MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 30 October) — War raged in this city for 154 days. Days when the exchange of fire between terrorists and our security forces was as relentless as the bombings to flush these criminal elements out of the safe havens they made of homes and holy ground. Days when the city residents had to live in makeshift shelters and evacuation camps, robbed of their homes and livelihoods by the war.
Now the blue, red, yellow and white of the Philippine flag rises again amid the rubble. Not the flag torn and tattered by bullets and dirt, but a brand-new flag unfurled at City Hall today, blue field on top―the color of peace in our sky. This is our new hope after destruction’s reign. It is our new life after the many souls reaped by death in this storied and once-beautiful city.
It took the sacrifice of hundreds of civilians, many of them Moro. The city has paid its tithe in blood. It also cost the lives of 165 soldiers and police personnel, plus those wounded in the field of battle―some grievously―to secure this city and end the threat presented to this city and the rest of the country by the Maute Group and their allies.
There are some things that cannot be estimated in material costs, and lives are among those things. Yet we pay this unaffordably steep price for peace.
We have not even begun to truly mourn our dead, yet we must now begin turning our hands and hearts to rebuilding what was destroyed. Now that there are no more militants in Marawi City, combat is at an end. Our brave soldiers’ and police officers’ jobs here are done, and our work begins. We have shed blood, lost homes and loved ones to this battle for what we pray is the greater good for all our people. May Allah grant our prayers now for peace in which to rebuild, for strength to add to ours as we begin to make whole that which was broken.
Thousands of families will return to the homes that remain habitable. Some 353,000 people were displaced when the battle began in May. The toll is heavy and we must ensure that power and water are restored. Livelihoods and businesses must be restored and we pray for assistance for our people in this regard.
We offer gratitude to the people who helped from day one of the siege: the good people of the government agencies who were the first and lasting responders, the good people of the non-government organizations who came to our aid, private individuals who helped the displaced― including those displaced individuals who, despite their own pressing need, went out of their way to extend their hands during the relief and humanitarian efforts. Know that your help and efforts were worthwhile and much appreciated. The Bangsamoro people are resilient. We have been through worse in the past. We know that we can overcome even this, In Sha Allah.
The smoke of battle has cleared and we look upon what sacrifices we have made for peace with clear eyes. We will hold on to hope. We will put our hands and our minds to work restoring the only Muslim city in the Philippines. As this flag rises, we commit to making this city a thriving, bustling place of peace, prosperity and life again. (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. Amir Mawallil, 29, is the executive director of the Office of Bangsamoro Youth Affairs of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Before heading OBYA, he was the Executive Director of the ARMM’s Bureau of Public Information)