bring the song and music, the message, the joy and spirit of Christmas… Even some of our Muslim brethren were gladly rejoicing with us. In their eyes, we are not different. They sincerely respect us. For them, we brought peace.
And so it “was”. The humble church no longer stand. It was burned down to ashes and my heart is bleeding in tears. It all happened prior to the celebration on feast of our patron of May 23, 2017.
The city is and still under siege by rebels and terrorists in the name of caliphate ideology. 28 days and counting still, the government forces continue to aggressively combat these vicious extremists. What’s more disheartening is our priest along with devoted parishioners still held captives. And other civilians remained trap within the warzone. Above all, the whole city of our beloved Marawi is turning hell-alike flared and swallowed by ceaseless fires brought by bombs and airstrikes. Innocent civilians were dreadfully affected and forced to flee amidst the seemingly endless war. Many lives have lost. Homes were destroyed. Nothing is left but only hope, even frail, hostilities will end.
And, the whole Island-of-Mindanao is under Martial Rule…
It’s been like ages that I prayed so hard. But this time with a humble heart and humility, I beseech You the good heavens to intervene. It’s not all for me, but for all those who seek refuge upon Your help. In this test of trials, the helpless needs You now because in You, victory is certain.
Though the church burned down, my hope and believe remain strong that our church will be rebuild sooner after this ordeal… Life and faith goes on.
But I asked you to be with us in prayers that love, respect and peace reign again.