By Carolyn O. Arguillas
of Mindanews .
MARAWI City — Using trowels on Tuesday and a spade on Wednesday, Hadji Said, his wife Hadji Saidah Macaronsing and son Jabar, worked on the debris at what used to be the entrance to their hardware on Dangcal Street in Padian, searching for nothing in particular but whatever item they can find that they can sell to the city’s fast-rising business enterprise: junk shops.
“Nothing’s left,” Jabar said of the estimated P3 million worth of stocks before the fightings broke out on May 23, 2017. Last week, they unearthed a burnt Goulds water pump that would have sold for P20,000 if brand new, but would now fetch only P80 at the junk shop at P8 per kilo, according to Jabar.
They also retrieved two water tanks worth P15,000 and P11,000 if brand new, that he estimates would be worth only around P150 at most at the junk shop.
Other storeowners — or more accurately, former storeowners in what used to be the city’s commercial district — said the price of junk has gone down to P7 per kilo, citing the law on supply and demand.
It is higher by P3 to P4 pesos per kilo in Iligan City but trucking cost is expensive they might as well settle for less here.
Jabar and his neighbors were forced to close shop mid-afternoon, May 23, 2017 when around 40 young men clad in black, aged between 15 and 18, arrived at the commercial district brandishing their firearms and their black Islamic State (IS) flags.
Like his neighbors and the rest of Marawi’s 210,000 residents, Jabar thought it would be over by sundown or in a day or two.
But it would take nearly a year before Jabar’s family, other residents and storeowners in the 24 barangays in “Ground Zero,” the 250-hectare main battle area (MBA) between government forces and the IS-inspired Maute Group from May 23 to Oct. 23, 2017, could return to their villages under the “Kambisita sa MAA” (Visit the Most Affected Area), as the former MBA is now referred to.
Felix Castro, field office manager of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), said they are still consolidating the reports on Kambisita but as of May 3, a total of 7,799 families or an estimated 57,100 individuals, have visited the area.
Ground Zero was home to at least 27,000 families, 11,163 of whom were home owners while the rest were “sharers and renters,” Castro said.
Kambisita, which ran from April 1 to May 10, divided Ground Zero into nine sectors and gave residents and storeowners three days each, from 6 am to 3 pm, to collect whatever they can still salvage from the rubble of their homes and shops.
Padian was under Sector 9, the last sector comprising barangays Lumbac Marinaut, Marinaut West, Datu Naga, Dansalan and Datu sa Dansalan, scheduled on May 8, 9 and 10.
Sector 9 was also where the Maute Group’s Omarkhayyam Maute and the Abu Sayyaf’s Isnilon Hapilon, the Emir of the Isis in Southeast Asia, were killed on Oct. 16, 2017.
A soldier pointed to a vacant lot at the reclamation site in Barangay Datu sa Dansalan — what had served as parking space for visiting residents — as the area where the two were killed. There was no trace of the buildings where they made their last stand.
“Demolished,” he explained.
The mosque nearby where the last of the followers of Hapilon and Maute stood their ground, had also been demolished.
Elsewhere in Sector 9, men and women were busy picking up pieces of their shattered lives — silver trays, some of them bullet-riddled, a set of wooden chairs — or what’s left of them, a wooden door, a refrigerator that may no longer function, a toy car for a two-year old daughter, a deformed bike, a gold-painted teapot, a wet handbag.
Namira Sarimanok’s grocery, located near the mosque in Datu Naga, was not only emptied of its 2.8 million peso worth of stocks, whoever stayed there during the war left behind trash — biscuit and candy wrappers, drank juice from tetra paks and just left them strewn on the floor. Her two-door refrigerator which has to be checked if it is still functioning, she found leaning towards the floor, its contents emptied. She found bullet casings on where eggs are usually stored.
Grocery owners like Namira had a huge inventory when the war broke out because Ramadan was about to start in three to four days.
At least two grocery owners said they had an inventory of P200,000 and P700,000 worth of bottled durian preserves, a popular item for the iftar, when people break their fast.
“Nothing left” was an oft-repeated response of visiting residents. In most cases, there was no need to ask. The extent of the damage of the buildings was the response itself.
Vehicles and trucks leaving Ground Zero carried a part of their homes or shops that they could sell at the junk shops — a portion of the gate, window grills. Some brought hacksaws to cut off iron grills.
On Papandayan St., the exit for those who visited Ground Zero, junk shops and junkyards have sprouted on both sides of the road.
Junk shop owner Nor-Asia, who says she has been in this business for 12 years, says the other junk shops opened only when the Kambisita began.
Nor-Asia buys the Ground Zero junk at P7 per kilo for solid metal, P3 for light metal, P35 per kilo for aluminum, P100 per kilo for brass, and P200 per kilo for copper wire.
She sells the junk in Iligan City, some 40 kilometers away, at P10 per kilo for solid metal and six pesos for light metal, and a bigger profit margin for aluminum, brass and copper. (to be concluded)