Marawi mayor gets emotional seeing houses inside battle area

Carmela Fonbuena
Marawi mayor gets emotional seeing houses inside battle area
Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra asks the national government to help residents rebuild their 'completely devastated' homes

MARAWI CITY, Philippines – When his vehicle moved deeper into the battle area in his neighborhood of Barangay Dansalan, Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra imagined the faces of his neighbors as he passed by their houses one by one.

How will they react when they see the destruction?

“Nakita ko ho talagang completely devastated, completely destroyed ang mga bahay. Mostly ho sa loob ng war zone, mostly po ang mga tao ay aking kamag-anak. Karamihan ng bahay doon ay sirang-sira na ho. Talagang masakit sa dibdib na ang kanilang pinaghirapan ay nawala bigla,” Gandamra said in an interview. 

(I saw how the houses were completely devastated, completely destroyed. Most of the families inside the war zone are my relatives. Their houses are now destroyed. It’s really painful for me to see how the houses they worked so hard for are now gone.)

The mayor smiled to admit he got emotional. What he did was pull out his mobile phone to take a video of the houses from the car window. He said his focus on the screen was all that kept him from breaking down in front of the generals who brought him inside the battle area last Monday, September 18. (READ: Maute ratholes, trenches revealed as troops gain ground in Marawi)

Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez and Task Group Ranao commander Brigadier General Ramiro Rey brought the mayor to ground zero to begin assessment of the work needed to rehabilitate the city that has been ravaged by war for more than 4 months now. 

Local terror groups linked with international terrorist network Islamic State (ISIS) attacked the city on May 23 in an bid to carve a caliphate in Mindanao. The military believes the fighters were trained by foreign jihadists. (READ: Terror in Mindanao: The Mautes of Marawi

Rehabiliation work has begun as the battle area narrows to less than 10 hectares. 

DESTRUCTION IN LILOD TOLALI. Local terror groups attacked Marawi City on May 23 in a bid to carve their own territory in Mindanao. Rappler photo

“The Marawi City government is tasked to formulate the comprehensive master plan for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi City. Part of the job is to assess the damage [to property]. We were escorted by some officials [to see the damage in the war zone],” said Gandamra.

The mayor said he expected devastation but nothing prepared him for what he saw. The military made him pass through ratholes to see how the war was fought. 

“Parang bangungot eh (It was like a nightmare). Can you just imagine, in less than one year we tried our best to fix Marawi City in terms of governance and in terms of implementing infrastructure projects. Biglang pagbalik ko makikita ko na wasak ang aking siyudad. Napakasakit po ‘yun (All of a sudden my entire city is ruined. It’s really painful),” Gandamra said.

The mayor entered the heart of the battle area while troops were pushing to take control of the compound around Bato Mosque, the place of worship his own clan helped build. The minaret of the mosque was destroyed in the firefights but the rest of the structure was spared. 

“It was personal to us dahil noong bata pa lang ako, different clans pooled resources para mapaganda ang mosque. Hindi pa kami pinapanganak nandiyan na ang Bato Mosque,” he said.

(It was personal to us because when I was a child, different clans pooled resources to improve the mosque. We weren’t born yet when it was built.)

The national government committed to repair public installations and public structures – roads, public buildings, electricity, the water system, schools, and hospitals, among other basic services. But Gandamra said the residents will also need assistance to get back on their feet.

“Lalong lalo na nakikita ko ‘yung mga bahay-bahay, private houses, and establishments. Talagang hindi na puwede na sabihing ayusin. Talagang totally it’s beyond repair and dapat i-demolish na ‘yan. Structurally, hindi siya puwedeng tumagal pa doon. Dapat i-demolish at panibagong paggawa,” the mayor said. 

(I saw the houses and establishments, and they really can’t be fixed anymore. They’re beyond repair and they need to be demolished. They are structurally impaired already and need to be demolished to make way for new structures.)

Gandamra is counting on the promise of President Rodrigo Duterte that he will make Marawi City beautiful again

“With the commitment of the President na ayusin nila Marawi City and I’m very positive talagang tulungan nila kami, medyo nakakabawas ng sama ng loob,” he said.

(With the commitment of the President that the national government will help rebuild Marawi City, and I’m very positive they’ll really help us, that gives us some comfort.)

“Let us also not forget the private properties. ‘Yun ho ang nagkaroon ng (Those are what suffered) massive destruction. ‘Yun po ang ating pinapakiusap (That’s what we requested for rehabilitation). I’m hoping that the national government will listen to our concerns,” he added.

The tasks ahead are daunting. Gandamra estimates that about 10,000 families are affected. The heart of the battle area, the city’s commercial district of Banggolo, is also home to the most affluent Maranao families whose homes are believed to be worth millions of pesos.

Duterte had promised that the rehabilitation of Marawi City would begin immediately. He said the government would prioritize the poor. 

“I have the money to start [rehabilitation]. But I cannot build them mansions. We do not spend for rich people. We only spend for poor people and those who cannot afford it,” the President said during his last visit.

The military is targeting to finish the war within the month. The harder work begins when the fighting stops. – Rappler.com

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