OUR MARAWI: The most important rehabilitation is that of our identity as Meranaws

(Retired Literature Professor Dalomabi Lao Bula delivered this message at the forum on ‘Revisiting Marawi through the lens of Interfaith Dialogue and Multiculturalism’ on 19 May 2018 at the Ateneo de Davao University. The forum was organized by Konsyensya Dabaw and VSO and hosted by ADDU)  

First of all, I want to narrate interfaith dialogues and multisectoralism conections and initiatives in Marawi during the siege up to the present time.

The Prelature of Marawi, under Bro. Rey Barnido did a very excellent and sincere job in helping the Meranaws. Through his Duyog Marawi, he empowered young Meranaws to be of service to their own people. They distributed relief goods and became the mouthpiece of the Meranaws.

Duyog Marawi provided capability building programs. They have a publication / newsletter which shows what is happening in Marawi City. The Duyog Marawi also did not only facilitate but funded a lobbying of CSO and IDP reps in Manila and several interfaith dialogues and multisectoral consultations on the Marawi siege.

Just last May 13, the Duyog Marawi launched the Duyog Ramadhan to accompany the Meranaws in their spiritual recovery. The Prelature of Marawi through Brother Rey did a lot for the Meranaws. I cannot capture in words what would fittingly describe all of these. We, Meranaws, are very thankful to the Prelature. Nakasandal kami sa inyo when we needed help very badly and up to now.

The interfaith dialogues and multisectoralism are very crucial in the recovery and rehabilitation of Marawi. First, Muslims and non-Muslims/Christians have the same core religious values. They both love peace, solidarity, development and security among others. These are manifestations that we can work together in our similarities, and respect and acknowledge our differences, thus we are able to live harmoniously together. I was not able to hold my tears from falling when I read on Facebook the visitation of three bishops in the devastated church in Marawi, when they said they will not construct the Church unless the Meranaws are back in their houses, and that they are rehabilitated. What a manifestation of concern and respect of us and our religion!

Accept my wholehearted appreciation. I mean it.

Second, the Church and the mosques are the initiatives that are non-partisan, they speak for the good and welfare of everybody regardless of religion, everywhere in the world. The Church has radio stations, printing facilities, access to TV and have strong influence on their believers. We Meranaws do not have those facilities, thus we are unheard and most of the time misunderstood. This time we cannot lean on to our own LGUs. They are blinded and dumbed by martial law. They do not speak for fear of losing their positions. They are crippled by the fear of being accused of narco politicians. They, the LGUs this time, are not concerned of their people. They are protecting only themselves and their immediate family. They said they were not consulted by the government on the air strikes that devastated Marawi, the proposed recovery and rehabilitation plan, the construction of a new military camp, and the help coming from outside donors.

More than 200 mosques inside Ground Zero ay dumapa or pinadapa ng Marawi Siege. Congregational prayers are stopped in Ground Zero. The residents are now praying at home, meaning they have no safe venue to gather together and discuss their plight.  The churches are everywhere, standing erect. Please help us make the people of the Philippines, especially Davaoenos and Mindanawons, and most importantly,  the President, understand.

Mr. President, with your sympathy and kind heart, we beg for:

1. the conduct of a transparent and acceptable post-conflict damage assessment of private properties caused by the deliberate and excessive bombing;

  1. the immediate passage of the reparation/compensation bill of Congress endorsed by the President as an urgent Bill. The Bill will be a manifestation of the government’s sincerity in rebuilding Marawi City.
  2. a Comprehensive Recovery and Rehabilitation Plan (CRRP) for MAA/Ground Zero that is culturally and religiously sensitive. A CRRP which clearly identifies the spaces where public facilities and utilities will be constructed so that the IDPs (internally displaced persons) are assured of the protection of their lots/lands;
  3. preservation of Kapantaran (Hill) as a historical site and developing this into an icon Peace Plaza / Park for the Meranaws and tourists instead of converting this to a new military camp. The 400-M peso budget for the camp be instead used for the rehabilitation of the MAA/Ground Zero;
  4. immediate and speedy clearing of debris; and
  5. concrete government policies for the provision of humanitarian assistance and livelihood programs for IDPs until the completion of the rehabilitation program for MAA / Ground Zero.

