LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines – One hundred and two days: that’s how long thousands of families have endured living as internally-displaced persons (IDPs) since the war in Marawi forced them to flee their city.
This sense of perseverance radiates among Marawi evacuees as they celebrate Eid’l Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, on Saturday, September 1. (READ: On Eid'l Adha, Filipino Muslims pray for strength amid prejudice)
Based on data from the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees, there are 359,680 IDPs or 78,466 families housed in 75 evacuation centers in 16 municipalities across Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur.
IDPs here have continued to make sacrifices at the evacuation sites which are crowded and where there's no sense of privacy.
Many IDPs at the Saguiaran Municipal gymnasium are driven by hope that they have something to return to after the war in Marawi.
“We are waiting for some news about our homes, and we just don’t know if we have something to return to,” says a woman whose home is in Barangay Lilod.
For her part, Anisa Ramar, 40, says, “We really wanted to go back, even if we are unsure of what is there left for us."
Internally-displaced persons are huddled at the Saguiaran Municipal gymnasium on Eid'l Adha
For some IDPs, the wait for their homecoming is so near yet so far. Saguiaran town and Marawi City are just 5 kilometers part, but the number of days they have spent away from the city, beginning May 23, continues to grow.
Some parts Marawi City, have some noticeable semblance of normalcy.
Vehicles now pass through the road that connects the capitol compound and Mindanao State University-Main Campus. Police and military checkpoints remain, but the area has been declared a “safe zone” as classes in MSU, the country’s largest university system resumed on August 22.
At the Capitol compound, small stores are sprouting, serving the needs of the people doing business with the government.
Evacuees spend each day wondering when they can go home
But in the eastern part of the city, a volley of gunfire can still be heard as the military pushes to confine the ISIS-inspired Maute group to just a few blocks near the lake, sandwiched between ground troops and the navy special operations group and other waterborne troops in Lake Lanao.
Imam Usman Rorogarus, an IDP, says that the Eid’l Adha reminds them of the sacrifices that the prophet Ibrahim had to endure as his faith in God, as well as that of his son, Ysmael, was put to a test.
Rorogarus said that the sacrifices IDPs willingly endure are in God’s grace, as they have to bear as well the uncertainty of going home.
Amid all the questions, one thing seems to be certain for the IDPs: With much of their city destroyed, they will have to endure even more sacrifices once they return home. – Rappler.com