A GIRL FROM MARAWI: Remembering Ramadan and the Maranaos

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By Samira Gutoc

In commemoration of Eid, the end of Ramadan, I celebrate two people who died during Ramadan.

One, Papa Candidato , the Maranao barrio boy who turned diplomat, finishing at Massachusetts Tufts School of Law and Diplomacy. He served more than 30 years and aided thousands if not a million of migrant workers in the Middle East

Two, I honor Aunt Racma Ali Balt of Marawi, also a foreign service officer and maybe the 1st Muslim woman Accountant with a law degree.

The two are some of many Muslim Filipinos whose lives we remember during Eid for they helped others in crisis.

Back home in Marawi, it has been more than a thousand days since the Marawi Siege, the biggest destruction in the country since World War 2, and our beloved city’s center still lay in ruins; our people still unable to go home and move on from this nightmare.

Nawasak ang aming Divisoria, Luneta, sentro ng pananampalataya, kung saan kami nagkakaisa… Nagkawatak-watak ang mga pamilya… Today, civil society honors the dead by putting a marker on unnamed civilians at the Macbara cemetery.

Again, we ask the elected Senate, House, and administration to honor the Bangsamoro people and the Bangsamoro Organic Law by prioritizing the rehabilitation of Marawi City. The people of Marawi need a sign that they are a part of this country and the Bangsamoro people.

Noong pumunta sina Senators Go, de la Rosa, Marcos, Tolentino, and Zubiri sa Iligan City nitong nakaraang Pebrero 2020, nangako sila na isusulong nila sa ating Presidente ang hinaing ng mga taga-Marawi. Kailangang-kailangan na po nilang makabalik sa kanilang mga tahanan, maitaguyod ng maayos ang pamilya at maibangon ang kanilang mga dignidad.

Naiintindihan naman namin na may pandemic na hinaharap ang bansa ngunit ang mga bakwit rin ay isa sa mga pinakananganganib na mga sector ng lipunan na maging biktima ng sakit na ito. Pero sana naman ay hindi nila kami makalimutan, pag natapos na ang ECQ. Sana’y wag biglang mawala ang atensyon nila sa mga pangangailangan namin, umalis man ang mga ahensya nila tulad ng DSWD.

I remind the government again that the international humanitarian law’s Rule 132 that states, “Displaced persons have a right to voluntary return in safety to their homes or places of habitual residence as soon as the reasons for their displacement cease to exist.”

The city may have been liberated from the forces of terror on Oct. 17, 2017, but until now, thousands of residents cannot go home and are still “bakwits,” with little to no access to decent and efficient basic social services.

To compound our woes, the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) has said that at least 30,732 evacuees have manifested mental disorders as of Aug. 1, 2018. Who knows what that number is now.

I fear this will only get worse as the rehab efforts drag on. The inefficiencies dragging down Task Force Bangon Marawi has caused so many of our people to despair. Even with over 17 billion pesos allocated for the rehabilitation of Marawi City in 2018 and 2019, we are left to ask, where did the money go, as we do not see any sign of it, in terms of infrastructure or services. The President’s term has only two years left, will this be his legacy, a pile of rubble that used to be Marawi City?

I appeal to President Duterte to help the people of Marawi to start rebuilding their lives. If they continue to languish in temporary shelters, the damage to their minds and hearts may become permanent.

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