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A love story: Marawi evacuees tie the knot at evacuation center

MARANAO WEDDING. Marawi evacuee Norinsa Basher is wed to her crush Jomar Saumay at the Tent City in nearby town Pantar. Photo by Adrian Portugal/Rappler

MARANAO WEDDING. Marawi evacuee Norinsa Basher is wed to her crush Jomar Saumay at the Tent City in nearby town Pantar.

Photo by Adrian Portugal/Rappler

MARAWI CITY, Philippines – Love goes on. 

Wearing her elaborate wedding gown, Norinsha Basher waited inside a tent at the evacuation center in Pantar while her groom and her parents performed a ceremony at a makeshift muti-purpose hall nearby that they decorated with gold satins. 

The sound of the kulintang and the traditional drum reverberated.

It was a day like no other. A Maranao wedding was underway and no less than Defense Undersecretary Cesar Yano flew in from Manila to attend the event on Friday, September 15. 

The evacuees cheered when the groom, Jomar Saumay, finally fetched Basher from her tent to bring her to the ceremony. The speeches are made and the photos are taken.

The wedding lifted the spirits of a community yearning to go back to their homes in Marawi, the site of clashes with local terror groups linked with international terrorist network Islamic State (ISIS). 

If only for an afternoon, the worries are far away. 

"Masaya kami kahit nandito sa tent (We are happy even if we're here in the tent)," Norinsha told Rappler.

It's a love story forged at the evacuation center. They've been friends back in Marawi and they've had crushes on each other, she said. But it was at the evacuation center that they got to spend more time with each other and fell in love.

As weddings here are arranged, Jomar's mother sought the help of the village chief so the young couple could be wed.

'Ito 'yung pagmamahalan talaga'

Yano, the executive director of the Task Force Bangon Marawi that is tasked to rehabilitate Marawi, heard about the wedding and he offered to help.

"Natuwa ako. Amid 'yung kahirapan dito sa Tent City, nangyari pa rin ito. Ito 'yung pagmamahalan talaga (It is heartwarning. Amid the hardships here at the Tent City, this happened. This is true love)," said Yano. 

Yano also paid for the new couple's honeymoon suite in one of Cagayan De Oro’s best hotels. 

Yano said the evacuees need events like the wedding to be able to cope as the war drags on. 

"We have to improve the condition of the evacuees. Kung wala itong mga bagay bagay na ito, talagang bababaang morale nila (If we don't have events like this, their morale will go down)," he said.

Yano said they are also working to provide the evacuees with livelihood projects to keep them busy and productive.

On her wedding day, Marawi was on Norinsha mind as she imagined her future family. It's still where she wants to raise their children. 

"Sana maayos na Marawi para makabalik na kami doon. Mawala na giyera (I hope Marawi will be okay so we can go back. End the war)," she said.

It is every Marawi evacuee's wish. – Rappler.com