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I was already late for school. Tardiness is my favorite habit and I will never get tired of it. I was walking but my mind was too preoccupied with the exam and the clearance requirements. I badly wanted to still be at the top of the class. And I didn't notice my surrounding until I reached the school canteen.
"Hey, you shouldn't be here!", my schoolmate, Jason, was shouting at me.
"Why? Where did everyone go?", I asked.
"The war broke out. Everyone was advised to go home. We won't have exams anymore. All school requirements have been canceled", he replied.
I was worried about my grades. "How are they gonna grade us?", I asked again.
"You worry too much. Hurry, let's go home now or the rebels will catch us!", Jason hastily responded.
My mind started to drift away while we were walking towards the campus gate, trying to recall an incident a few days ago...
Jovelyn, my classmate, texted me, "Are we gonna meet today at 3:00 PM for our Chemistry project?"
"Of course", I sent her a short response. But I didn't show up because I got lazy.
"There are rebels in Linamon exchanging fires against the gov't troops. We are yet to find out if there are casualties and civilians involved. Stay tuned.", ends the radio announcement.
My mind went blank. I was worried about my classmates but good thing they were safe. They were laughing about the shooting because one classmate stepped on the dung while they were running away.
Back to reality.
I was on the street near our house. And just like in the movies where a war is taking place, several army trucks started to arrive. I began counting 1, 2, 3,...I think they were more than a hundred. And then the sky started to get noisy. I never saw a fighter plane before but I am pretty sure it's one of those.
After the army trucks' parade, some amphibians came. I've lost count. The soldiers looked ready and brave. They had ammunition and huge bags.
They were all going towards Lanao del Norte.
I wanted to pinch myself to check if I'm only dreaming but everything's real.
Then I started to see some unfamiliar faces. They looked lost, afraid, and tired...Some were women carrying their crying children, some were elders with their bags and pots, some were men with their household items. Some were lucky enough to find their relatives and sought refuge, some were not.
The nightmare began.
We would sleep with the roaring sound of the bombs. The ground trembles every time it explodes. The war doesn't respect wee time. People were fleeing in the middle of the dark night, afraid of being ransacked inside their homes. Our lights would go out. Everyone's scared. No one was safe.
A few months after, our school resumed its normal operations but it became an evacuation center. I felt sorry for the evacuees because I knew they won't be comfortable, especially with bathing and stuff.
One time we were in civil-military training when I met an evacuee. She sadly told me her story.
"I lost my son. They were commanded to run by the rebels while being shot at. The rebels also took our food and livestock. We were left with nothing. I don't know where to start after all of these."
I was dumbfounded. I felt her grief, her sorrow, and her pain. My heart broke, not only for her but for all the victims of war.
What's the future of a war-torn country? Do we want our children to live in terror? How many mothers have to lose their sons, their daughters? How are we going to handle these terrorists who do not respect life, dignity, and property? Do we resort to peaceful negotiations, how about the sacrifices of our soldiers? Are they gonna be a lost cause?
These were the questions of my 15-year-old self while I was memorizing the 11 General Orders. Then I stood like a candle and looked like a tiger.