The first time I set foot in Iloilo City, I feel that there is a big challenge or game that I need to conquer. Armed with determination, I told myself I have to make it. But I was wrong! There were no threats but smiles from people whose voices seem to sound like lullabies. Classic Ilonggo! I was born and raised in Mindanao. For some, my hometown is synonymous to war and terrorism, but that was where my dreams started. We transferred to Iloilo hoping for a better life. My family owns a small business. This is where we get the money to make both ends meet. At first, we were afraid to compete, we were nothing compared to the business tycoons here. I know this was a test of faith. We struggled but never gave up. One year has passed and we endured the test of time. The support of the local government and the Ilonggos to the Muslim community is overwhelming. We were granted with business permits. They never made us feel alienated. Yes, we were treated like true-blooded Ilonggos! Did I win? Certainly. I won the hearts of the people from the City of Love.

- Paul Japitana

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