Historic Marawi ravaged
Is there no end to the violence in Marawi City? The Maute and Abu Sayyaf gunmen are fighting government troops ferociously, perhaps inspired by the belief that a Muslim who dies during Holy Ramadan is assured a place in jannatul firdauz or paradise. Meanwhile, destruction and depredation continue.
Marawi is no stranger to violence. It has been the theater of war between Moros and Spanish conquistadores and later American campaigners; between government troops and Moro National Liberation Front-Iklas rebels in 1972; and now, between government forces and IS-inspired groups.
The former name of the city is Dansalan, which means “a place where boats dock.” Its name was changed through Republic Act No. 1552 sponsored by then Sen. Domocao Alonto. Its official name now is Islamic City of Marawi, by virtue of a regional bill sponsored by then Assemblyman Jerry Tomawis when I was the Speaker of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Government in Central Mindanao, the forerunner of the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Marawi has etched its place in history. During the American regime it played a very important role, being the de facto capital in the bloody pacification campaign against the resisting natives. Its center was Camp Keithley (now renamed Amaipakpak, after the legendary Maranaw hero who lost his life fighting the Spanish conquistadores who wanted to christianize his people and take their lands). It was the center of commerce patronized by the towns surrounding Lake Lanao.
In 1935, the datus and sultans gathered to sign the historic Dansalan Declarations (there were two) reminding the United States that the Philippines is inhabited by two peoples—one group from the north that was the historical and cultural enemy of the other group, the Moros of the South, with a different religion and culture, and who demand independence like the Philippines itself.
Marawi is not much of a tourist destination. There are no spectacular landmarks or attractions to play up unless you will consider bullet-riddled edifices and other war ruins as promotion tools. There are no architectural standouts to draw tourists, except perhaps the remains of a historic torogan or sultan’s house with sarimanok design located in Tuca. But you cannot miss the majestic Turkish- and Arab-inspired minarets of the mosques that dot the city. A favorite destination is the padian or market, where native and foreign wares and cloths, mostly Middle Eastern, are traded. There are hardly any outstanding culinary dishes except perhaps the koning(rice mixed with turmeric powder and lemon grass, which could be mistaken for Java rice), the piarun (chicken or fish also sprinkled with turmeric powder; the use of turmeric is popular, influenced by Pakistani cooking), and the palapa (an appetizer—a mix of chili, local onion and ginger, likened to the Korean kimchi).
Dubbed the Summer Capital of the South because of its high elevation and cooler climate, Marawi is the getaway for vacationers who seek the invigorating breeze coming from Lake Lanao. The breeze is best experienced atop the hill where the Mindanao State University sits and where you can see the mountain formation of the “Sleeping Lady” on a clear day.
Marawi is also where “Kilometer 0” can be found as the reference point for all roads in Mindanao. It is now defaced but, like the magical phoenix, it is sure to rise again from the ashes of war to regain its past glory.
President Duterte has sent two members of his Cabinet who are natives of Marawi—Abdullah Mamao, secretary for OFW and Muslim concerns, and Abulkhayer Alonto, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority—to look into the deteriorating situation and find means to ease the suffering of civilians, if not end the bloody impasse. I was privileged to have been invited to the meeting called by the leaders and was able to put forth my own recommendation. It is hoped that the President would act immediately on the recommendations collated from the dialogue.
Macabangkit B. Lanto (email@example.com), UP Law 1967, was a Fulbright Fellow to New York University for his postgraduate studies. He has served in the government in various capacities.