Days Before the Siege

 Meranao family gathering
I may have talked a lot about my hometown Marawi on this blog in a negative light. There is so much that I despise about our city, from our dirty politics to the heaps of trash that grew into mountains on our streets. Marawi is imperfect, yet my people thrived in its imperfections on top of our glorious history, of our crumbling infrastructures, overlooking the majestic Lake Lanao. In its imperfection, it inflamed a love within me that I have nurtured all my life.

My heart cried with hot tears, only God knows, upon seeing the photos of what have become of my beloved Marawi. The streets are littered with decaying bodies and fragments of buildings hit by bullets and bombs. I can almost smell the stench of decaying flesh. I can almost hear the muffled cries of civilians, almost imperceptible but you know it's there. Our school has burned down. I will never smell again the old books in its library. My memory of childhood in Dansalan College, the innocence that I associate with its old walls now tainted by terror. I cried for Aleppo last year, I weep for Marawi today.

And so I resolve to commit to memory all the days we had before the siege. These beautiful memories shall remain beautiful, unspoiled by war.

Ayeesha Dicali

The week before the siege, I was home in Marawi. Two of my cousins were graduating that week. I am not a great cook but I take pride in baking cakes. So I was home baking cakes for the family. I get so much joy when I bake a cake that is just right that it vanishes off the buffet table in seconds. 

Forty kilometers away from Marawi, not knowing if my family still has a house to go back to, I still cannot be anything but grateful for our safety. One thing that this crisis has taught me is the importance of family. We go on with our lives every day chasing material dreams that in an instant can perish. We may lose wealth, bombed in a snap, but we will never mourn for it as much as losing a family member. 

Meranao child

Our house may not stand still, but the memories of the laughter that we shared within its four walls, I will forever carry in my heart. I will look back with joy to those times we struggled as a family to make both ends meet. In our humble home, we built dreams on our empty stomachs. In the absence of luxury, we tempered our values. We built a life in Marawi, brick by brick. We slowly filled our shelves with books until it overflowed. My mother tended her garden in our backyard. We have two papaya trees bearing the sweetest papayas with pink flesh. We have a housecat we named Portia that we spoil like a baby.

I used to run at 5 AM around Quezon Avenue until daybreak. I love how the sleepy city slowly awakens to the soft light of the rising sun. Sometimes when I am feeling extra athletic, I would run across the bridge and I would slow down on the bridge to marvel the mystery of the Lake, its shores blanketed by fog in the early morning.

We lived modestly. We lived with integrity. It was a life that is enough for me. It was never extravagant. But it was beautiful.

Ayeesha Dicali

Marawi will always be home to many of us. When the gunshots have dissipated and the land no longer shakes with the explosions, we will go home to our ingud a pilombayan. We will love it more, more than we have loved it before. We will heal its wounds, each bullet hole on the wall. We will scrub our streets off the blood that stained it. We will paint the burnt walls with vibrant colors of hope. We will embrace each other and swear to never again let them humiliate us. I see us DC alumni and our friends on the soccer field, singing our anthem, vowing to build a better Dansalan because we are her sons and daughters.

Our days after the siege, IN SHAA ALLAH, will be better than the days before the siege.


  1. Nice read Ayeesha! Nalulungkot ako na wala akong magagandang memories sa Marawi. Never experienced living there yet but I always longed to know Marawi more and Im not losing hope to see the beauty of Marawi again. In shaa Allah, Marawi will gain its beauty and peace back soon.


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