Beyond the Barricade

Monday, October 29, 2018

October 26, 2018, as I stand with fellow young people in front of the barricade in Banggolo Bridge, I cannot help but hear this Les Miserables song in my head:
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!!
I am from Marawi Let Me Go Home

The #LetMeGoHome Movement spearheaded a coffee meetup which they called Kapehan sa Marawi, reminiscent of the good old times when Meranaos spend leisure time in the traditional coffee houses called "painitan" along Quezon Ave. in Banggolo that used to serve delicacies like palao a apang, a rice pancake that is a staple in Meranao life. Attended by social media influencers and bloggers, the kapehan mainly was about kamustahan, hearing how everyone is coping after the siege. 

It was an emotional afternoon for everyone. The attendees told their stories, each one unique, and each one similar to the other. They answered the question for the afternoon: Mapipiya ka? Are you okay? 

I am from Marawi Let Me Go Home
History tells you that all revolutions were headed by youth.

When it was my time to answer, I was taken aback. I just arrived, unprepared for what was expected from me. I only know that I wanted to see my friends who were behind the event. We have been talking only through Messenger and it would be nice to touch base in person. Anyway, here's what I said. 

How am I? When asked with that question, my reflex is to say that I am okay. I mean, look at me, well-dressed, healthy, seemingly happy. That goes to show my resilience. But am I really okay? I am not. I am longing for home. For the past year, I have lived in three houses. I have experienced being evicted from a rented dwelling. My family still do not have a house to call our own.

There is a barricade behind me. What does this barricade mean? Why are we not allowed to rebuild our homes again after more than a year? They made promises of rehabilitation, but more than a year, nothing was built there, nothing was repaired. And it tells me that maybe they do not mean to honor their promise. It's too gargantuan. It's too ambitious to build a Dubai-inspired city when the Task Force Bangon Marawi could not even come up with a database of the real IDPs.

My family has gone through all the profiling conducted by different agencies mainly by DSWD. We have queued under the heat of the sun. We have passed whatever paper they required from us. And at the end of all those profiling, the TFBM required another validation. But lo! When we came, tagging along with us my grandmother who can barely walk, they said we are not in the DSWD and LGU database?

I am from Marawi Let Me Go Home
From left to right: Ann Macarao of CMYM, Jamela Alindogan of Aljazeera, and moi.
Is that how easy it is to remove names from lists? Is this how inept, how incompetent our line agencies are to not have a database of all the IDPs more than a year after the siege? This is but a simple task, but they cannot do it well. How can they even take on the task of rehabilitating our ruined city with their amateurish ways?

How am I? I am angry! You have not helped much and yet you have the guts to barricade us from our homes. You hide behind the excuse of unexploded bombs yet we see military men in their t-shirts and short walking down our streets with comfort and ease, we see tourists selfie-ing in front of our ruined homes. This barricade, what does it mean? Does it mean you are taking away our rights from our private properties? Does it mean you have occupied our lands? Why do you keep us from temporary shelters, from tents, from rented rooms, when we have homes we can rebuild?

Perhaps there are answers to my questions. I am yet to hear them. But for now that we are met with silence, sometimes with vague promises, and a strong barricade, we will continue to demand our rights. Remove the barricade, let us rebuild. It's taking too long. Our lives are at a standstill until our feet have found our homes to take root in.

I am from Marawi Let Me Go Home
Add caption

Will you join in our crusade?

Who will be strong and stand with me?

Somewhere beyond the barricade

Is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight

That will give you the right to be free!!

Join us next time, there will be more kapehan. Kamustahan tayo. Like our Facebook page: 

for more info.

One Big Hug

Sunday, October 07, 2018

I choked on these words when I read them scribbled on a violet piece of paper. Funny how three innocent words can evoke a torrent of emotions. I remember that day, the exact date, which T-shirt you wore, how you looked at me on that rainy afternoon. It's been three years and thirteen days since, and I kept that token of an afternoon's affair, a relic from a past. Such moment can never be relived. I stared at the paper for a few. And decided to keep it.

