The bloody crisis that gripped the Islamic City of Marawi left dreadful scars in the hearts and minds of those who were afflicted.
Abdul’s story was just one of the many unfortunate stories brought about by the heartless terrorists who caused misery to the people of Lanao del Sur.
A farmer in a poor community in the outskirts of Marawi City, Abdul have been hardly making both ends meet for his family of four. They have been in that impoverished condition since he can remember.
As the ISIS-Maute Terrorist Group needed warriors to carry out its plan to conquer Marawi City, they knew exactly how to lure poor families and entice young people who want to escape poverty.
Abdul only dreamed of a better life for his two sons, Faruk, 15, and Abdallah, 13 years old. He never thought he would push his two sons to unspeakable misery when he allowed them to join a flowery speaking group of men clad in traditional black dresses who introduced themselves as fine Muslims devoted to the cause of Islam.
A few months before the Marawi Crisis erupted in May 2017, Abdul was duped into giving up his sons in exchange for P25,000 and monthly allowance with a sack of rice.
This was how the terrorist engaged poor families in their massive recruitment in preparation for what they call “jihad” — A war that would supposedly further religious endeavour against non-believers.
Abdul did not know what was ahead when he was told his sons will have the chance to continue their education in Marawi City. But it was too good to be true. They did not go to school after all.
His sons were instead trained for battle. They were trained for combat skills including how to utilize various weapons, guns, and ammunitions.
During the crisis, Faruk and Abdallah were forced to fight government forces along with other teenagers. There were hundreds like them who were deceitfully recruited.
As the battle raged on, Faruk and Abdallah hardly carried out their tasks in the firefights. They were never prepared for the battle. There youthful emotions were battered by noises coming from gunshots and air strikes.
It was like a horrific nightmare. They saw their friends perished as buildings exploded and how rains of bullets pierced through their colleagues’ adolescent flesh.
A few weeks into the crisis, Faruk somehow managed to mix it out with evacuees and he found his way back to his father’s arms.
But the younger Abdallah was never found.
A month after Faruk was rescued, he was still in a shock and he was never the same Faruk who was always full of youthful glee. Such a harrowing experience took a toll on him. He became like a zombie with a blank face staring at nowhere and he did not anymore talk.
A few days more, he started to refuse food. When he became so weak, Abdul took him to the hospital.
Faruk died after three days.
Abdul’s wife who was so furious and disheartened, showed signs of insanity. She was taken by her family because Abdul can hardly took care of her. And so Abdul was left alone.
There are many others like Abdul, who are now picking up if there were any pieces left in their devastated lives.
*The names of the characters in this story were changed to protect their identity.