‘When ISIS came here, they approached me, but I didn’t give them the assurances that I will join them straight away’
ISIS said that if they got what they wanted, there would be peace. If they were given power, there would be peace. If they would lead us and control the government, there would be peace.
We’ve grown up in a conflict area in Mindanao, and many of the people here are tired of war.
I am a farmer in Lanao del Sur. When I was younger I only finished elementary schooling because my family couldn’t afford for me to keep attending and we had financial problems. Everyone knows that you can’t get a good job if you don’t finish school.
In farming, sometimes we earn, and sometimes we don’t. When disaster strikes, our crops die and with it our livelihood. ISIS offered us money, and we joined them with the belief that our lives would become comfortable.
‘We soon realized that we had joined a war’
We went to Marawi, and I was there during the climax of the siege. It’s sad to think of those buildings destroyed. It was never in our minds to destroy the city. During the shootings, anyone would be afraid. I thought, I won’t get anything from this, just death. I had my mother and family living in Marawi. My relatives were calling me and asking, why did you do this? Why did you join this kind of life? Our relatives told us to surrender, because they will be the ones to suffer. Parents, siblings, and relatives are really important.
‘After one month, I surrendered’
I was afraid once I left ISIS. We asked for amnesty, and initially the government made a lot of promises. We told them what we wanted – help and better economic opportunities - but until now, they haven’t fulfilled those wishes. How can we change our lives without capital?
We are really poor. If we had money, we wouldn’t be asking for help. If you have money, you won’t do anything bad.