At Large

From the frying pan to the fire

If you’re even a bit upset over the impending closure of Boracay for a six-month rehabilitation, imagine how evacuees from Marawi now residing on the island must feel.

It turns out that over 90 people, fleeing the bombing and shooting in Marawi a year ago, arrived in Boracay and joined the fairly large Muslim community estimated by local authorities at over 2,000 persons, or 400 families.


“Bad karma” or simple bad luck must be running through their minds. Imagine living through a real-life example of the adage “from the frying pan to the fire,” seeking refuge from the fighting in their home city to an “island paradise,” only to end up with impending homelessness.

A PNA report on the Marawi-to-Boracay refugees says that some evacuees from Marawi can also be found in the towns of Ibajay and Kalibo in Aklan, as well as in Iloilo and Capiz.

Most Marawi residents sought shelter by fleeing to evacuation centers on the outskirts of the city or seeking refuge in nearby towns with relatives or family friends. Others were able to flee to Iligan or even Cagayan de Oro, although friends from Marawi report that potential landlords resorted to “profiling” future tenants, turning away those who are obviously “Muslim.” Such profiling has taken place even in Manila, I’m told. No wonder some dislocated Marawi folk sought sanctuary as far away as Boracay and nearby provinces.

To be sure, our Muslim brothers and sisters have been wandering our isles—from their historical and traditional homeland of Mindanao—for centuries. After all, wasn’t Manila at the time of the Spanish incursion already a Muslim settlement headed by Rajah Sulaiman?

Still, it isn’t strange at all to find Muslim enclaves in the most unexpected places, composed mostly of traders who can be seen peddling everything from sunglasses to imported blankets.

Authorities say that residents of Boracay will be allowed to stay and come and go as they wish. But new migrants — such as the newly arrived Muslim settlers — facing a six-month drought of new jobs and customers may soon realize that if they wish to escape starvation and penury, it may soon be time to pack up and leave for other locales again.

Certainly, big businesses who sank huge amounts in new hotels or structures, or borrowed heavily to finance new projects, stand to lose more in terms of hard cash.

But it’s the “small people,” not just the internal migrants from Marawi, but also the previously dislocated indigenous people, the poor fisherfolk, the beach masseuses, the self-employed boatmen, or even the vendors who ply White Beach, who stand to lose livelihoods, housing, security. Their lives will be changed over the course of six months (perhaps to be shortened to three or four), with no one first informing or consulting them before the decision was made and announced to all and sundry.

Meanwhile, Marawi residents are chafing at the bit over delays in consultations and decision-making on the government’s plans for the city. Residents were allowed to visit their devastated city, especially those with homes in Marawi’s “ground zero,” but they can’t understand why there seems to be no word yet on plans to clear the rubble and allow them to begin to rebuild and start anew.


One problem, they acknowledge, is that before the devastating siege private property was not covered by land titles. Instead, a system of communal ownership prevailed, with property being handed down from one generation to the next. And this system has worked for decades, with ownership by clans recognized and respected.

“Ask any Marawi resident,” says a friend. “They all know who lived where and what size their property was.” Now they are alarmed at reports that the government wants to declare large swaths of the city as government property, to be turned into or developed into housing projects, military camps, and even tourist destinations.

“Be patient, trust me,” President Duterte has reportedly told the currently homeless residents when he heard them expressing impatience at the government’s turtle-paced rehabilitation plans. Given all that has taken place, would you?

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TAGS: At Large, Boracay cleanup, Boracay closure, Marawi rehabilitation, Marawi siege, Rina Jimenez-David
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