Officials of the Office of the Presidential Adviser and Peace Process (OPAPP) and local civil society partners dine with evacuees from Marawi city in Maria Cristina Evacuation Center of Iligan city after 27 days of violent conflict resulting to displacement of 266,000 Maranao residents of the city.
“We wanted to be in solidarity with the evacuees and to be in continued conversation with them while we are at this situation,” said Ferdinand Jovita, conflict prevention unit of OPAPP in prior consultative meeting with Maranao leaders and civil society partners.
Regina Antequisa, executive director of Ecoweb Inc. and member of Saving Lives Movement, quoted several evacuees saying, “salamat at nakakain na naman kami ng masarap; nabusog talaga ako; masayang-masaya ang mga bata sa masarap na pagkain; salamat talaga sa tulong ninyo; hindi namin makakalimutan.”
For Antequisa, who have worked with CLEARNet in humanitarian response to address the effects of Marawi Crisis, “these were heartwarming comments heard in our conversation during and after meal. For some, it was their first “dignified” iftar for those who are fasting.”
Instead of using their traditional Maranao kitchen wares if only they are at their normal situation, they sat and huddled together on food served on banana leaves and placed on cement floor instead.
“Nakakasawa na din kasi talaga maám ang sardinas araw-araw. Sumasakit na po ang tiyan ng iba. Pero wala kaming choice. Pero salamat naman sa tulong niyo at may pagkain na po ulit kami na masarap. Tingnan nyo ang mga pinamili namin sa pera na bigay nyo…” Antequisa quoted evacuees.
“They were so happy to show the fruits, fruit salad, the spices, tilapia fish mixed with spices, coconut milk and turmeric, rice (not NFA this time), pancit, vegetables, among others. Everybody seems happy and smiley despite their very difficult situation. They are happy to have delicious meal. Happy faces somehow eases their pain and from the memories of horror they experienced during the Marawi siege,” Antequisa opined.
There were more than 200 families or more than 1,000 IDPs in this dinner-conversation and they were grateful to OPAPP and ECOWEB for the micro-cash assistance which enabled them to buy the food items they liked and served during their iftar and for their meals for the succeeding seven days until Eid’l Fitr.
In the next seven days, the conversation with evacuees will continue to be able to determine too what are the urgent actions and supports that should be done to help displaced communities.
Majority of these evacuees bought the food items from Baloi town to skip the checkpoint and congested traffic at Iligan City market.
One grandmother narrated that they have lost their four-storey house to this current warfare.
“They lost our house, also the jewelries and expensive malong/landap that she gave to her grandchildren who all stayed with her in the house building they are occupying as a clan,” she said.
“They have a very close family ties that all siblings and children contributed in the construction of our 4-storey house slowly so that all of their extended families and their children will be able to live in one roof. But everything is now gone, the grandmother lamented,” Antequisa shared about the conversation.
“Akala po namin, ordinaryong “putukan” lang. Kaya hindi kami agad lumikas. Kinabukasan na. At nakita namin ang mga Isis. Takot na takot po kami. Wala kaming dala dahil akala namin makakabalik kami kaagad. Sino ba naman ang mag-aakala na mangyari ito sa Marawi,” another narration from an IDP, Antequisa shared.
“Sana makabalik na kami. Ang hirap ng buhay namin dito. Sa lugar namin sa may bukid ng Marawi, nakapagtatanim kami dun ng mais, palay, at iba pa,” another shared quote from a grandmother.
Antequisa pointed that “after supper, they again have to turn in sleeping because the center has very limited space (11 families have to share the about 4X6 sq.m area) and the men and boys have to settle outside the matted area.” They were nevertheless grateful for being hosted there.
Antequisa hope that the Maranao strength and culture will still hold the strong and hopeful Maranao IDPs.
The next 7 days conversations will also serve as a listening process to learn more from Maranaos the appropriate approach to resolve the crisis.
This initiative in Maria Cristina Evacuation Center, held on June 18 and to be done daily until Eid al-Fitr which is led by EcoWEB, CLEARNet and SLM, is with the support of OPAPP and Christian Aid. Similar activities are also done in 3 other evacuations centers through the facilitation of other CSOs and SLM. EcoWEB is also facilitating similar process in some home-based groups of IDPs in Kiwalan, Saray and Upper Hinaplanon.
It was done in collaboration with barangay officials and social welfare and development office.