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On Marawi: Fight or flight

It started with Manchester.

It could have been a concert you attended.

It was followed by Bangkok.

It could have been a country you traveled to.

In the span of a few hours, terrorism began to feel more personal, just a short plane ride away from our shores. The question of whether things are worth the risk came to mind. After all, places always feel safe until they aren’t.

Then it happened.

Marawi.

Reports started pouring in about how rebel groups conquered the capital of Lanao del Sur and kept the entire city hostage. At least 44 people were slain, and religious leaders say militants used bodies as human shields. Civilians were killed and terrorized, soldiers died defending them, a mosque was burned, and schools were overrun. It didn’t seem real then and still doesn’t now, as these worsened acts of terrorism usually happen through the eyes of others or on our TV screens, and definitely not here, not at home.

“the day we give in to fear is the day terrorism wins.”

But if the attack on Marawi has taught us anything, it’s that in the face of fear, we mustn’t falter.

Right as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) made their way to Marawi, a collective sigh of relief spread throughout the country. But beyond the relief is the unspoken question—what if this happens again?

The fear and anger has traveled its way from the screen right to our doorsteps, and this terror is something not all Filipinos can stomach. In fact, it’s something we either spit out onto something else—or worse and more common, let the fear swallow us whole and perpetually reside in the fact that the world is indeed an irreversible and terrible place. Then and there, terrorism has slowly but surely crept its way into our mindsets—right where terrorists want to be. Through fear and havoc, terrorism has the goal to create a vacuum of power in the space created by fear, and in this void they plan to make themselves at home. And before we know it, the world will have become a terror-filled place. When we start to doubt everything around us because of the fear, terrorists come barging in to our empty spaces and take over everything we know. That is when they have won.

As easy as it is to take a step back from the danger of everything that’s happened, we shouldn’t let the fear of today stop us from moving tomorrow, because when we remain paralyzed and opt out of the battle, we’re slowly handing our freedom over in the palm of terrorism’s hands. Let us mourn in these coming days but after, we must rise up from the shadows and prove that the world still belongs to those who fight—for peace and not for terror.

Attend concerts, travel abroad, be loud, and be free—because the day we give in to fear is the day terrorism wins.

In the end, it will always be worth the risk to keep on fighting for those who never had a choice.

Blue above red, always.