I found this scribbled on my Note app. I decided to share my writings, though some of them may seem a bit personal. Because I guess we all share ourselves anyway, one way or another as we interact through our social media and the web as a whole. I might as well keep it authentic by posting a piece of my heart here.


Life Update

Sunday, September 30, 2018
Ayeesha Dicali

I've been saying over and over again that I am going to write more. Many months have passed and I couldn't find the time to open my blogger dashboard. It's fiesta in Iligan City right now and I am on a long weekend. Found some time to sit and think about writing. Anything. Just about anything.

How about a life update eh?

1. One of my subjects has stolen so much of my time. I find myself studying for 8 hours a day.

2. I have been consistently going to the gym for two months now. I have just enrolled for the 3rd month. I can say that I have improved in terms of my weight--I gained two pounds, and in terms of my shape--I am no longer stick thin. I have flesh on my bones now. The booty is growing. Lels!

3. I may not have written about it but my family has settled on our 3rd home in Iligan. It's not ours, but this feels more like home. FOr now.

4. My social media activity has declined. I am now a lurker, not an active participant anymore. Facebook has become a dumpster of negativity and clickbait-y content. I deleted my Instagram too. My phone, which is one drop away from dying cannot handle anymore app.

5. I am single AF. Bow.

Ramadhan 2018

Friday, June 15, 2018
Ayeesha Dicali Eidl Fitr 2018

Eid mubarak to all the Muslims all over the world!

Today marks the end of the holy month of Ramadhan. It is a day of the joyous gathering of families and friends. Beneath this joy is an undercurrent of sadness for Ramadhan has come and gone so quickly. It is ironic that we Muslims miss Ramadhan so much even if Ramadhan means not eating nor drinking anything from sunrise to sunset, staying up late at night for prayers, and renewing faith in the Almighty through grueling acts of devotion. One has to taste the sweetness of imaan for one to understand why the pain of Ramadhan brings us so much blessing.

This year's Ramadhan is different from last year. Looking back, we are in a much better place now. A year ago, the day after my mother, grandma, and brother has escaped the besieged city of Marawi, the moon has been sighted and we fasted the next day. Ramadhan 2017 was our source of solace. It embraced us and covered us with a blanket of security as news of the siege became worse each day. This year, to me, Ramadhan is all about healing.

For a year, I have held on to anger and aches that I thought I needed to fortify my walls. I was bruised inside, I was insecure, I felt cheated, I felt helpless. So I enveloped my heart with painful memories, like an armor. There were many days when I wake up to a beautiful day, with the blue sky smiling at me, yet I still find tears falling when I am alone. I would whisper to myself that I need to be strong because I cannot depend on people. They break their promises. They abandon their obligations. They fall short of expectations. I told myself, be resilient. Today shall pass, cry now and tomorrow you have grown a thicker skin.

Oh, boy was I wrong.

Ramadhan drew nearer and my heart felt heavier. The issues that I buried deep in the recesses of my brain bubbled to the surface. I felt miserable. Yet hopeful. Because no matter the situation, I have always felt that Ramadhan is a salve. Allah SWT designed Ramadhan to restore those who return to Allah SWT. I cried my heart out in prayer, I asked the Most Merciful to purify my heart, ease my burden, to guide me towards lofty goals, and heal my heart.

Truth be told, I did not feel healed. Until today. I'm not exaggerating. This morning, after we prayed the Eid prayer, the Imaam in his sermon reminded us not to leave the grounds where we held our kutbah (Eid prayer) without having forgiven each other. And suddenly, it all clicked. To unburden is to let go, and to let go is to forgive.

We refuse to let go because we value something so much. When fate dictates for one thing to slip our grasp, we cannot catch it again no matter how hard we try. And so we fool ourselves by holding on to grudges because it feels like we are still connected to it as long as we are emotionally attached to it, even if that emotion is a negative one.

