Ayeesha Dicali

Seeing our home in Marawi in a pixelated photo that looks half-destroyed, half-intact has me spiraling down a dangerous pit of anger and an overall gloomy perspective in life. Despite my newfound affinity for the color pink, life lately has not been seeming rosy to me.

So here I am forcing myself to remember all the things that I am grateful for.

I HAVE BECOME AN AUNT TO THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BABY GIRL


My brother's daughter, Marzia, has been being my greatest joy these days. Whenever I feel stressed, I only need to look at her sweet face and I feel so much better. The truth is, on the day she was born, the first time I saw her in the nursery room, I cried. Being single at my age, it's not hard to imagine a future of singlehood until I grow old. I see my dream of becoming a mom slowly drifting away as the years pile on me, as my beauty fades with time. And so when I saw her, I no longer feel fearful, because I now have someone to love and someone I can play mom to. It's the greatest feeling.

THERE'S AN ADDITION TO THE FAMILY


Other than Baby Zia, our family has been blessed with another member. I have a new sister-in-law, Daniah. She has been a friend to me for so many years, I lost count. I will never forget that even before she was a part of our family, she was there for me in my darkest hour two years ago. I will never forget how we both cried over my personal tragedy as we behold the city lights of Makati. I am glad that my brothers know how to pick spouses. I have the kindest and loveliest sisters-in-law: Asmah, Daniah, and Bea. The family is becoming bigger; and truly, the more, the merrier.

WE HAVE A DECENT PLACE TO STAY


A year ago, we have rented an apartment in Iligan City, just me and my brother. A few months ago, we planned to let it go. But we haven't because when the war broke out in Marawi, this is where our whole family has run to, along with some relatives and neighbors who had no immediate place to go to. Indeed, Allah has plans. And I believe that it is not a coincidence that we have gotten this place and haven't let it go even if we wanted to.

GENEROSITY OF FRIENDS AND STRANGERS


I have never mentioned this, but I will forever be thankful to the family who gave my family a ride out of Marawi. We don't know them but they helped my family. I believe they are from the Pacasum clan. My mom also told us about a man who gave them food when they were stuck in Saguiaran. Also the Sulog family in Balo-I. The boiled kamote that they give to the fleeing evacuees is the first hot food that my family has eaten since they left Marawi. Moreover, the relief packages from the DSWD are appreciated. My ma-pride self initially cannot stomach the thought of receiving relief goods. But in these desperate times, we humble ourselves and be grateful for what is provided for us without us asking. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

THE OPPORTUNITY TO KNOW WHO TRULY CARES


On the fourth day of the siege, when the military has started dropping bombs and our neighborhood was one of the first to be hit, I cannot contact my mom. All the batteries at home were drained. I have gotten the number of our neighbor who is also a relative, she is my aunt, and I asked her that if they have the opportunity to get out of Marawi, can she take with her my mother, brother, and my to grandmothers. I will forever remember what she said,

"Di ako nga dun ptawagi ka kataya a mliyo kami dun ka pangaolog dun so mga bomba. (Do not call me anymore, we are fleeing right now, they are already bombing us.)"

You can just imagine the crippling fear that gripped me upon hearing that. When my family has gotten out of the conflict zone, with her were our two elderly neighbors, who are also distantly related to us. Mom said that they refused to flee without tagging along with my family. Our neighbors know that my grandmothers were old and frail so they never left them. Times like this show the real colors of people. Some turn out to be heroes, while some will let you die even if they have all the means to save you.

I HAVE THE BEST PEOPLE AS BEST FRIENDS


One call from a friend is enough to shoo away the anxiety. I am so lucky that I have the best people that I can count on even when the sky rains bombs. One of them is studying for the bar exam to fight the bigger battles for us, In Shaa Allah. One is helping to raise funds for the WeAreMarawi drive. Two are overseas, always comforting us even if they are away. One is a fellow IDP who have been resilient in these trying times. One is a nurse who has shown extraordinary service in IPHO. One is an OB-GYNE who has been the barkada's resident tanungan ng mga sakit. Two are also doctors, they too served as volunteers in Marawi.  One is a law student who has kept me happy since the day we met two years ago, who has flown to Marawi to volunteer. And who else greets me advance happy birthday on midnight of July 1 when my birthday is actually on the fourth week of July? You are special!

I HAVE STARTED A JOURNEY TO CHASING A NEW DREAM


In my life, I have been so many things. I have been a production assistant, a peace advocate, a teacher, a journalist, a blogger, etc. And this time, I have set my eyes on another goal. Alhamdulillah for I have made the first step to a thousand miles run. My younger self would say, "Wait for my name on the boards in three years, I will be on top." But the older me says "In shaa Allah."

RENEWED LOVE FOR MARAWI


I have loved and hated Marawi for all my life. After living in Iligan for quite some time and experiencing the comforts of having fast internet, reliable power source, and good traffic management, my heart has distanced itself from Marawi 30 kilometers more. But the heart has attachments to home that don't break. My heart has been longing for Marawi lately. She has suffered enough. I'd like to come home to her and sweep her dusty streets.

A NEWFOUND STRENGTH


I have almost lost my faith and sanity throughout this ordeal. I could have died when I carelessly joined a military clearing operation. But I haven't. Faced with the prospect of losing all our material possessions in Marawi, I am staying afloat. No, I won't sink into the ocean of hopelessness.  I am not weighed down anymore by attachments to any material thing. I learned that I can survive with so little, that I can be happy with a handful of pennies. We may have lost so much but the maturity gained is priceless.

I AM CELEBRATING MY BIRTHDAY THIS MONTH


I am reaching another milestone in my life. I thank Allah for every day that he gives me. Life is precious, I have lived long enough to taste its bitterness and its sweetness to find how palatable life is. Every year when I celebrate my birthday, I look back to my life; and this year, I have added another chapter, one that is about being a survivor of an armed conflict and experiencing martial law. I am grateful for a life that is colored with struggles and triumphs.