Marawi City—Three years after the siege, this battle-scarred community and its people are showing signs of recovery.
The city's commercial district has started to come to life as new business establishments open and draw in customers. Residents, armed with hammers and saws, repair their bullet-riddled homes – a look of fierce determination written on their faces.
For first time visitors, this is an indication that a sense of normalcy has finally returned to the area which became the site of one of the most fearsome gun battles in the nation's history. Slowly but surely, the city is rising to its feet.
In evacuation centers across the city, there is a noticeable spring in the step of people and a smile on their faces as they carry out their daily chores. For many of them, the centers have become a safe haven and a place where they are regaining a major part of themselves that was lost during the siege.
Duyog Ramadan, an initiative spearheaded by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in collaboration with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Task Force Bangon Marawi, is helping these evacuees win back their lives.
This multi-agency effort aims to promote social healing and reconciliation among residents affected by the siege. It is also giving victims the opportunity to express their views and apprehensions through "peace conversations" – a process that has been crucial in their recovery.
During a visit to the Bahay Pag-Asa Transitional Shelter here, OPAPP Director Pamela Padilla-Salvan said she was inspired to witness how the people of Marawi have coped with their situation amid the challenges and are now working hard to rebuild their lives.
“On our way here, we saw a lot of sari-sari stores. This is a very good sign that you are slowly but surely regaining your livelihood,” Padilla-Salvan said.
She also emphasized the importance of Ramadan, noting the occasion is an opportunity for the people to renew and further strengthen their faith as Muslims.
“This is the time where you will be able to show understanding, cooperation and compassion towards each other,” she said.
For his part, 103rd Battalion commander Lt. Col. Andres Soriano expressed the AFP’s solidarity with the people of Marawi as they observe the holy month of Ramadan.
Soriano noted the security sector and all the other agencies of government are working together to help uplift the plight of residents by providing them with much-needed assistance.
He, however, said Marawi’s recovery largely depends on the people themselves, emphasizing that the city’s rise should be a holistic effort among everyone in the community.
“We will rise up with respect, responsibility and discipline,” Soriano said.
For evacuee Alex Palawan, life in the shelter has been difficult especially for those like her who do not have any source of income.
“It’s hard not have rice on the table,” said Palawan, who has five children and is also tending to her sick husband.
Before the siege, she was working at a local beauty parlor.
“I’d be very happy to receive any kind help,” Palawan said. “I just want to earn a living and provide for the needs of my family.”