The truth is we will always have a hole in our hearts. And we will try to fill the void with people, wealth, and experiences. But the world will never be enough. This life is pointless to live without a higher purpose. To me, to live pretending that we can satisfy the deepest need of our soul with everything other than God is a life that is unanchored. I have always felt that my unhappiness, other than the awry chemicals in my brain, stems from distance from Allah SWT. Perhaps I was created with a need to believe hardwired in my cerebrum. I cannot escape it. I need Allah SWT in my life. Alhamdulillah, Ramadhan is like a lasso that pulls me back whenever I stray.

The realization hit me. I am not alone. I am not helpless. I am not hopeless. I have always had Allah SWT.

I can now let go.

With a phone call, I have given my forgiveness.

Kambisita: They Destroyed Everything in Marawi

Sunday, June 03, 2018
Ayeesha Dicali during the Kambisita sa Marawi

Exactly a month ago, my family and I visited our house in Marawi. May 3, 2018 was the schedule of our barangay to visit MAA (Most Affected Area) in Marawi City to salvage what is salvageable and take a last look at our homes before MAA is closed for the next three to I-don't-know-how-long years until the rebuilding and rehabilitation is complete and the residents will be allowed to rebuild their homes from the rubbles that the government's massive bombs have left of our once flourishing city.

I have vlogged the whole thing, see the video below.

But there are things I have not covered in the video, thus, I am writing this blog post for posterity.


After we left Marawi when the conflict erupted on May 23, 2017, and President Rodrigo Duterte subsequently declared Martial Law all over Mindanao, checkpoints were established in all entrance points of Marawi. The military manned them strictly that ordinary civilian cannot enter the city even to save a trapped loved one. The checkpoints stayed all throughout the siege and relaxed a bit when the Maute was declared vanquished. But still, access to the MAA was reserved for the Army, the Police, and VIPs. 

When the residents were allowed this opportunity to see their homes after approximately a year, they were shocked and pained to see that nothing is left of their belongings. 

In my experience, our house did not collapse although it is severely damaged. It baffles me why our clothes are scattered all over the floor, still recognizable, but the more durable belongings like pieces of furniture and electronics have no trace at all. The only logical explanation is they were looted. By whom?
 #alamnathis #obviousba
 Even the homes in Barangay Matampay, the ones near the military checkpoints and the ones near the military camp, were wiped out clean.

Marawi IDP during the kambisita
My mother looking at the scraps of what was left of our home.


My family left Iligan at 3 AM and was able to enter MAA at 10 AM. We spent 7 hours stuck in traffic 95% of the time. That morning, around a thousand cars were lined up at the entrance. The problem was, we were allowed to enter quite late. If only they opened the checkpoint earlier, we could have spent more time in MAA. My aunt who is a neighbor was able to enter MAA at 2PM. We were asked to leave at 3PM. Imagine spending hours queueing, but you're only allowed to visit your house for a few hours. That is not enough time. Although we were allowed to reenter for two days more, the trouble was too much to bother. It wasn't worth it.

Marawi IDP during the kambisita
My neighbor sifting through the ruins for anything of value.


The destruction was nothing like I've seen in my lifetime. The victory against the Maute, a small group of mostly adolescents, cannot compensate for the big buildings that collapsed to the ground, beautiful homes punctured by a thousand bullets, and the loss of civilian lives. The takeover of the city could have been prevented had the military used their force to protect the city given the intelligence that Hapilon is already inside and the previous clashes with the group in neighboring municipalities. I am no military tactician, but I believe that dropping that many bombs is unnecessary. Are our soldiers that incompetent to be dominated by a handful of young boys? We lost so much in the war but gained very little. 

Hapilon and the Maute brothers are dead but the ideology lives on. Lives and properties were sacrificed but the end was not met. Martial Law still oppresses us. We still go hungry. Many of us are still homeless. All for a humbug of a President who taunted the Maute to go down Marawi. You're Meranao ancestors are turning in their graves, Mr. President.

