AMIDST the conflict in Marawi City, instructors from the Mindanao State University-Marawi persevered to help bring joy to children affected by the tension brought about by an attack in the city.
More than two months since the Maute group's siege, some families and their children are still in evacuation centers, mostly in Iligan City, still seeking to regain some normalcy back to their lives.
The young kids got some relief, at least for two days, when the Philippine Sports Commission held the Children's Games for Marawi Kids in Barangay Buru-un over the weekend.
A total of 10 coaches and 17 local secretariat supervised the event, all of which are Physical Education instructors and varsity athletes of MSU-Marawi College of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (CSPEAR), for at least 200 "bakwit" affected by the conflict in Marawi.
During the two-day event, the PSC conducted clinics about the basics of volleyball and football, as well as Larong Pinoy and parlor games for the enjoyment of Maranao kids aged 16 below. The government sports agency also donated food as well as school supplies and other needs for the kids.
MSU-Marawi CSPEAR dean Nenita Samung, one of the volunteers of the program, said sports and games provide a unique way in the victims' recovery from the attacks in Marawi City.
"Maganda talaga psychologically para ma-motivate 'yung mga bata," said Samung. "Most of the time, 'yung mga nagbibigay ng tulong dito, mga pagkain, more on material things. Samantalang ang sports at recreational activities, nagiging mas mabilis ang absorption ng bata kay sa 'yung mga material things para malaman nila na hindi lang material dapat. Hindi nila alam na may na-dedevelop within sa kanila. For example, 'yung friendship."
MSU-Marawi Physical Education instructor Ahmad Kabirun said he took the opportunity to help when Philippine Sports Institute deputy director Henry Daut helped organized the event.
"Nakakapagod pero napapa-enjoy mo 'yung mga bata, nakakatuwa. From Marawi din ako so parang mabuti rin. Nung nalaman ko na may ganito, nag-volunteer din ako," said Kabirun.
"Ang gusto ko sa mga projects nila, humanitarian at pang-bata. Tulong talaga, service. Kaya kapag sinasabihan kami sa Facebook, volunteer na kami agad," he added.
Incidentally, the instructors were also victims of the attack on the city. MSU-Marawi was hosting a sports clinic for kids and coaches when the siege in Marawi occurred.
Kabirun was present in the clinic at the MSU-Marawi when the incident happened, and he even vividly remembered giving reassurance to their guests that Marawi is a safe place.
"Parang sumama 'yung loob namin kasi nung sinundo namin sila sa airport, nagtatanong sila kung totoo bang magulo sa Marawi. Ako pa 'yung nagbigay ng reassurance na wag kayo mag-alala. Sumama 'yung loob namin na nung second day nangyari 'yun. Sa awa ng Diyos, hindi nila nalaman na may VIP kami," said Kabirun.
Just like the kids that he helped during the clinic, Kabirun evacuated in Iligan, the difference though is that he lives with his relatives in Barangay Dalipuga. He has yet to return to their home in Marawi, a city that sits atop mountains and hills.
"Hindi na kami naglakas ng loob na umakyat. Umaasa lang kami sa mga nagbabalita na pumupunta doon. May nakapag-kuwento sa amin na secured naman sa amin at hindi naman na-ransack 'yung mga bahay," said Kabirun.
Just like their efforts in Iligan City, the MSU-Marawi staff is also leading the way in bringing back normalcy to the city. The university has been preparing for the enrollment period and have installed vans and jeeps going to the university for the students. There is also an online enrollment process for the convenience of students.
"MSU-Marawi is trying its best na mag-normalize 'yung situation doon lalo na hindi inabutan 'yung university ng gulo," said Samung.
Though a small percentage of the Maute group are still at large, according to the government, the effects of the war in Marawi City are still being felt. Going to Marawi is still a chore for the MSU-Marawi staff, said Samung, due to checkpoints and heightened security entering the city.
"Most of the time, Monday ako aakyat tapos Wednesday bababa. Most of the time, naririnig pa namin 'yung putukan, minsan nagva-vibrate pa," said Samung.
A few MSU-Marawi employees, meantime, have been going back and forth from Iligan to Marawi with the enrollment period for the August 7 opening classes now commencing.
"As of now, up and down kami kasi tinatawag din kami ng boss namin," said Samung. "Most of the time, every Monday nandoon kami dahil flag ceremony. After that, baba naman. Sa amin, normal na rin kaya lang 'yung faculty and staff nasa Iligan or somewhere else."
"Convoy ang faculty and staff sa van dahil hindi kami basta basta kami makakapasok kung walang conduct pass. You cannot blame them, para sa safety namin."
The MSU-Marawi volunteers hopes that sports and games during the Children's Games will play a vital role in giving hope to the Marawi victims as they await the end of the conflict in the city.
"Ang pinaka-number one talaga kaya kami nandito, makalimutan 'yung gulo at mga nangyayari sa labas," said Kabirun. "Mag-enjoy muna sila kahit dalawang araw lang."
He added: "May mga taong nalulungkot na talaga. Gusto namin mabawi 'yung morale nila na puwede ka rin maging masaya. Gusto rin namin i-share 'yung hope na mawawala na 'yung gulo doon, puwede na kaming bumalik doon."