By Carolyn O. Arguillas
TODAY, May 23, will be the first anniversary of the Marawi Siege and the declaration of martial law, and while the physical destruction of Marawi has been repeatedly captured in dramatic photographs and video clips, a retired Literature professor at the Mindanao State University wants the world to understand the soul of the Meranaws, that the recovery and rehabilitation program they need “is not only infrastructure but the totality of our being, our identity.”
Retired Prof. Dalomabi Lao Bula, a resident displaced from Marawi’s Ground Zero, the 250-hectare former main battle area between government forces and the IS-inspired Maute Group and its allies, told a forum Saturday on “Revising Maawi from the lens of Inter-faith Dialogue and Multiculturalism” that “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,” Bula said.
She noted that what they are experiencing, having been forced into a diaspora, is akin to the “the historical injustices inflicted on us by the colonizers through the system of government given to us.”
Before May 23, 2017, Day 1 of the Marawi Siege, Ground Zero, now referred to as the MAA (Most Affected Area) comprised 24 of Marawi’s 96 barangays. It was home to at least 27,000 families, 11,163 of whom were home owners while the rest were “sharers and renters,” according to Assistant Secretary Felix Castro, Field Office Mananger of Task Force Bangon Marawi.
Ground Zero was the commercial district of the city, home to historical landmarks such as the Grand Mosque or Islamic Center) and according to Bula, around 200 mosques), the Padian (market), the Sambitory building, the Rizal Park, among others. It was also home to the Catholics’ St. Mary’s Cathedral and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines’ Dansalan College.
It was also the graveyard of their ancestors as Meranaws buried their loved ones within their compounds. (Burying in cemeteries is a recent practice)
Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, concurrent chair of Task Force Bangon Marawi, said residents of Ground Zero will likely be able to return to their villages to rebuild their homes by first quarter of 2020.
“Can we be called Meranaws without the lake?”
For Bula, it may be beyond 2020. Meanwhile, where will she and other residents of Ground Zero go? (mindanews)