Spare a thought for the suffering people of Marawi, who awoke one morning to find their city under siege, with armed men roaming the streets and grabbing hostages. As gunfire pierced the air, the people cowered indoors, only to be driven out to seek safe grounds when the armed men began setting buildings, schools and homes ablaze, and shooting down civilians,
Given the suddenness of the Maute Group’s attack and the immediate escalation of conflict between the gunmen and government troops, the people fled only with the barest essentials. With children in tow and the prospect of walking for hours, they could bring very little, sometimes only the clothes on their back and provisions for the little ones.
Easily half of the city’s 200,000 residents fled in the following days, on foot and in vehicles stuck in traffic for hours. As of May 29, according to an update by the group One with Marawi, 67,870 internally displaced persons had streamed into 38 identified evacuation sites. At least 3,717 more remain stranded in some 80 barangays.
Relief operations have been organized to extend aid. Early on, volunteers lined the highway to Iligan City to offer food and drink to the famished refugees. Secretary Judy Taguiwalo of the Department of Social Welfare and Development tweeted a personal reminder about donors being sensitive to Islam culture and the particular needs of Marawi’s predominantly Muslim residents. Acceptable donations are halal food such as beef, fish and chicken. Forget hot dogs, sausages and meat loaf which might contain pork; instant noodles should also be of variants not flavored with pork. Donations of clothing including hijab and apparel that would cover the entire body are most welcome.
The Office of the Vice President was quick to help, with VP Leni Robredo visiting wounded soldiers and partnering with Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan Social Development Center to spearhead “Tabang Marawi” in Cagayan de Oro. The group said that with the help of volunteers from Iligan universities, it would continue to receive, pack, and send relief goods until June 3, or until the displaced families are still in need of its efforts. Tabang Marawi is accepting halal food donations and personal hygiene products such as toothbrushes, bath soaps, shampoo and sanitary napkins.
The Catholic Church and its social action arms Nassa and Caritas have set up relief stations where people can donate goods or their services in getting the assistance to the evacuees. Nassa initially released P300,000 to support the relief operations of the Diocese of Iligan’s social action center. It will also deploy an assessment team to Mindanao this week to determine the aid needed by the evacuees. Donations to the Church-led relief operations may be deposited at the Bank of the Philippine Islands, Intramuros Branch, under the account name CBCP Caritas Filipinas Foundation Inc. Nassa (Account No. 4951-0071-08).
The Inquirer Foundation Corp. is also receiving cash donations for relief operations in Marawi. Donations may be deposited to the foundation’s Banco de Oro current account (No. 007960018860). Inquiries may be addressed to the Inquirer’s Corporate Affairs Office through Connie Kalagayan (897-4426) or Bianca Macahilig (897-8808 local 352).
With their lives upended, the evacuees’ most immediate needs are food, clothing and shelter. With the school opening looming, children will also need bags, school supplies, shoes and uniforms. Nourishing meals are a must as well, as are medications for primary healthcare.
Local government units have joined the relief efforts, including the local chapter of the National Movement of Young Legislators in Laoag City, which is hosting a benefit gala on June 20 to raise money for the displaced families of Marawi.
And to prove that no effort is too small to be appreciated, a group of photographers led by Laguna-based Alex Baluyut traveled to Iligan to feed evacuees hot meals from the Art Relief Mobile Kitchen, a group he set up in 2013 in the wake of Typhoon “Yolanda.” The group, Baluyut said, welcomes donations to sustain its feeding program.
A fund drive by members of the House of Representatives is likewise welcome, as Filipinos pull together to come to the aid of the displaced people of Marawi.
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