ON a sunny, windy Tuesday morning, 60 families, displaced by a brutal siege, officially received the keys to their transitory houses at the Angat Buhay Village, situated in Barangay Sagonsongan in Marawi City.
Vice President Leni Robredo led the turnover ceremony, along with Marawi Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra, Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan president Fr. Roberto Yap, and Metro Stonerich Corp. chief operating officer Eliseo Aurellado, and other partners of the housing project for internally displaced people (IDP).
“It’s heart-rending to hear the stories of the families here, what they had been through. What we want is to help them somehow to relieve their suffering. We have many partners who are always ready to help the residents of Marawi,” said Robredo.
She added: “If we look at the enormity of the problem, these are only small acts of helping out but if everyone will pitch in, the assistance we extend to them becomes bigger.”
Robredo urged the private sector to continue its support for the rebuilding of the war-torn city, particularly in providing livelihood and educational programs.
Each house in the Angat Buhay Village has a floor area of 24×2, kitchen sink, restroom, yards, and a rainwater catchment. The design and construction of the houses were provided pro bono by the United Architects of the Philippines-QC Elliptical Chapter and Metro Stonerich, respectively.
Funding for the construction materials of the houses was sourced from the donations of the “Piso Para sa Laban ni Leni” Program (around P7 million), non-government organizations, and all Jesuit-run Ateneo schools across the country through the Tabang Marawi operations.
The Philippine Toy Library Foundation also put up a toy library and indoor playground for kids, while the Latter-Day Saints Charities built a temporary learning space in the community.
Xavier University’s engagement in this housing project is a continuation of Tabang Marawi, which began almost immediately after the Marawi siege that erupted in May 2017 and has been sustained up to today, even after the fighting ceased in October last year.
For its experience in building Xavier Ecoville, a resettlement community for over 500 families displaced by storm “Sendong” in Cagayan de Oro, the university was tapped as the local implementing partner by the Office of Vice President for this project.
“Our promise in Xavier Ecoville is the same with our promise here in the Angat Buhat village,” said Fr. Yap. “We are not just building houses, we are building a community.”
To integrate social formation and holistic community development, Xavier Ateneo has committed to working with the local government and civil society groups, such as the Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation, in ways appropriate and sensitive to the Maranao culture.
Yap assured that after the turnover of houses, the university’s support will continue. He said, “We are committed to strengthening the community here through social formation. Our promise is to be here with the community until May 2019.”
After the construction of 60 houses, 40 more will be added in the coming months. Donations for the construction of the additional units may be coursed through the Tabang Marawi of Xavier Ateneo.
The Marawi city government secured the site in Sagonsongan for the Angat Buhay Village as well as the light and water connection. The area development activities had been undertaken with funding assistance from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (Armm) and Task Force Bangon Marawi.
The Marawi city government, through its technical working group on Kalambalingan and in coordination with Xavier, identified and screened the beneficiaries of the said village.
Noralyn Bangon, one of the beneficiaries, shared how their family made do after the Marawi siege.
“This is my first time to speak in front of many people, I’m nervous and I don’t know what to say,” Bangon shared in a program following the turnover ceremony.
She continued: “I cried when I learned that I am one of the beneficiaries of this housing project. We came back to zero, everything we owned was gone. All the things we had worked hard for were gone. If it weren’t because of the help and assistance of our relatives, siblings, and friends who were not affected [by the war], we would have nothing.”
More than a year after the Marawi war, Bangon’s family, for now, has a house to come home to.
“I consider this [house] as my mansion now,” she quipped.
Bangon’s story was not far from those of the thousands of families who are still waiting for the national government’s comprehensive rehabilitation on the ground zero of Marawi, which includes the construction of permanent houses for the IDPs.
The Marawi siege was a five-month-long (May-October 2017) urban battle between government forces and the Isis-affiliated Maute Group that displaced more than 600,000 individuals.
Local leaders and residents have acknowledged that rehabilitating Marawi is an immense task that requires massive financial and logistical resources and support to achieve.
As Gandamra said: “Because of the magnitude of the problem here in Marawi, we cannot solve [the challenges] alone. We need the support of the national government, private sector, international agencies, NGOs, and everyone, because a lot more people still need help.” (Stephen Pedroza, XU Communications Office)