This is the story of how I absentmindedly lost my sling bag in Marawi. I was so scared because it contained my camera, cellphone, and almost all of my cash. What was basically left with me was my backpack full of clothes, my plane tickets, and spare change in my pockets. I felt so grateful that I was with Eric and Sinjin since I knew that I could borrow some money and go home whatever the outcome could have been. Of course, I could not have possibly just brushed aside the fact of losing my stuff … especially my camera.

Going to Marawi

Originally, we thought that our visit to Marawi coincided with the Eid ul-Fitr, or the day marking the end of Ramadan (the month of fasting in the Islam faith). It turns out, we arrived in Marawi on the eve of the Eid ul-Fitr. Traffic in the city was horrible as everyone trooped to the city to buy food and other stuff needed to celebrate the end of their month-long fasting. We took a (toyota highlander) passenger van from Iligan City. The aircon was turned off and we were seated at the back. I remember taking my sling bag off my body just to get a bit of comfort. It was so hot and the traffic / noise was very stressful, I couldn’t wait to get out of our van transport.

The Oh Shit! Moment

The driver dropped us off at the downtown area … a block away from an interesting mosque we spotted earlier. When it was time to take out my camera for my first photo of Marawi, I had the “Oh Shit! moment.” I realized that I had absentmindedly left my sling bag inside the van. I felt a numbing sensation all over my body. In panic, I rushed back to the drop-off point but the chaos of the street had already shrouded any sign of the van.

The Search

Eric and Sinjin accompanied me to the terminal hoping to retrieve my lost bag. We found out that there are two van terminals in Marawi. When we got to the first terminal, we sought the help of the other drivers and the people managing the terminal but they couldn’t readily do so because we couldn’t give them any specific information that could identify the van or the driver. We didn’t take note of the license number … we couldn’t even remember the color of the van or a description of the driver. All we were sure about was that it was a toyota highlander xtreme model. It was the same hopeless case at the second terminal since there were a big number of toyota highlander vans plying the Iligan-Marawi route. I told Eric and Sinjin to go on with the tour of Marawi while I stay put at the second terminal and I continue my search. I felt bad at not only being able to see more of Marawi but also being responsible for wasting Eric and Sinjin’s time. While at the mercy of the willingness of the other drivers to help, I was already thinking about the possibility of not getting my bag immediately and my plan of action. I could ask Eric to lend me some money, while I continue with the trip and use my plane tickets to go back home but I had the stronger urge of staying put in Marawi for a night or two to push my luck. The fact of losing my camera while I still had a lot of trips planned for the next two months was just very very painful.

The honest van driver, “Mufti”, and the return of my bag

Since I had also left my cellphone inside the sling bag. We tried calling my number countless times to no avail. I gave my number to one of the drivers and he offered to call my number too … finally, one call did push through! While I couldn’t understand the conversation since they were taking in their Maranao dialect, I was just so happy that we were able to contact the driver. I was told that the driver had secured my bag and the van was already on its way from Iligan. They told me that the driver’s name was “Mufti,” not his real name but a title that the local community knows him for. Aside from being a part-time driver, he is also a teacher of Arabic and of Islamic law (Sharia). A “mufti’” is the equivalent of a pastor or a deacon in the Christian context. I felt so relieved after hearing this. I felt right then and there that I could trust this person and I would’ve gotten my bag back in my hands before the end of the day. At around 3PM, Mufti arrived in Marawi and returned my bag with all of its contents intact. I gave him a small amount to cover his gas expenses. I wished I could have given him more but I didn’t have a lot of cash at hand.

My ordeal finally ended! I didn’t get to take any photos of Marawi but that was the least of my problems!

Due to the lost time we decided to rent a van to take us back to Iligan. From there, we rode a bus to Mukas Port in Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte and then a ferry going to Ozamiz City.