Monday, September 25, 2017
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opinion / Columnists

Lipsticks and letters

opinion / Columnists
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At Large

Lipsticks and letters

In the hierarchy of needs of the evacuees from Marawi, does lipstick have a place in the list? Surprisingly, it does, as the experience of other calamity survivors bear out.

Soliciting for lipsticks, along with scarves and “dignity kits” for the women “bakwits” (the indigenized term for Mindanao evacuees) from Marawi, former social welfare secretary Dinky Soliman, who is helping coordinate the relief efforts, said the items are meant for public school teachers, social workers and volunteers with the Ranao Rescue and Al-Mujadilah Foundation, a Marawi-based development NGO. “The Maranao women we met said they want to have dignity in beauty,” texted Soliman in a message. “They are  bakwits   but will continue to be beautiful. It lifts their very depressed spirits thinking about their destroyed city.”

Of course, rice, milk, foodstuffs, medicines, bedding—the basic necessities—still make up the most urgent needs of the displaced residents. But there is room, too, for other needs, such as books, school supplies and toys for the children, and the lipsticks, along with shawls, malongs (cotton tube outfits that serve as cover-ups, blankets, rain protection and even baby hammocks) and toiletries like toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo for the women (and men). Surviving, after all, is not just a matter of eluding death or injury. It also entails finding the will to live, and the joy in life. And yes, putting on lipstick and being able to brush one’s teeth can go a long way toward lifting one’s morale and arming one with the fortitude to face further challenges. And the way things are looking right now, it will take many more months, perhaps years, before the bakwits can return to their broken city and restore it to its old glory.

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Other private groups have also begun sending relief packages to the troops fighting the Maute terror group as well as the ordinary folk, Christian and Muslim, caught in the crossfire.

The Go Negosyo group, among many others, has been sending care packages and “dignity kits” along with raising needed money for the emergency response. And among the usual government agencies, foremost of them the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, of Health, and of Education, the

Office of Vice President Leni Robredo has also been coordinating the work being done by both public and private sectors.

Among the more noteworthy endeavors is the solicitation of letters from schoolchildren addressed to evacuees and soldiers, to convey prayers and good wishes for them, as well as shore up their morale and express thanks for their sacrifices.

Myla Villanueva, a sister in The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) shared on our Viber group excerpts from the letters sent to soldiers, many of them sourced from public schools by the Museo Pambata headed by another TOWNS sister, Nina Lim Yuson, which are first folded origami-style into peace doves.

Some excerpts (translated from Filipino):

“I hope you will be free, happy, and lively and have a fruitful life filled with hope. I also wish you be kept safe.”

“Thank you so much for defending our country. My gratitude also to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for citizens like us. I am also grateful to the parents who raised you to be steadfast and brave soldiers.”

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“Many thanks for your help to Marawi. I hope you never tire in your efforts to help Marawi. And my gratitude too for being heroes.”

Yuson, who is also an official of the Girl Scouts, said she would try to reach out to Girl Scouts in many other schools, but other schools could start their own letter drives. You may send the letters to the Museo Pambata.

Everywhere, it seems, individuals and groups are reaching out and searching for ways to help the beleaguered citizens of Marawi, as well as the soldiers, police, and Marines deployed in the deadly campaign to take back the city—or what’s left of it. There is no Muslim-Christian divide in all these efforts, just a common humanitarian response to an emergency that affects all of us Filipinos.

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TAGS: At Large, Inquirer Opinion, Marawi evacuees, Marawi siege, Mindanao martial law, Rina Jimenez-David
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