OUR MARAWI: The Resilient Maranao

Downtown Marawi City one sunny afternoon circa 2004, before all the devastation due to the fires and the aerial bombings no thanks to the still ongoing skirmishes between government forces and the Maute Group that caused the evacuation of most of the city’s population. MindaNews photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

Passed through Lanao del Sur going to Cotabato and brought back that hometown feeling we have been missing for 48 days and counting.

Lanao is still in a lockdown state as imposed by the security forces. We took the new access road via Saguiaran-Piagapo-Marantao.

I missed the view of the lake and its soothing cool breeze.

I was amused seeing makeshift markets sprouting in many places along the highway. They are probably owned by Marawi traders trying to do business as usual despite sustaining heavy economic losses. It’s what they do best.

I was reminded of stories about my father during his time as Congressman bailing out Maranao traders apprehended somewhere for smuggling in imported goods (tsinelas, sardinas, cigarettes, or garments, etc) or caught sidewalk vending without business permit.

We even say in jest that where there is DVD, there is Maranao.

In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (AMMM),  we coined a byword for our group, BMW (Basta Maranao Wais), which is a tribute, rather than a downgrade, to this character.

This is the resilient and enterprising Maranao. And they are everywhere making a living – before, now, and forever.

The Marawi Siege is the third time Maranaos suffered tremendous economic losses in recent memory.  Marcos’ ruthless Martial rule was the first. The Cocoscam was second. In each of the two, the Maranao was able to rebuild his life.

Secretary Don Loong of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH-ARMM) gave an incisive narrative of this ability. He aptly calls it ‘wealth of capacity,’  referring to his strong belief in the ability of the Maranao to recover from this tragedy.

Gaddi Alawi also has fascinating views about the progressive building blocks character of the Maranao: keep on building, keep on learning.


Why do we have this ability or character?

The closest possible answer could be culture bound. Yet, I would still agree to disagree.

I sometimes wonder if our time-honored close family ties value makes up much of that ability.

For a start, we invest in the education of a relative needing financial support because of our fealty to the family. Also, ‘he might succeed in the future and become somebody and help us, too.’ Never a crab mentality that I know of.

That’s why Marawi is called ‘city of streamers’ because people take pride in a relative’s achievement. In a Maranao family, we rejoice and suffer together.

The Marawi Siege has also shown this unique closeness. Of the 84,000 families validated as IDPs, around 17,000 stay in evacuation centers. The rest are home- based. People tend to take in their relatives to their households to help ease their suffering. This duty is sustained by reciprocal relations between and among Maranao relatives.

When this siege happened on May 23, I had to rush immediately to Marawi and enter the Provincial Capitol.

More than just a duty to carry out our Regional Governor’s directive to assess the situation, it is a call of duty to a relative in need. The Provincial Governor is my first cousin.
Many relatives chose to stay in the Capitol to fight it out with the Maute Group should they attack the compound. I had to suffer with them, just as they suffer with me when I need them.

But this closeness has far-reaching pitfalls in many aspects, too. As Michael Corleone of the Godfather fame said: ‘You don’t take sides with anyone against your own family.’

Abdullah and Omar Maute dragged their family and many of their relatives to their extreme ideology and led many of them to their deaths.

So did Coco Rasuman, of his family, in his psychotic pursuit of riches. His family was value conscious before they plunged into the abyss of their son’s madness.

My son, Mishari Rashid, said something about wrong values that seeped into the Maranao character. That long before these terror groups ripped apart Marawi, our people already took a beating. He was right. But we need to look back a bit to understand why.

Marcos and his henchmen figure prominently in this. His 20-year rule has created a society of privileged few while the rest had to live marginally. The effects of this polarized society have thrived well into the present day.

‘Life in the hood is tough’ so they say in Bronx. Ghetto (slum) life, that is. And ghetto life creates tough, unschooled, and, sometimes unruly, men. Marcos created ghettos not just in Lanao but in all other Muslim areas – Maguindanao, Sulu, Basilan, and TawiTawi.

No government at work then, only fiefdoms lorded over by the privileged few who were Marcos handpicks. They abused and overused their powers with impunity, supported by men in green who maintained the terror in people so that they cowered in fear.

Marcos’ 20 years of Martial Rule in Muslim areas is one of the most repressive regimes ever to rule humanity, whose devastating effects created huge gaps in development which are strongly felt to this day. Property rights were denied, human lives were destroyed, and communities isolated.

It was a Complete marginalization. This has also created social conditions that over the years keep brewing. What we are seeing now is the saturation point – the emergence of radical groups.

The Abu Sayyaf was the first to emerge. The Ground Zero of their recruitment are high poverty incidence areas in Basilan and Sulu. Life is tough in ghettos so what have they to lose anyway?

The ARMM infra development fund in 2009, and previously (ARMM was created in 1991) under the General Appropriations Act was one billion pesos compared to 3.5 billion pesos (on average) allocated to other administrative regions in the country. That 1B has to be distributed among the five provinces comprising the ARMM. Peanuts for ARMM over the years. How much more during Martial Law?

Only during the Aquino administration and the present Duterte administration has the development fund been increased significantly.

Much as we condemn the Maute and other terror groups, we need to understand how they emerged so that hopefully, as they are pounded with relentless bombardment to make sure they are completely neutralized, we are also able to find solutions that will ensure that no such similar group ever emerges again in our midst.

And please, government should make diligent efforts in coming up with better decisions.

Those Muslim-only IDs, Napolcom Resolution, and the two clown policemen sent to Marawi, are as bad ideas as those made during the Martial rule in the 1970s.

Are we turning back time?

God forbid…

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. OUR MARAWI is open to anyone who wishes to share his/her thoughts on what is happening in Marawi City, the country’s lone Islamic City. Haroun Alrashid Alonto Lucman, Jr. is the Regional Vice Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Regional Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Lucman posted this on his Facebook wall on 09 July 2017. MindaNews sought and was granted permission to publish this piece.)