Despite the pain of the Kambisita, a thorn has been pulled out. I am now sure that nothing is left for us in Marawi. I can stop hoping that I can still save a few memorabilia. I can stop looking back to a lost cause. Marawi is no more. It's time to focus forward, pull strength from within, stay resilient even when no helping hand is in sight.

The sons and daughters of Marawi are standing up. Justice, we shall have.

Of Changes

Thursday, May 31, 2018

 It's the second quarter of the year and I have published only one blog post so far (see Grief's Anatomy). So much has happened not only this year but last year as well but words came not when I needed them. I could not write. Many times, I stare back at my reflection and see myself to have lost some baby fat on my face, betraying my age. But other than that, I could not perceive the change in me that caused this virtual muteness.

Perhaps the reason why I could not write is that I was grieving, I still am. Grief is not something you can skip nor quicken. It takes its time. I can say, the veil has lifted, although its shadow remains. Moreover, I felt like I have narrowed down my blog niche that I find it hard to write things that I am currently interested in. I second guess myself when I want to write about beauty, fashion, food, movies, and about my life generally. I feel silly, even.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu
I changed. Not as much on the outside but also on the inside. I used to enjoy silly things, I used to be proud of my eccentricities. I lost touch with an important part of me. I forgot who I used to be.

Last year was chaotic, to say the least. I was uprooted, shaken, and thrown out of my home. There are stories about Marawi Siege and its ramifications. There are relationships that are no more. I no longer sleep on the bed I sleep on since I was 10. But this post is not for that. I owe my readers some update, and I owe myself this time to sit, let myself lose and the virtual ink flow.

And so the online silence. Today, it's going to change, I am going back to the very reason I started blogging I started blogging more than half a decade ago, when blogging wasn't big, when it wasn't commercialized, when it was just a bunch of people putting out there themselves, no influencers, no Instagram models. I missed that. I missed me blogging my random thoughts without the fear of disappointing my readers; or judged.

Through my uncensored mouth, I intend to get to know me again. I have buried a multitude of desires and opinions in the effort to maintain a facade. I'd like to pour out all the words that are constantly buzzing in my head so I can make sense of my experiences, piece them together to form a collage of something that may be representative of who I am at the moment.

DISCLAIMER: Although honesty is what I am going for right now, there is one slice of my life that I am keeping off the web. In the right time, it will be known. But right now, let me enjoy blogging again, like the old times.

Before I end this post, here's an update:

I am okay.
I am healthy.
I feel pretty most days.
I excited for things to come.
I am grateful.

This blog has a new domain ( my old one expired and I can't get it back yet), my new domain is

.CO not .COM. 

Dito na lang muna. I really missed this catatonic feeling of free-writing. Come back here next week, I will be posting weekly, In Shaa Allah (God willing).

Grief's Anatomy

Monday, April 02, 2018

I can't find the words now that I am writing, the words that I feel I have been bottling up inside me. I'm not sure where to start. Perhaps with the first thought that comes t mind.

It's almost noon now and I am still on the bed, struggling to shake off this sluggishness. My lungs burn every time I breathe. I can't seem to recover from this cough that stuck with me for the past three weeks. I wonder where my will to fight has gone. I try to summon energy to my hands, drawing a fist, only to form a clumsy one. I have been scrolling down my social media feed for the past two hours, liking none, not commenting on any post, existing, lurking there, a mere spectator. I watch them go on with their lives while here I am paralyzed. What do I do now? Where do I begin picking all the pieces?

This morning when I woke up, I felt it immediately. Grief. I felt in my weary bones, tired of carrying this heartache. I felt it in my stinging eyes, still sore from last night's crying fit.

One thing about loss that I understand now is that with the object that we lost, goes with it are all our dreams and aspirations that we wrapped around it. I have built a lifetime worth of a plan. I have painted in my mind what it will be for me for the next decades to come if I am lucky to grow into a shriveled little lady with a mass of white hair. Those dreams are the reason I have risked so much and worked so hard these past three years. I thought everything was on track.

