We are Meranaos, People of the Lake, from the root word Ranao or Lake. Our Lake Lanao is dying, if it dies, we will no longer be people of the Lake. In fact, our very identity will not make sense at all. Removing the word Ranao from Meranao does not leave us with just the word “people.” The prefix “me” will only make sense when combined with the word Ranao. This only shows how our identity and our Lake are inseparable. Yet, we are guilty of not taking care of our Lake. I do agree that we Meranaos do not own Lake Lanao. So yes, people from Luzon are absolutely right in pointing that out to us. Neither does it mean she belongs to another people nor an imagined nation, no matter how many provisions (past, present and future) claim it to be so. But, rather it is the Lake who owns us Meranaos. We are her people. We are nothing without her. We will be nameless without her. Ranao will remain ranao without us. But, we will not be Meranos without her. So we belong to her, she does not belong to us.
Let us save Lake Lanao. Unlike the term “Islamic” in the Islamic City of Marawi which we can drop, in fact maybe we should, but we cannot extricate Ranao from ourselves. (The recent spate of killings [again] makes us wonder what is Islamic in our city. Of course, from my distant vantage point, I am equally guilty just like when media are often accused of seeing only the negative things. But I assure you that the posts, comments, frustrations and outbursts of Meranaos in Marawi City on social media network are disheartening and alarming as they are difficult to ignore and force most of us to re-think the label Islamic.) It is like dismembering ourselves. We cannot drop the word Ranao or we become inessential, irrelevant. As much as we fight for other equally important issues, we should also fight for our very essence of being–the Lake Lanao.
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