MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 14 August) — Given the still ongoing war between government forces and the Maute Group in the downtown area, students of the Mindanao State University’s (MSU) main campus five kilometers away were aware, before coming back here, that they would be facing security issues when the first semester finally begins on August 22. What they were not prepared for, however, is the rise in prices of food, dorm and transport.
Before the war started on May 23, the cost of public transport from Iligan to Marawi was only 50 to 70 pesos. Today it is 100 to150 pesos.
In this campus of rolling hills with a view of Lake Lanao, downtown Marawi and the ‘Sleeping Lady’ mountain, students pay only 40 pesos to get enroled: 20 pesos for insurance and 20 pesos for the campus publication.
Students interviewed by MindaNews on Friday, the last day of enrolment, said their “baon” (allowance) before the war was 500 pesos a week. On their return here, they found out 500 may no longer be enough.
A tricycle ride before the war was only 10 pesos. Now the fare ranges from 20 to 50 pesos, depending on the distance, and the time of day, they said.
There are fewer tricycles plying the route now as quite a number of tricycle drivers and operators are now evacuees (bakwits or internally displaced persons) in neighboring towns and cities.
An alternative would be to walk instead of ride the tricycle, as professors here who graduated from the same campus, said they did before.
The students’ favorite and affordable meal — pater — is no longer as affordable as it was before the war.
Pater is a Maranaw meal of rice with small chunks of either fish, chicken or beef, wrapped usually in a banana leaf and best eaten by hand.
Sorya Satar, 21, of Bacolod Kalawi town in Lanao del Sur, some 27 kilometers away, said pater before the war cost only 20 pesos. “Ngayon, 30 pesos na” (Now it’s 30 pesos). Other students said some pater are sold for 35 pesos.
Omairah Macapodi, who works at the Department of Student Affairs, noted that the ten-peso vegetable meal is still ten pesos “pero maliit na ang serving” (but the serving portion is now small). The tinolang manok that used to sell for 25 pesos before the war now sells for P50.
Because the public market is within the main battle area, food supply is sourced from Iligan City, some 40 kilometers away.
Abdulhamid M.Yusoph, 19 of Ditsaan Ramain in Lanao del Sur, Mohammad Raif Bangcola, 19 of Madalum also in the same province, and Yasser Tabao, 20, of Butig, Lanao del Sur, were also complaining of the rise in prices and how their daily allowances will not be enough. “Krisis na lahat,” they said.
Aside from food and transport, accommodation is also a problem as a number of boarding houses are still closed, their owners among those who fled Marawi.
Accommodation rates have also risen. A bedspace in a room for six at a three-floor cottage, according to Honeybee Dulpina, a 20-year student who is finishing her thesis for a BS Environmental Science degree, is now PhP 700 a month, from PhP 650 before the war.
Dulpina is from San Isidro town in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte.
Where to stay
MindaNews met Dulpina with fellow Siargao Island students Genevie Sumaylo, 19 and Jezsiel Luego, 19, outside the College of Information and Technology on Friday.
Like Dulpina, Sumaylo, from Pilar town, is also completing her thesis for AB Sociology. Her boarding house, which was collecting PhP 650 a month before the war, has yet to open, so she is presently staying with Dulpina.
Both Dulpina and Sumaylo were still trying to complete their registration on Friday noon.
“Karon among dilemma, di ka enrol ug thesis kay wala man ka defend sa proposal,” Dulpina said.
The two were supposed to have defended their thesis proposal afternoon of May 23 before going home to Siargao but no defense happened because the war broke out that afternoon.
MSU President Dr. Habib Macaayong told MindaNews there is special consideration for cases like these. He said the two “should see the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. If not resolved, let them see me.”
On Monday, Dulpina and Sumaylo said they had gotten in touch with their advisers and are scheduling their defense so they can enrol.
Dulpina, Sumaylo and Luego stayed for two nights inside the campus when the war broke out before they were moved to Iligan City with the assistance of the school administration.
Sumaylo said the boarding house will reopen before classes begin but she is not sure if there will be an increase in rent.
