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REMEMBERING: Honoring how great a man Omar Solitario Ali was

mindaviews remembering

He was my first boss. It was in 2001, He was just several months in office as the City Mayor of Marawi. I went to his office and when I had his attention, I made the best sales pitch of my life. 

The rest is history. I was a casual in his office until I became his private secretary. He was a friend of my dad in their younger days, that is probably why I was hired.

They say the years under Mayor Omar Solitario Ali were the great days of Marawi City. Indeed it was. Not many knew that he was an Asian Institute of Management (AIM) graduate where he earned his Masters in Developmental Management. 

One of the famous commanders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Solitario never surrendered to the government because he believed that if he will, the death of his comrades in the battlegrounds would have been in vain. 

When he took up Bachelor of Laws at the Mindanao State University, he was still a well-known commander at that time, his singing of the national anthem as well as recitation of the Panatang Makabayan considered as his pledge of allegiance to the country.

He was a visionary who took calculated risks for the development of Marawi. It was during his time that vital infrastructures were constructed left and right. GMA Terminal, Heaven Road, Rorogagus steel bridge, Padian rehabilitation including the rehab of Tuaka Lapot and Tuaka Bata. Expansion of the road system of the city that met so much disagreements (from owners of) the affected houses. Improvement of the health care delivery. 

I could go on and on. He was able to utilize properly the 20 per cent development fund of the city. He opened up the city by making access roads in different areas and he did that in his two terms as city mayor.

He was a friend of the learned, the ulama, academicians. He was the very first Kuya of the city who brought the Fraternal Order of the Philippine Eagles to Lanao del Sur when he sponsored the charter of the very first ever Eagles Club in the city, Marawi City Eagles Club from the Iligan City Eagles Club where he was a member. 

There were meetings in City Hall where he would randomly ask religious questions such as the meaning of Surah al Fatiha. Meetings were not only a venue to discuss office matters but he would incorporate religious teachings as well.

It was during his time that solid waste management was institutionalized in the city. He took it as his priority program. He invested in heavy equipment so garbage disposal will be religiously made. In fact he was known for his cleanliness and how he made  City Hall as a no smoking ground lalo na ang kanyang opesina. Bawal ang yusi sa office niya. He tried in his six years time to bring Marawi City to an ideal Islamic City. 

In 2004, his son was accidentally killed in one of his campaign sorties but he took the higher ground of forgiveness. He forgave the culprits and even sent them to study in Pakistan.

I could go on and on with my stories about him. He served as my first teacher in governance. It was an honor to have served with him during the glorious days of Marawi City. 

Pakasurgaan ka o Allah Subhanawataala ka miyakapiyapiya ka a datu. Pusaksian nakun so langon a mapiya a myangolaolangka a mapiya ko madakul a tao. (May Allah grant you paradise because you are a good leader. I bear witness of all the good things that you have done to your people)

More stories of Omar Soltario Ali, JD, MDM

He was a just ruler. Never abusive. It was during his time that all Dep Ed teachers had allowance from the city including the best academic performers of Marawi City National High school. All the imams of ALL the mosques in the city had an allowance too. The allowance for barangay health workers started in one Barangay Health Station and all the rest of the BHS soon followed.

He loved books, he loved to write books. He loved being surrounded by alims, ulamas and traditional leaders because he wanted to learn from them. 

He was a nature lover. He loved communing with nature. It was during his time when almost all the employees of the City Hall trekked Munai in Lanao del Norte to Bacolod Kalawi in Lanao del Sur. He loved the mountains so much, he loved trekking mountains.

When I enrolled in the College of Law, I wrote him a letter to allow me to leave at 3 p.m. so I could go to school with the promise of going to office at 7:30 a.m. and no lunch break. I did exactly that for four years because it was a commitment made to him. He even allowed me to take a six-month study leave to take the bar.

How was he as a boss? Dapat quick thinker ka at dapat matalino ka. My fone was open 24 hours a day 7 days a week because he would call in the middle of the night to ask for important communications. 

I learned to sift the grains from the chaff in the multitudes of communications that we have. He monitored the office so the daily communications that we received had to be brought to him and I have learned to determine what was important that he needed to read and what was better left in the office.

He hated cigarette smoke so if you need to take a puff in his presence you have to get out of the building. He loved simple Mranaw food. He did not like to eat in public such as kanduris and the like. Sometimes people found it offensive that they prepared food for him and he would not touch it but bring him camote, saging, cooked cassava and he would eat it with gusto. 

In the office, I was the only one who could prepare his coffee.

Mistake was a no no for him. I learned to read his body language to determine what he wanted and what mood he had. He never abused the authority he had. In fact he would write instructions for his brother Fahad Pre Salic to follow as he was then the market superintendent. The engineering team under Engr. Talib Bayabao at that time had to learn how to make important plans with a click of a finger kasi pag hiningi niya, dapat at a certain time anjan na.

He loved transparency. Dapat ang accounting at ang treasurer laging handa sa mga records nila. He never liked mediocre works kaya yung mga infrastructure na natapos niya up until now yun pa din ang nanjan.

It was during his time that the Paduman street atlas for Marawi was made with the exact street coordinates. Supported by a Sangguniang Panglungsod of the city, various thoroughfares were named after local and Muslim heroes. 

He also institutionalized the receiving of salary through Land Bank of the Philippines. 

There were many government grants and projects during his time because he was willing to give counterpart funds.  

I could write on and on about him. Forgive me for it. It is my way of honoring how great a man he was.

(Norayah Ampang Acas served five years under Mayor Omar Solitario.  She is now Provincial Director of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in North Cotabato. Acas posted this on her FB page to honor Solitario who passed away on April 8, 2022 in a hospital in Cagayan de Oro. MindaNews was granted permission to publish this)

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