Stories of hope in Marawi war museum
FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija — In this museum of war, the narratives of bravery, heroism and hope in the quest for peace in war-torn Marawi City in 2017 are immortalized in glass cases.
An array of weapons on display at the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Special Operations Command (Socom) might have led to the deaths of many, but each gun also showed the lengths soldiers had taken to help free Marawi from the Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorists.
Letters that reached the soldiers from family members and even strangers contain messages that helped embolden them while on the front lines to rescue civilians held captive by the terrorists or to fight the enemy.
The memorabilia at Punoh Mohaji Hall, inside the landscaped headquarters at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province, show exactly how peace was won in the 153 days it took to liberate Marawi, said Maj. Sonny Dungca, Socom chief information officer.
They also relayed to people that winning the war was not as easy as some might have assumed, he said.
Map of battle zone
The weapons on exhibit, including explosives, grenade launchers and automatic rifles, are part of over 400 recovered from the terrorists.
Also shown is a map of the battle zone used in the conflict. It bears markings to indicate the positions of both government troops and Maute members.
Drones, also set up at the museum, testify to the technological sophistication used by the terrorists, Dungca noted.
Also on display are photographs of fallen soldiers, as well as newspaper reports about the siege.
Dungca said the letters include those written by Muslim children from Zamboanga, some expressing gratitude for the soldiers’ sacrifices. These were delivered along with so-called “love packs” containing food collected and sent by civil society groups.
As a war museum, the Marawi exhibit stands alongside memorabilia of other battles undertaken by Socom.
“These combat operations were conducted quietly behind the scenes by silent professionals,” Dungca said.
Socom deployed more than 3,000 troopers to Marawi. Maute fighters killed 60 of them, including Scout Rangers and policemen, and wounded about 1,000 others.
The Noble Wounded Warrior Monument made by a Kapampangan artist stands outside the museum. The memorial, put up by Socom Foundation Inc. at the height of Marawi siege, is dedicated to all wounded soldiers and policemen.