Marawi women's tale: We want to go home, but our homes are destroyed
MANILA, Philippines – Candida Macasindil was with her youngest child, 8-month-old Faisal, in the public market when the fighting began between government forces and the Maute group on May 23. Everyone started running in different directions.
Clutching her baby, she ran along with the crowd and tried to hail every vehicle that passed by, but nobody stopped for them.
“I kept on running amid the sound of gunshots. I tried to cover Faisal with my own body as I ran, because I was worried he might get hit. I ran toward the terminal going to Saguiaran,” the 34-year-old mother said.
She then ran home to Raya Madaya, where her 4 other kids were, and stayed for a day, thinking that the fighting would end soon. “We were all scared. We were all covering our ears.”
The following day, the clashes continued, so they rode a jeepney out of the city. They did not pack enough belongings.
“I didn’t know where else we could go. I wanted to go back to our home, but we no longer had a home to return to. I was concerned about my children. With our situation now, I don’t know what kind of future awaits them,” she said.
Candida is 3 months pregnant with her 6th child.
Maida Amintao, a resident of Barrio Paypay in Marawi, also ran toward home when the fighting began. She spent the night there, but when she saw some houses burning down, she left the next day for her cousin’s home in Barangay Tolali.
“We didn’t know where else to go. When we got there, we realized how close it was to the fighting, because we could clearly hear the gunshots, the bombs, and the planes flying above us. Since we were too afraid to go out of the house, we stayed inside. I thought we would all die there,” recalled the 21-year-old mother of three.
“The kids are still too young, and they had no idea what was happening. I was scared that they might get hit by stray bullets, so I just kept them as close to me as possible,” she said.
Maida and her family were stranded in her cousin’s house for 9 days. There were 25 of them, including some relatives and neighbors. They only had rice and bananas to eat, having brought barely anything else with them.
On their 10th day, a group of soldiers found them. “We heard them outside calling out for civilians. I felt relieved that there was a chance for us to escape. When they saw us, they gave us food for the children. The rescue team eventually arrived to get us out,” she said.
After escaping the hostilities in Marawi, both women and their families sought shelter in evacuation centers. Maida’s family stays at the provincial capitol in Marawi, while Candida’s family is at the Saguiaran evacuation center just outside the city.
In Saguiaran, Candida’s family stays near a canal by the open basketball court, where a tarpaulin serves as a “wall.” Water seeps in whenever it rains heavily.
“When we arrived here, we slept on the floor with nothing else but a thin blanket. Good thing that we now have a decent sleeping mat. It protects us from the cold floor,” she said.
But the difficult living conditions in Saguiaran, where hundreds of displaced families stay, must have taken a toll on young Faisal, who started suffering from diarrhea and vomiting.
On June 25, when the baby started looking pale, Candida rushed him to the Saguiaran rural health unit. He was hooked to intravenous fluids to treat dehydration and was given antibiotics for his infection.
According to the health workers in Saguiaran, the most common cases afflicting displaced people are upper respiratory tract infections, skin diseases, and diarrhea.
“It’s good that the health center was just nearby. He could have died of dehydration. The nearest hospital here is in Iligan, and to go there needs transportation. We don’t have money. We rely on the relief items given to us here,” Candida said.
Faisal is breastfed, but since his mother is able to eat only one meal a day, she is not sure how much nutrition he gets from her milk.
“The doctor’s advice is that I should eat healthy, especially because I am pregnant. As much as I want to, I’m not sure how I can afford that,” she said.
“It gets really cold at night, and we didn’t have anything to cover the children with before. We simply wrapped them in our arms. They get to sleep more comfortably now with the sleeping mats and blankets,” she said.
The provincial capitol was initially identified as a safe zone. However, the changing security situation poses risks for evacuees who continue to stay in the complex.
“If given the chance, we want to move somewhere safer. We’re okay here, but we can still hear the fighting around us, and that scares me. We want to move out, but we don’t know where else we could go, so we just stick around here like the others,” said Maida.
Candida’s husband Omar used to drive a tricycle for a living, while she looked after a variety store in front of their home.
But because of the fighting in Marawi, their house has been burned down. They no longer have any possessions except for a few clothes. They have spent the little savings they had. (READ: MSU Marawi students graduate away from home)
“We never thought it would last this long. I’ve lived in Marawi all my life, and this is the first time I’ve ever experienced displacement. It is not a good experience at all, and I feel sorry for my children that they have to go through this,” Candida said.
Maida shared the same apprehensions. She said she has not thought of what they could do for a living once the fighting ends, and when there is no longer assistance for displaced families like hers. (READ: Marawi: Images from a ghost town)
“We have no source of income. My husband and I sell cooked food for a living, and everything we had was left at home. We’ve been told that our house was already destroyed. I’d like to check if that’s true, but we can’t because it’s too dangerous to go back.” – Rappler.com
Heidi Anicete is the head of communication of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in the Philippines. The ICRC, a neutral, impartial, and independent humanitarian organization, has been assisting people affected by the fighting in Marawi City since the start of the clashes. The ICRC has provided medical support to 14 local health facilities to help them cope with the influx of displaced people. It has also distributed, together with the Philippine Red Cross, relief items to more than 40,000 displaced people – with some in hard-to-reach areas.