The sound of war is heard in this lakeside town 27 kms from Marawi

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BACOLOD KALAWI, Lanao del Sur  (MindaNews / 28 July) — Residents of this lakeside town 27 kilometers west of Marawi may have been spared the horrors of destruction wrought by the still ongoing clashes between government forces and the Maute Group but they have not been spared the impact of the war in the country’s lone Islamic City: loss of livelihood for those who live here but work there; limited movement of goods and people; additional 725 families who sought refuge in this “severely poor” town; and the agony of being jolted each time a bomb drops from the sky in Marawi.

View of Lake Lanao from the Grand Mosque of Bacolod Kalawi (formerly Bacolod Grande) in Lanao del Sur on Friday morning, 28 July 2017 Hundreds of families from Marawi City fled to this town at the onset of the Marawi Crisis in May, expecting to stay only for a few days. The Marawi Crisis entered Day 67 on Friday. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

“Araw-araw, gabi-gabi” (every day, every night), they would hear the sound of explosions from the series of air strikes raining down on Marawi and feel the impact on their houses and structures, including their mosques.

“Naga-vibrate” (we could feel the structures vibrate), residents and evacuees MindaNews spoke with outside the Kalawi Mosque and the Grand Mosque before the 12 noon sambayang on Friday, said.

Hizam Dipatuan Pukunum, chair of Barangay Sugod, said his village is hosting 50 families from Marawi.

As of 2 p.m. on July 26, the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Report No. 75 on the armed conflict in Marawi shows Bacolod Kalawi is hosting a total of 725 families (3,220 persons) who evacuated from Marawi.

Bacolod Kalawi’s estimated population as of 2015, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is 20,841.

Residents leave their shoes and sandals before entering the Kalawi Mosque in Bacolod-Kalawi in Lanao del Sur, Friday, July 28, 2017. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

A 2012 Small Area Estimates of Poverty by the PSA showed Bacolod Kalawi was classified as among “severely poor” towns, whose poverty incidence rate was 84.8 per cent, the highest nationwide.

Nationwide, the province of Lanao del Sur has the highest poverty incidence rate at 70.2 per cent, according to the 2015 first semester poverty incidence report of the PSA.

Hundreds of Muslims gathered at the lakeside mosques here — Kalawi and Grand Mosque — for the 12 noon sambayang on Friday, a number of them evacuees from Marawi City.

“Temporary”

Cousins Shaina Tomawis, 15, and Amina Ambolodto, 14, of Barangay Lancaf in Marawi were looking forward to another schoolyear at the ISISF — Shaina in Grade 9 and Amina in Grade 8 — in June.

“Hindi ito yung ISIS ha,” (This is not the ISIS), the cousins and their uncles said, laughing.

ISISF is not a school run by the men in black who disrupted their Tuesday afternoon routine on May 23 — and eventually their lives — but the Ibn Siena Integrated School Foundation, a private school.

Shaina Tomawis of Marawi City is presently enrolled at a high school in Bacolod-Kalawi town in Lanao del Sur, some 27 kilometers away from Marawi. She misses her home and school in Marawi City. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

The cousins are now studying in a public school in Bacolod Kalawi, both of them saying their schooling there is “temporary.”

How temporary is “temporary,” the two teeners replied,  “pag natapos na gyera sa Marawi” (when the war is over in Marawi).

When that war will be over, no one can say. The Marawi Crisis entered Day 67 on Friday.

Stopping school

Melvin Masaranga, 59, a security guard at the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City fled Marawi with his four children and 16 other relatives in a multicab vehicle, thinking they would stay only for a couple of days here.

He told MindaNews his 16-year old daughter Liddy, who would have been in Grade 7 this schoolyear, and son Manman, 19, who would have been in first year college, are still waiting if they could return to Marawi and resume school there.

The Grand Mosque in Bacolod-Kalawi town in Lanao del Sur on 28 July 2017, before the 12 noon sambayang. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

The first semester of MSU’s main campus is supposed to start on August 7 but Dr. Alma Berowa, Vice President for Academic Affairs of the MSU System, told MindaNews early this week that they are still awaiting clearance from the military. The start of classes will depend on the military’s go signal.

The schedule of enrolment — July 31 to August 4 — will proceed as scheduled online or at the enrolment centers in the MSU main campus in Marawi or the MSU College of Medicine in Iligan City. But the start of classes will depend on the military’s clearance.

MindaNews noticed Masaranga sitting on a bench under the shade of a tree at the lakeshore fronting the Grand Mosque in Bacolod Kalawi, deep in thought.

Nearby, children were diving into the lake from a bamboo raft, women were doing their laundry. Occasionally, a pumpboat would pass, en route to another lakeside town.

Four times

Rasmia Ibrahim, 26, was among those washing clothes at the lakeshore a few meters from where Masaranga was.

She fled their village in Marawi with her two children aged 7 and 5,  on May 24, Day 2 of the Marawi Crisis.

Her husband,  Alan Pangandaman, 32, stayed for a few more days.

Evacuee families from Marawi City wash their laundry in the Bacolod-Kalawai side of Lake Lanao on Friday, 28 July 2017

Like most evacuees, Pangandaman, a carpenter, had expected the fighting would be over in three days. or a maximum of one week.

Rasmia said she brought clothes good only for three days. She hopes they would be given “gamit sa bahay” (basic household needs) like mats. In the last two months, she received relief goods four times from the DSWD.

Johnny Macapeel, 54, a customer service assistant at the Marawi City Water District, has been without work since May 23, Day 1 of the Marawi Crisis.

Wala nang customers” (There are no more customers), Macapeel said. The customers have fled Marawi.

Johnny Macapeel, Customer Service Assistant at the Marawi City Water District has been out of work since the start of the Marawi Crisis on May 23. “Wala nang customers” (There are no more customers), he said. MindaNews photo by GG Bueno

He now keeps himself busy fishing, and takes pride in showing MindaNews the “katulong” fish that he caught.

The DSWD Report No. 75 said the validated list of evacuees is now down to 359, 680 persons from an initial listing of over 500,000. The validated list of “based on the Disaster Assistance Family Access Cards (DAFAC).”

Of this number, 36,016 families or 163,718 internally displaced persons (IDPs; also known as evacuees or ‘bakwits’) are in Lanao del Sur and 33,343 families or 154,495 individuals are in Lanao del Norte.

Iligan City in Lanao del Norte, Marawi’s neighboring city, is hosting the most number of evacuees at 19,939 families or 92,617 persons.

MindaNews traveled from Marawi to Madamba on Friday, passing through Marantao, Balindong, Tugaya, Bacolod Kalawi and Madalum, to check on the impact of the war in neighboring towns.

In Marantao, some houses and stores remain closed but the farther from Marawi, life goes on in the lakeside towns, the sound of bombs dropping from the sky a constant reminder that the war in Marawi is still going on. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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