Students cherish graduation – 3 months late, 38 km away
ILIGAN CITY — That it was held more than three months late and some 38 kilometers from its original venue did not diminish the impact of the graduation ceremony on more than 140 students of an Islamic school in Marawi, a city turned into mostly rubble by war between government soldiers and Islamic State (IS) followers.
Students of the Khadijah Mohammad Islamic Academy (KMIA), a school in Marawi, were to graduate on May 24 yet, but the ceremony was aborted as IS followers belonging to homegrown terror groups Maute and Abu Sayyaf started a reign of terror in the predominantly Muslim city.
On May 25, the war broke out forcing thousands of residents of Marawi to flee, many to this city some 38 km away, and including KMIA students and their families.
The rush to flee could be gleaned from the absence of toga or cap in the attire of at least half of the graduates. These had been left behind in Marawi.
Sittie Lainie Decampong Asum, 20, and a Bachelor of Elementary Education graduate, cried upon receiving her diploma during the ceremony held yesterday at the Frosty Bites Garden Hall here.
Asum, whose family fled Marawi on May 24, said even when fighting had already spread to villages near where she lived in Marawi, she had worn her toga expecting to attend the graduation ceremony.
But instead of marching up the stage to get her diploma, “we rode a jeepney,” said Asum of her and her family’s flight from Marawi.
“We needed to leave Marawi because fighting was getting intense,” she said.
She admitted feeling very disappointed that the war had interrupted the graduation ceremony. Everything, including a grand party, had been prepared to celebrate her graduation.
“We prepared lots of food,” she said. “We were ready for a party but we left it all because we had to evacuate,” she added.
She was one of the students who wore a toga during the ceremony here because she had been wearing it as she and her family fled Marawi. She took it off only after the vehicle they were riding was already out of Marawi.
“It’s good that I brought it with me because I was already wearing it,” said Asum of her toga.
“Now, I’m crying because despite everything that we’ve been through, I was still able to graduate,” said Asum.
“All the sacrifices that my parents did pay off. This is my only dream—to graduate,” she said.
Johaira Bayabao, 23, and a graduate of Bachelor of Elementary Education, was teary-eyed when she went down the stage after receiving her diploma. She attended the ceremony alone.
Bayabao’s family had fled to Coron, Palawan. She returned to Iligan only to get her diploma wearing no toga.
“I left it in Marawi when we evacuated,” she said.
Bayabao is from Barangay Raya Madaya, in Marawi City, which had become one of the main battle areas in the war on IS.
Hamdoun Cosain and Loveb Sarangani, graduates of Bachelor of Science in Criminology, wore white shirts and denim pants with sashes from their school.
Just like the other graduates, they left their togas in the rush to flee when the war broke out.
Cosain and Sarangani hoped to become police officers.
In his graduation message, Anggay Abdullah, a graduate of Master of Arts in School Administration, appealed to President Duterte to treat the graduates as his children because they looked at the President as a father.
“We voted for you with the thought that we can entrust our future to you, but not to ruin our future, not with this martial law,” Abdullah said.
“On behalf of the graduates and on behalf of the youth sector, we are appealing to the government for the immediate return of our people to Marawi City,” he said. —DIVINA SUSON
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