When will the crisis end?
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — For Zamboanga resident Josefina Malindog, the release of more than 100 hostages here is a sign the war is soon ending.
"Personally, it's better now. My prayers were answered already. The hostages were released. I feel this will end," she told Rappler on Wednesday, September 18.
The situation appears to be getting a little better. Banks, stores, and restaurants have opened in some parts of the city. Commercial flights were expected to resume on Thursday, September 19. The seaport will be next.
Fresh clashes occured on Thursday, however, killing one soldier.
Malindog is happy that she was finally able to withdraw money from the bank. She said she had to stretch whatever cash she had to survive the past week when the city was shut down by a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Residents remain scared because the rebels are still holed up in pockets of areas in the coastal outskirts. But residents have persevered to try to live normal lives again.
Myrna Juhuri is glad she found a place to buy her vegetables again. "It's not normal yet. These vendors are precisely crowding this small place because they cannot go back to the public market yet," she said.
She recalled how everybody got a "phobia" during the first 3 days of the standoff, when loud explosions and heavy firefight became an everyday occurence.
"I hope next week or tomorrow, Zamboanga City will go back to normal," Juhuri said.
No work, no pay
Other residents like Taopi Cassiman have a harder time coping, however. He's a "parking boy." He earns a living watching cars and helping drivers in the usually busy street across the City Hall.
"I have not worked for 10 days. I have nothing to feed my family. I went to the evacuation center but I was told only evacuees may ask for food," he said.
Despite this, he's hopeful that he will soon be returning to work.
At least 104 have died in the siege that entered its 11th day on Thursday. Most of those slain were rebels. Another 181 have been wounded.
Data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) show the Zamboanga City crisis has displaced 109,386 individuals or 21,942 families.
Out of this number, 95,099 people are in 35 evacuation centers. Almost 70,000 of them are at the city sports stadium alone.
The evacuees include 21,448 children who are 14 years old and below.
Don't go back yet
Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt Col Ramon Zagala stressed "the fight is not over."
He cautioned residents against returning to their houses in the battle zone. Two soldiers were killed in action Tuesday night, September 17.
Zagala said MNLF commander Habier Malik is inside the contained area.
"We are heading towards a positive direction. This is so because we have stepped up our operations in this calibrated military response. I believe confidence is retuning among residents of Zamboanga City," Zagala said. — Rappler.com