“Marawi City is the Best”

May 23, 2017 – Marawi Siege Day 1

She was riding on a multicab to go home from Padian (market) to Barangay Datu Saber but got trapped within because all exit points from Marawi City proper were locked down by the terrorists.

While the driver of the cab kept looking for a possible exit, they were confronted by one member of the Maute, who, at that time were strolling around the city and has started besieging Marawi.

Sensing she was not Muslim, the Maute member pointed a gun at her and was about to pull the trigger when the driver, a Muslim Meranaw, claimed Yan as his wife saying “Sir huwag niyo siyang barilin, asawa ko ‘yan.” (“Sir, please don’t shoot her, she is my wife.”)

“…Nang mangyari ‘yung nangyari sa Marawi noong May 23 muntik na akong mamatay…tinutukan ako ng baril ng ISIS (Maute)…” (“… I almost died when Marawi siege happened on May 23… a Maute member pointed gun at me…”)

Yan, although surprised with what the driver said, was spared by the Maute rebel. She couldn’t thank the man enough and all that she could say was “…Ya Allah, Lord, kung mamatay man ako ngayon, ikaw na bahala sa akin”

Marawi city occupied by a Muslim majority, is considered by the Meranaws, people of the lake, as the center of their lives, being the capital of Lanao del Sur Province.

When asked what Marawi City means to her, the internally displaced Yan proudly responded “the best”.

“Sabi nga nila, Marumi City pero para sa akin the best ‘yung Marawi kasi…doon ako namulat, nagkaisip, nag-aral, at lahat ng moments nandoon” (they say, it’s a dirty city but for me Marawi is the best because I was born there, grew up there, studied there and all of my memorable moments were spent there) Yan said with a weeping voice.

Yan, not her real name, is a resident of Barangay Datu Saber, Marawi City since time immemorial but is now in struggle after leaving her beloved city days after the outbreak of Marawi siege.

The city, now in rubble, has been a home for the Meranaws, who have now been displaced.   Here, everything was simple and memorable for them. Many of them prayed for their return to their beloved city and with God’s will they did most particularly those residing at the barangays that have already been cleared for occupancy by the authorities.

But there are many IDPs who are still praying for their return, enduring the hardships of being evacuees and of being left with nothing but hope for a homecoming. These are the Meranaws living within what the military calls “ground zero” and those whose houses at Barangay Datu Saber were burnt by the terrorist.

“Sino naman ang hindi maingganyo bumalik doon sa Marawi? Gustong-gusto namin na makabalik talaga kami doon” (Who would not want to return to Marawi? We do really want to return there) Yan emphasized even though her house was among those burnt in Datu Saber.

Yan together with her family is currently residing at Barangay Maria Cristina, Balo-i, Lanao del Norte.

Because she doesn’t have a Disaster Assistance and Family Access Card (DAFAC) due to lack of documents, she has to endure the life of being an evacuee without sustained relief assistance from the government.

Depending only on extra relief goods distributed during relief operations Yan survives each day trying to avoid hunger with her family.

According to her, God must have a better plan for her family despite the hardship they are now experiencing. That has always been her strength and motivation to continue living, hoping and believing in God.

The hopeful Yan also shared that she still feels fortunate because there are people who really come to help them just like the Meranaw woman who gave her 1 box of relief goods upon seeing Yan crying out of frustration for not receiving anything during a particular relief operation    .

The mercy of God for her family continues as her children have generous friends who would contribute Money so Yan’s children could buy some snacks for recess.

On November 18, 2017, Yan was among the Christian IDPs who received cash assistance and was promised with shelter assistance too by the Bishop of Marawi, Most Rev. Edwin De La Pena. On the same day, she, together with 77 others, was given 20 kilos of rice.

Yan may have faltered in her courage at times but her love for her God, and her city, as well as her faith in people, are what brings her the insurmountable hope to keep moving on in life.