Luego, 19, an incoming senior in AB Political Science from Dapa town who paid PhP 450 a month for bedspace in her boarding house before the war, is experiencing the same problem as Sumaylo’s: her boarding house has yet to open.
Luego said her Maranaw classmates allowed her to hitch a ride from Iligan City to the campus and her Maranaw teacher at the Pol Sci department, allowed her to stay in their house within the campus in the meantime.
Bangcola and Tabao said their boarding houses were still close.
“Takot pero kailangan”
Students interviewed by MindaNews shared the same problem: their parents did not want them to return to campus, not while the war is raging.
Japar Sohaya, 21, Bacolod Kalawi, and her townmate Sorya Satar, 21, admit they are “takot pero kailangan” (afraid but it’s necessary). Both are incoming senior students in AB Islamic Studies.
Magad Norbaisah, 20, an incoming senior in BSBA Management, and Hayanie Tomadung, an incoming senior in Education, both from Balo-i in Lanao del Norte also said their parents did not want them to return to the Marawi campus because of the ongoing war.
Both said they have no choice because they are graduating students and while there is an MSU branch in Iligan City, they prefer to finish the course in Marawi.
The parents of the Siargao students have repeatedly told them to stop school because of the war.
Like Sohaya, Satar, Norbaisah and Tomadung, they explained that as graduating students, “wala kaming choice” (we have no choice).
Sumaylo said her father had set a condition for her to stay in Iligan instead of Marawi. But when she got back to Marawi last week, her father repeatedly phoned her to return home, even if it meant she would miss one year in school.
She said her father’s plea may have been so because by coincidence, whenever her father calls, that would be the time of air strikes and explosions could be heard on the phone.
Luego said her mother had refused to call her since she insisted on returning to Marawi.
Francis Edward Emborgo, 19 of Wao in Lanao del Sur, an incoming sophomore in BS Marketing said that like Genevie, Honeybee nad Jezsiel, his parents also did not want him to return to Marawi but to transfer to Iligan.
Ronald Silvosa, Information Technology Officer and head of Information Systems Department of College of Information and Technology told MindaNews that as of 5 p.m. Friday, they had a total of 8,697 enrolees, 7,523 of whom have confirmed their enrolment.
Macaayong said he is “happy” the students are returning. He said security arrangements have been made by both the military and the university’s security sector.
“It was really scary”
MindaNews chanced upon Rehlanjoe Ogapay of Molave , Zamboanga del Sur and his friends stopping by the golf course near the university library on Friday noon, to watch the air strike pounding on the main battle area downtown, some five kilometers away.
Ogapay, also a graduating student in BS Ed Physics, enroled against his parents’ wish.
The eldest among five siblings, Ogapay stopped school when he was in 4th year here in 2010, to work and send his four siblings to school. He worked in a call center in Cebu and was already a supervisor when he decided to return to MSU Marawi in January this year to finish his course.
He said his four younger siblings have obtained their diplomas from this university within the seven years he was working in Cebu. He was the only one among them without a degree and it was time, he said, to pursue his dream.
Ogapay said the graduation photographs of his siblings are displayed on a wall of thier house. “I also want to see my picture there,” he added.
He spoke of the night of terror on May 23. “I was here when the war started,” he narrated. Ogapay took summer classes after completing the second semester.
They were stranded for two nights inside the campus before they evacuated to Iligan.
“We’re used to this,” Ogapay said, referring to the sound of gunshots in the years he has spent here. “Sanay na kami, Parang normal na” (We’re used to it; it’s like normal).
But not May 23. “It was really scary,” he recalled.
“With that one,” pointing to the direction of the airstrike, “first time.”
Like most residents of Marawi, Ogapay did not expect the firefight to last beyond three days.
“I thought three days lang,” Ogapay said.
The war entered Day 84 on Monday, August 14.
A number of Ogapahy’s friends are not coming back. “Akong mga friends, off sem. Dili mutugot ilang parents” (My friends are off sem. Their parents did not allow them to enrol this semester). (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)