On Meranaw, Mindanawon Writing

Nonfiction by | December 25, 2016

Bismillah. Assalaamu ‘alaykum.

My name is Diandra-Ditma Macarambon. I am a Mindanawon. I write. Or, at least, I try to. And, that makes me a Mindanawon writer. But, really, what is the Mindanawon writer? Or who is the Mindanawon writer?

I was raised in the Islamic City of Marawi; I spent most of my adult years there as well. Marawi is a place distinct from any other place. It’s very different from its nearest neighbor, Iligan City. I remember my father saying that, from any other city in the Philippines, when one reaches Marawi, it is as though one has reached a different country or even a different planet, he joked. Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I know that he was right. Marawi is a special place and it has definitely shaped me into the person that I am today.

Marawi, obviously, is part of Muslim Mindanao (or the part of Mindanao whose population is generally Muslim) and this fact has really influenced me in so many ways. Of course, we all know that one embodies the culture in which s/he is raised. I am no different. I am not just a Mindanawon, I am not just a Muslim Filipino, I am a Meranaw. And, my being a Meranaw differentiates me from others. Not in a special or superior way, no, but in terms of traditions and practices. I belong to a family that sticks to and honors the traditional ways of the Meranaw. In everything that I do, I am this way. And, of course, even in writing, I am a Meranaw.

Now, being a Meranaw writer and accepting that I, we, as Meranaws, are different from others, does that mean that I write differently, too? Are my works limited to the Meranaw experience? But, then, a question comes to mind, is the Meranaw experience really that unique? Say, compared to the Mindanawon experience as a whole?
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The Right Choice

Fiction by | May 20, 2013

I opened my eyes as I heard the distant crowing of the earliest roosters. It was still dark. I wasn’t sure if I had actually slept, but I got out of bed and stretched. My feet, seeming to have a mind of their own, carried me to the window which I opened to a gust of wind. I breathed in the scent of peace and quiet. It felt like Ramadhan, the peace and quiet. I continued looking into the dark, seeing nothing. I shivered in the cold. I could feel it coming from within my own body. I stood waiting for any sign of the first activities of the day, but it was too early. I decided to go out to the kitchen and pour myself a cup of coffee before the house stirred. I sipped on my coffee, realizing for the first time, after many years of coffee-drinking, how bad coffee tasted.

I went out to the familiar living room that had been witness to many unforgettable moments. My first big accident, when, running around with my little sister, I hit my head on the sharp corner of the marble-topped table. I’d never seen my parents as anxious and worried as they were at that time. My brothers were in complete shock and my sister in tears as they saw all that blood oozing from my cracked-open head. I felt everyone wanting to trade places with me as each knew how this would upset and anger my father. I was eight years old and I was my father’s favorite.

We were also seated in the same area when we, as one family, talked about and planned my eldest brother’s wedding. And my second brother’s. It was also in this place that my sister and I comforted each other as the news of our father’s untimely death came to shatter the strong wall that we all were leaning on all those years. Before that, we thought we were invincible. We thought we were untouchable. Yes, death has such a cruel way of making one realize that no one is really safe. My father was sure he would live until the age of ninety-eight. He would have done everything by then, he told me. He wanted to make a difference. But he died thirty-five years earlier. And this living room ceased to be a living room.

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The Power of A Smile

Nonfiction by | March 24, 2013

I was going round and round Iligan City on endless errands and I was dead tired. I was already oblivious to my surroundings, and even to the repugnant smell of the market place I normally complained about. All I wanted at that time was to go home and rest. The jeepney I was riding in was caught in traffic when this beggar hopped on board. He wiped our shoes with a dirty piece of rag. Afterwards, he waited for someone to spare him some coins, or leftover food, or anything that would be freely given. Nobody moved. Nobody even looked at him directly. I only peered at him from the corner of my eyes. I have this self-imposed rule of never giving money to beggars. I gave them food if I had some, but I carried nothing that day. The beggar waited for a long while then went away disgruntled.

This scenario was not new to me. I had seen this repeated many times. When I lived in Metro Manila for almost six years, I experienced worse episodes than this. The beggars in the street of the metropolis made me feel either disillusioned with the rampant poverty in the country, or ashamed that I could not do more for those who needed help. In both cases though, I always felt thankful that I was not the one begging for alms on the streets.

However, this particular mendicant here in Iligan brought back memories of a chance encounter with an altogether different sort of street urchin.

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