My room smells moldy now, but I refuse to draw the shade. My bones ache, my heart aches, my throat tightens with every sweet memory recalled. My mind is desperately flinging its arms into the void, trying to grasp anything to justify, to answer why. Why does this have to happen?

I think about all the things I want to say. But whenever I put them into words, I am reminded that no words can make those that has departed return. I can't write a poem to put back a shattered home. I can't write a love letter to rekindle affection. Words have become weak, they fall flaccid on the floor.

John Green said pain demands to be felt. No it does not merely demands. It wraps it four legs around us, whispering doubt and insecurity to our ears, choking us with hot tears. It forces itself upon us. 

New Year's Eve Soliloquy

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The night is still young as I begin to write this. It's New Year's Eve. I hear Budots playing in the neighborhood. Fireworks are banned in the city but I expect these people to find a way to make noise come 11:55. 
I have kept away from my blog for a long time. The writer's block that hindered me was a force to be reckoned with. I wrestled with it. Hard. There were days when I form a few sentences in my head that are worth sharing, I carry them in my mental pocket but when I open the word processor, the words melt away like icicles turning to water as spring creeps in. The words felt feeble, they were flaccid, I felt ashamed to stain the blank page. 
For months, my soul was sitting in a puddle of darkness. Hatred, disgust, regret distilled into their vilest form enveloped my being. The puddle feels sticky like blood, and in my dreams, I sea innards spilling out and skulls exploding.  
So I kept away. I did not want to spoil the sanctity of a blank page with my vile words. As many of you know, 2017 was when Marawi was left in ruins when ISIS attacked. With the government's unintelligent response to terrorism, thousands of us lost almost everything in our lives. Billions of property and hundreds of lives were sacrificed to exterminate a handful of men. I do not believe the claim that there were a thousand of them. There were photos of hem out in the open when they set up their posts during the siege and many eyewitnesses. They weren't that numerous, and many of them are adolescents. Yet, the government poured billions into the war, bombing our homes with all their might, like berserks. Here I am rambling again. I can go on and on with what I believe transpire during those months but perhaps not today. 
I am writing again because it is new year's even and it gives me a sense of hope. What hope? A part of me, a voice I haven't had has surface, she raises her eyebrow and me and mocks me for feeling festive tonight. She reminds me that Martial Law is still in effect, that every day innocent people are killed in the name of a drug war that has gone out of hand, that we have a president whose words flip-flop a little too much for trusting, that there is no clear plan for Marawi that we are adequately informed of, that the government may give Marawi a makeover--one which is uncalled for, one which will rob Marawi its essence, one that will disrespect our religion and culture. With her badgering, it is difficult to be hopeful.
Tonight I remember our dear pet cat that we left in Marawi. Portia, I haven't had grieved enough for you. I have hoped you are still alive but they bombed our compound, I can't be too hopeful.
The river of time tugs me with it as it flows and falls with the gravity. I cannot resist. Move on, I must.
Here's my thoughts on moving forward in 2018:
1. We will continue to fight. This year has taught me that rights are not guaranteed by the world, we have to fight for the and protect them everyday. They may be taken away from us stealthily if we lose our focus.
2. We will not forget the lessons we learned such as preparedness for man-made and natural calamities, vigilance in our communities, the importance of choosing a good leader, and courage to unite against our common enemies.
3. We will not forget our leaders who were absentee when we needed them the most, the leaders who were supposed to speak for our interest but spoke for their own political gains instead. We will strip them their office next election, In Shaa Allah.
4. We will not forget those who helped us. We will not forget those whose bravery and service inspired us. May we have their strength too.
5. We should stop looking at the years in our lives as separate entities, rather they are in a continuum. What we fought for in 2017, we should fight harder in 2018 and the ears to come until the war is won. Our advocacies should not be a one-time thing, but a lifelong vocation. As the years go by, we should evolve carefully, tempering and fine-tuning our strings, and not forcibly changing masks every year. 
I don't think I want to add more. After letting go of writing for months, the keyboard feels a bit strange and my mind is a bit hazy with the sudden outpour of words. So dito na lang muna?
Happy New Year!

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