I walked through the market like I always do on Wednesdays, it was a bright early morning and the scent of the fresh market is in the air. I pass by a few stalls that sell vegetables, chicken, pork and fish and occasionally stop by to buy a few things and proceed to check said thing off my grocery list.
I keep walking through the narrow lane of the market and I pass this little stall table that sells affordable chicken. I’ve checked a few stalls and like always, the price had increased to at least 5 pesos, well one shouldn’t be surprised the economy is going downhill and changes like these is no longer uncommon. It’s starting to become normal to people whose salaries never go higher like the prices of everything that is for sale in the market.
I go to the table and ask the vendor for 2 kilos of chicken the vendor nods at me and smiles.
For some reason he reminds me of Papa I say in my head. As the vendor starts to process my order I try to observe the chicken, I noticed that they were smaller compared to the other chickens and figured that was the reason why they were a bit cheaper but still it doesn’t really matter every single peso I can save I will save no questions asked, one peso could always make a big of a difference.
“Have you heard of what happened at Marawi?” I move my head up from the chickens to the vendor. “What?” I say softly. “Terrorists attacked the place, set the buildings on fire and killed a lot of people. The president just declared Martial Law. “ .“Oh Yes, I’ve heard it on the radio yesterday” I told him as I hand him the payment “It is really scary, no? I can’t help but worry about the safety of my family. What If the terrorists reached us here? Hopefully God will protect us from these Muslim terrorists. T” He hands me the plastic bag of chicken, I say thank you and walk away from the stall with the word echoing in my head Muslim. Muslim. Muslim. That was the moment that triggered the endless thoughts in my head, the moment that created the question in my head “Are Muslims to be blamed for these attacks?” Obviously the answer is no, it’s a big N O.
But what created this mentality in our society that kept on generalizing Muslims as terrorists?
Bundling their religion with these senseless acts of violence is wrong whatever way you look at it.
I finish with my groceries and is now on a jeepney waiting to arrive home.
I hear whispers about the Marawi incident someone said that wars in Mindanao is already normal (which is not normal actually) and some are even talking about the one in Manchester but the message is the same among the whispers, the Muslims are behind it and you can see fear forming among the people, at that exact moment a woman in a hijab gets on the jeepney and the atmosphere changes, the people are simply trying to get as far away from her as possible in this little cramped jeepney space.
The woman doesn’t make it very noticeable but I know and I can feel that she did notice.
The jeepney arrives at my stop and I get off the jeepney.
Before you can reach my house you have to go through this very narrow lane and located at the back of the church.
I walk through the lane just thinking and talking in my head, people are discriminating innocent people for others who kill senselessly in the name of their religion as an excuse. They are being blamed as a whole by the community and they do not deserve that. Even before this Marawi incident, the Muslims have always been discriminated not by all but still a certain amount of people. The discrimination goes as simply as looking at them funny in the streets or in other public places. I even thought that maybe these discriminations are the main cause of the war, but that’s highly unlikely because there are greater reasons to why there is a war and some reasons are still not known.
I reached the end of the narrow lane and see a woman and a child getting screamed at by a man in a blue T-shirt. There were a lot of people surrounding them and as I get closer, I can make out a few words. I hear the man tell the woman to get out of his city because her kind does not belong. I can also here the cries of the woman and the kid but I cannot see their faces due to the people surrounding them, watching. In my head my inner voice is screaming to do something but I know better than to get involved. The same voice kept screaming but the voice of my fear commanded me to walk away while it whispered things like “What if the man had a knife? What If the man had a gun? What if he kills you? What if they hate you too?”
I get in my house and message my friend and begin to tell him everything that had happened. I didn’t even bother putting the groceries in the kitchen I just had to get everything out of my system. I felt guilty for not helping, I felt angry even but I know that it was only the thing I could do. I knew deep inside that I was no hero and I was scared too. My friend laughs at me and tells me that I’m over reacting and over thinking things. “You are no super hero, you were just a passerby doing what a passerby does” he tells me.
Yes, I am no super hero, but what if I actually did do something? What if I said something to that vendor? What if I did something in that jeepney? What If I actually tried to help out the child and the woman?
I probably won’t be pleasing anyone else but myself but I am able to help even just a bit.
I’m gonna be able to help someone I don’t even know. I hang up on him. I wish I could tell you that I ran back out there to help the woman and the child but I didn’t. I just went about my day but of course, that moment changed me.
My life will never be the same again. Next time I’ll do my best to find out what will happen when a passerby cries out when someone is being discriminated, being bullied or if they just really need someone there. Next time, I won’t be just a passerby.
The story is purely fictional and is inspired by my own experiences so if this happens to you or matches anyone you know it’s purely coincidental. Credits to Did you know for the picture I used in the Feature photo,