Tuesday, July 17, 2018
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Mementos lost in Marawi

05:05 AM August 09, 2017

A part of me died when my son Maamor showed me pictures of the remains of our house in Marawi. Up until then I was in denial. The house was not bombed, ransacked and torched in the early weeks of the siege, giving my family and me a false sense of hope, but it was probably hit much later. The daily tremors and sounds of bombs and artillery fire are now the new normal in Marawi.

It is not so much the monetary value of the house as the books, mementos, pusaka (heirlooms), trophies, etc. The house was even featured in the Sunday TV program “Rated K” because of the rare and priceless muebles antigos collected by the missus from the countries we had stayed in or visited, as well as her oil portrait by Imao and an ancient, 14-foot Chinese jar. I remember that transporting them was a real problem. Those valuables which helped define the life I chose and the path I took are irreplaceable. Each memento had a story to tell. The memories associated with them are rich and abundant.

Among my compendium of books — on law, Islam, history, fiction – I valued very much my textbooks in law school which I used not only during my study but also in my review for the bar exam (I did not use bar reviewers). In fact, I still had a few of the syllabuses that our professors used. I must confess I am not tech-savvy, so I found those textbooks, though worn-out, handy even in my practice of law. I can vividly recall the underlined important provisions and principles of laws (the colored highlighters had yet to be invented). Some pages were messy, with a lot of “NB” (nota bene) tags, caricatures, marginal notes and mnemonics (like MENTAL: for Moral, Exemplary, Nominal, Temperate, Actual and Liquidated damages) which my eidetic memory easily recalls.


Although with advanced information technology one can use the computer for easy research on law and jurisprudence, I still preferred my books. They provided ease and a smooth flow of ideas. Strange? Habits are hard to break. But those books, including my small collection during my postgraduate studies at New York University, are lost now.

Photographs with known leaders and objects given as gifts or souvenirs during my various stints in the government were equally priceless. How can I now regale my children and grandchildren with stories that will make them proud of me without those pictures and objects? How can I tell them that I once walked in the corridors of power and had hobnobbed and rubbed elbows with kings and presidents and the rich and famous, without evidence? They might think their septuagenarian lolo is fantasizing.

The moronic rebels, or whoever were responsible for the destruction of my mementos, must have been curious to find aqua sports equipment for windsurfing, waveboarding and water skiing, sails and rigs in my house. Lake Lanao has periodic mistral winds and moderate waves perfect for leisure windsurfing during the months of January and February. I tried to market the idyllic lake as a destination for aqua sport buffs during my stint as tourism undersecretary, but always the peace problem got in the way. All these are also gone now.

My golf sets, although no longer in vogue, had stories to tell. I remember my old Maruman set which I used when I started playing golf. It’s a small comfort that my other sets are in our other family houses in Iligan, Cagayan de Oro and Quezon City. But the rebels, or whoever destroyed them, must have been surprised to see a sackful of range balls which I had used for practice, there being no driving range in Marawi.

These objects may be lost forever, but the memories associated with them cannot be erased even by time.

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Macabangkit B. Lanto (amb_mac_lanto@yahoo.com), UP Law 1967, was a Fulbright Fellow in New York University for his postgraduate studies. He has served the government as congressman, ambassador, and undersecretary, among other positions.

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