The sun shed its tears as it slowly rises up the horizon lining the sea of Zamboanga City, marking September 9 of year 2013 the first day of Stand Off. The rebels went against the Zamboanga Government to seek difference in the way of governing the city. Every civilian ran from one place to another seeking safety as one of the first priorities to preserve life. Others took the bus to travel to the nearest neighboring provinces and some stayed for good (or no choice at all). Some unfortunate civilians were trapped between gunshots, lost their houses, love ones, and hope.
We peered into the lives of the victims of this academe, Western Mindanao State University as my school, as they shared their stories on how they jumped, ran, hid and fought the haunting fear all throughout the crisis the city suffered. The following are just some of the testimonies that marked the history of their existence and will be reminded that this is not just a nightmare-this is REALITY.
Jenevie Iyang, 20, CET
“Nang andun na kami sa boundary ng Talon-Talon sakay ang Pichu-Pichu na minamaneho ng tatay ko, biglang pinaputukan ang dalawang jeep na sinusundan namin. Nag-U turn agad ang tatay ko at sa Tumaganalang kami nag-stay. Namatay ata ang driver at ilang pasahero sa jeep.”
[English Translation: When we were in Talon-Talon’s boundary (one of the most affected barangays in Zamboanga City during the siege) riding in Pichu-Pichu (a kind of four-wheel vehicle) that my father was driving, suddenly the jeep that we were following was rained by bullets. My father stirred the wheel to U-turn and headed to Tumaga (a safer barangay, west part of Talon-Talon) instead where we stayed. I’m not sure but I guess the driver in that jeep died and also the some of the passengers.]
Cris Osabel, 19, CET
“Andun lang kami halos mga lalaki sa Sta. Catalina habang binabantayan ang aming bahay. Matutulog kami sa umaga habang bantay sarado naman sa gabi. May dalawang MNLF kaming hinabol tapos napatay ng mga sundalo.”
[English Translation: Almost all of us men stayed in Sta. Catalina (one of the most affected barangays wherein the exchanging of fires happened aside from Sta. Barbara) to guard our belongings. We sleep at morning and are very vigilant at night. We chased two MNLF (the rebels) and were killed by the military.]
“Kel no choice ya gad but to jump na alto bakod de General (hospital) para pwede lang eskapa na Lustre, since we can’t pass na main street kay talya el mga MNLF.”
[English Translation: I didn’t have a choice but to jump over the very high fence of General Hospital so that I can escape from Lustre (a street) since we can’t pass by the main street because the MNLFs were positioned over there.]
“Every time may nasusunog sa ‘Ground Zero’, panay tawag ko sa kaibigan ko na isa sa mga ‘miron’ na nakatambay malapit doon tinatanong kung nasunog na bahay namin. Pero sa huli nasunog parin.”
[English Translation: Every time a fire occurs at Ground Zero (an affected place); I always call for my friend that was positioned in that area to ask if our house was burned already. In the end, it was still burned.
“Happy ako kasi safe kami lahat, at the same time malungkot kasi hinde na namin alam kung saan kami titira. Nagtratrabaho din ako sa Grandstand, mag-waliswalis para makatulong sa mama ko”
[English Translation: I’m happy because we (family) were safe but sad at the same time because we don’t have any idea where to live anymore. I’m working at the Grandstand (the evacuation area where it used to be the city’s sport center), sweeping (garbage) so I could help my mother.]
There are more untold tales out there- some may be worse, others may be traumatic. We learned a lot of things and realized many lessons at the end of the chaos. All throughout the trek, we have lost but we gained as well. This is life-expect the unexpected, believe the impossible.
Zamboanga City may have faced unfortunate turn outs of events but still the citizens chose to continue living. Today, many homeless civilians live along the Cawa-Cawa Boulevard and are suffering the inconvenience of the aftermath of the siege. They are waiting for help to come. The government is doing their best as well for the relocation but it’s not yet enough. As a student, we call for assistance that these innocent families will have their lives back for it was never their faults to be caught in between two different groups fighting different principles through different ways.
But at the end of the day, the scorching sun, the howling wind, the hopeless tragedy, the aching failure; we are still here-STRONGER THAN YESTERDAY and that’s the true spirit of a Zamboangueño, of a bona fide Filipino.
(This article was published in the Digest Magazine 2013, written and distributed by The University Digeststaff, the official student publication of Western Mindanao State University, Zamboanga City)