I stare at the TV screen with the blurred images and vexing sounds. I am paralyzed. Yet, a sense of pain slowly creeps in, extending from the deep recesses of my being and hitting the bull’s eye: my heart. I can hardly breathe. The adrenaline keeps pumping yet there is nothing I can do but be still, frozen. I watch as the city erupts in sporadic flames, people run for their lives, soldiers and tanks move along the streets, while gunfire is heard in the background.
It’s a war zone in a ghost town.
It seems like one hell of a horror movie. And I shake my head in disgust because it’s not a movie. I wish it were only a bad dream from which I can just wake up. But it’s worse: It’s reality, our reality.
I was born and raised in La Belle Zamboanga—a native Chavacano by heart and language. So believe me when I say that this city is my home. Every nook and corner of it I instantly recognize. And what was once a beautiful, nostalgic memory of childhood has turned into this…aberration.
My whole family is here. And, along with thousands of our fellow Zamboangueños, we are weeping in pain, outrage and desolation. And my heart breaks as more people I know and see are left homeless and hungry. The physical trauma is just the surface. For we are again scarred, traumatized, and broken in many places.
The worst part is we are helpless, unable to stop this madness. We are just bystanders as the Moro National Liberation Front conducts its power play against the government.
But why must we suffer and endure this if the rebels want to make a point? Why must we Zamboangueños be in the middle of this demonstration of defiance against the people in power? This is neither a movie nor a game. We are talking about people and their lives. And we say: Enough is enough.
I know that mere words are not enough. Yet I hope that even in this little way I can help get the message across. I believe that we can get through this with the help of God. I hope that we can finally end this and begin to pick up the pieces. War is never the answer, but if it means fighting back and finally putting an end to this madness, then I say: Do it.
The government must take a stand and defend its people. It must not only prevent these monsters from creating more havoc but also make sure that they will not sow violence and terror again. These bullies must not be allowed to win and get what they want.
History is there to be learned from, and not to be repeated. It is there as a reminder so that future generations will not have to endure this horror story I am experiencing now.
We want to heal. We want to heal now.
Gia Angelica Urian, 26, graduated from Ateneo de Zamboanga University.