Marawi clash evacuees now volunteers
ILIGAN, Philippines – Like any other Tuesday, Tenny Andam, Valerie Malinis, and Edward Borres were going about their usual activities as students of the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City.
Tenny was in school to schedule his thesis defense while Valerie was preparing for her board exam review. Edward, who had no classes, was back home, playing computer games with his housemates.
They knew that day, May 23, was not just like any other Tuesday when they heard gunshots. The military and the Maute group began clashing in their city. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)
The days that followed were the longest for the MSU students and faculty who were trapped inside the university. (READ: Hundreds still trapped in Marawi as crisis enters 3rd week)
They first sought refuge at the Princess Lawanen Hall, one of the dormitories inside the university. The food that they managed to gather were not enough for the evacuees inside the dormitory, the students said. (READ: Trapped Marawi residents dying of hunger?)
Aside from the limited resources, the evacuees were traumatized by the constant gunfire and the bombings, prompting them to flee to a safer place two days after the clashes began (LOOK: Marawi: Images from a ghost town)
Travel to Iligan
On the morning of May 25, the 3 students decided to head to Iligan City. The traffic was heavy as many other residents were fleeing Marawi. (READ: Thousands flee Marawi to escape clashes)
They experienced hunger and thirst along the way but other residents were generous enough to share their food and water to them. (READ: Students walk 32 kilometers to flee Marawi)
After 9 hours of travel for a trip that usually took an hour and a half, the students reached Iligan City at 7:30 pm. Travel time from Marawi to Iligan took just an hour and a half on normal days.
When they reached the city center, they saw their fellow evacuees who who were terribly affected by the war. That was when the students decided to become volunteers at the evacuation centers. (READ: Marawi under siege: It's like 'looking at Aleppo')
"Gusto ko motabang sa mga biktima dadto kay ako isa pud sa mga biktima (I want to help the victims there because I was also a victim)," said Edward.
"Nadama (ko) ang kanilang paghihirap kasi isa rin ako sa naghirap. Kaya ako ay tutulong sa aking kapwa tao (I know their hardships because I also experienced [it]. That's why I will help my fellowmen)," said Tenny.
Valerie, a social work student, said that the huge language barrier is one of the biggest challenges that they faced at the evacuation centers.
She said she grabbed the opportunity to help so that they can break the barrier. (READ: Maranao student helps build Muslim-Christian understanding in evacuation site)
"Isip 21 uno ka tuig nako sa MSU Main, napalapit ko sa mga Maranao. Ang problema nga akong nakita kai ang language barrier gyud (As a 21-year old in MSU Main, I got closer to the people from Maranao. The problem I saw was the language barrier)," said Valerie.
"Maong gi grab na nako ang opportunity nga maka-volunteer ko para makatabang ko sa pag communicate sa ilaha (That's why I grabbed the opportunity to volunteer so I can help communicating for them)," she added.
The crisis in Marawi City started with a military raid on May 23 targetting Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon. Clashes erupted between soldiers and members of the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Group.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on the first day of the clashes.
According to the social welfare department, 65,198 families or 316,684 people have been displaced due to the conflict as of Tuesday, June 13. – Rappler.com
Wendy Perocho Salva is a student volunteer from Marawi City