In addition, I want to let you know that we are hurting and we feel cheated and betrayed by the government for its insensitivities.

1st. the TFBM clearly stated that it will not reconstruct privately-owned properties. The government is giving all the attention to the military and police.

2nd. They have promotions, salary increases, pabahay, projects, scholarship for their children, hospitalization aid and many more incentives. Bakit nauna pa yung groundbreaking ng pabahay sa military and police between Marawi and Iligan, and the new military camp Ground Zero. Marawi rehabilitation has not started yet. Isang taon na.

3rd. We all know that there are two major actors in the Marawi Siege, the ISIS / Maute Group and the military. The civilians are the victims. Now, the President made it known recently that he will send the ISIS surrenderees to Malaysia for a livelihood training and when they come back they will be provided with equipment for their livelihood. Ya Allah! What an irony! The IDPs from Ground Zero had been forgotten for a year already, they have nothing, and the people who devastated their lives are the first to enjoy big-time livelihood program!.

4th. Wounded military men and their families were visited. However, on the several trips of the President, I have not heard of a Meranaw IDP family visited by him. We seem not to exist. Most probably because he believes that the Meranaws let the ISIS / Maute Group get into Marawi. But may I ask you? Who controls the airports, the seaports, the highways, and the intelligence machinery? Definitely, not the Meranaws! Before the Siege, the government already knew the ISIS were in because of the Butig and Piagapo attacks. Why put the blame on us? The government did not do its job to protect us.

The rehabilitation program is not only on the infrastructure and facilities. The most important rehabilitation is that of our identity as Meranaws. We lost our identity in one year’s time, and we pray to Allah to give it back through the help of His other creation, like you, and all the others, most especially the religious groups. We are again experiencing the historical injustices inflicted on us by the colonizers through the system of government given to us. We Filipinos lived harmoniously before their coming, under the leadership of indigenous Datus and the Muslim Sultans.

The lake / ranaw, is our identity. It is our language and name, Meranaw, the people of the lake. If we will be separated from the lake, we will no longer be called Meranaws. Most of our mosques are constructed along the lakeshore and the Agus riverbank because of our need for water for ablution for the five times a day prayers. This is how important the lake is to us Meranaws.

From now on until 2022 the soonest, since the government does not have plan for the rehabilitation of the civilians, saan kami pupulutin? Many, most probably, will go to Christian places for livelihood and education of their children. Can we construct as many mosques in non-Muslim places? Can we be called Meranaws without the lake? What happens to our extended family, we cannot live without relatives because they are our allies in peace and war, in bounty and nothingness. What happens to those with two to four families because of the religiously-sanctioned polygyny practice? We will be experiencing again and again discrimination, exploitation, prejudices, and oppression in places outside Marawi.

Where can our children get their Islamic and Arabic education? Are there Madrasah schools in Christian places? What will happen to our senses? How can it remain Islamized when what is mostly eaten, seen, touched, felt and heard in non-Muslim places are un-Islamic. Our religious beliefs are at stake.

The recovery and rehabilitation program needed by the Meranaws is not only infrastructure but the totality of our being, our identity.

Brothers and sisters, how far will you walk with us now that there are no LGUs to lean on? The lack of leadership because of the unorganized Meranaws, the mosques need to be constructed, the indifferent media.

Please help us. .. let the other side of our story be heard. The real story.

Through your initiatives, we, too, are doing our best to be heard … We cannot do it alone because “no man is an island” but a part of the main.

Thank you for this sharing. Thank you, Konsyensya Dabaw, VSO and Ateneo for bringing us here.