Sunday Sep, 20 2020 03:31:54 AM

Are you really Philippine soldiers or you are Maute terrorists?

Local News • 04:51 AM Sun May 28, 2017
Edwin O. Fernandez
Maranaw students of MSU-Marawi lend their traditional clothes to Notre Dame of Tacurong College students (photo above) so Maute will spare them. (Photo by NDTC student Jay Gee Villaruz)

COTABATO CITY – Seven students of Notre Dame of Tacurong College (NDTC) on Saturday recalled
their two horrifying, speechless, and soundless nights and one day and a
half ordeal while terrorists terrorized Marawi City.

Speaking with and// Saturday after they were rescued by government forces and brought here by
disaster officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) en route
to Tacurong City, the students, a male and six females, said at one point in
their ordeal, they thought it was the end of the road for us.

But we have
faith in God and thanks to our Muslim friends, classmates, said Dey Ann
Castillon, 19, one of the seven students trapped in a dorm in Mindanao State
University (MSU) when Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf stormed the city on May 23.

There were 11
students in one of the dormitories in MSU compound, seven Ilonggos from
Tacurong City, a Yemeni national, a Tausug and two female Maranaws. The 11 Ilonggos
were NDTC graduates of Bachelor of Science in Social Work who went to MSU-Marawi
to review for board examination.

Image may contain 1 person sand// (Jay Gee Villaruz) With Castillon
were Jay Gee Villaruz, 20, Eana Gaile Beleño, 20, Michelle Peniero, 30, Diane
Coritana, 20, Judy Ann Gravino, 20 and Crystal Ebetero, 20. They were in
MSU-Marawi City for only nine days when the hostilities started at 2 p.m. of
May 23.

We were told
to drop when shooting started, Villaruz said. Then words spread around that
the Maute will kill the non-Muslims.

Castillon said
their Maranaw classmates lend them hijabs and long Muslim dress for women.
They told us to act naturally and memorize a Muslim prayer, which we did.

We wore the
Muslim long dress from Tuesday night until Thursday morning when the soldiers
brought us to the capitol, Castillon said.

It was really
horrifying, we are not used to gun fire, we are not used to tension, difficult
and life-death situation, she added.
Image may contain 1 person standing and outdoor sand// (Dey Ann Castillon) Our Maranaw
classmates did not leave us, she said. They said if we die, all of us will
die, if we survive, all of us will survive, Castillon said of her Muslim
classmates. So, we hugged each other as we recite ecumenical prayers.

Villaruz said
their Maranaw friends told them to always keep quite because the Maute were
just outside the dorm, knocking on the gates.

We talk in
whispers, not to make any noise, our mobile phones in silent mode, we scattered
in the room, lying down on the mat and told not to use our phones at night
because the light might attract the terrorists, he recalled. We had two
longest nights in our lives.

We cannot
even use the comfort rooms because flushing the bowl makes noise and could
attract the Maute, Villaruz recalled. I just urinate beside the wall of CR so
it won’t make noise, my females companions pee on the floor then slowly flush
water with minimized noise.

Most of the
time at night, Villaruz recalled, they were on the floor as gun fire continue
to reverberate the city. Their day was
filled with the sounds of military helicopters firing rockets and sporadic and
automatic gun fire from nowhere.

Castillon said
their Yemeni classmate told them not to worry and keep praying. She said the
Yemeni told them if the terrorist will come, I will have my head cut for you and
keep you safe.

Villaruz, the
lone male in the group, said one of them has a soldier-relative who also
instructed them what to do and what not to do. All throughout their journey they kept their
parents posted and updated.

I was so
scared because I am the only male and the Maute were looking for non-Muslim
males, so I use hijab and long male Muslim dress, Villaruz said.

sand// (NDTC students, still in Muslim clothes, smile aboard Army truck after they were rescued from MSU dorm at the height of terrorists' attacks) Then on Thursday
dawn, men in fatigue uniform came knocking. We were terrified because we
thought they were terrorists in Army fatigue uniforms, Castillon said.

She opened the
high gate, took a look and yelled at the soldiers in Filipinoand Are you
really Philippine soldiers or you are Maute terrorists? They responded in
Tagalog and showed their IDs, so we allowed them entry.

We shouted
for joy but a subdued one, we clapped our hands without sounds, we jumped for
joy without sounds…nasanay kami na wag mag-ingay, alam mo yon you are very happy
yet you cannot make sounds, Castillon recalled.

escorted them to the Lanao Sur provincial capitol where ARMM-HEART workers
brought them to Iligan then to Cotabato City.
ARMM HEART billeted them at Al Nor Hotel and ARMM Exec. Sec. Laisa
Alamia sent them to Tacurong City in a government van.

To our
Maranaw friends, we will never forget your kindness, some day we can
reciprocate your kindness, surely we will meet again, Castillon said. (Edwin
O. Fernandez)

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