UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News


Marawi residents celebrate yet another Eid away from home

People from war-torn city tire of makeshift existence and yearn to return home

Divina Suson, Marawi

Divina Suson, Marawi

Updated: June 19, 2018 05:20 AM GMT
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Marawi residents celebrate yet another Eid away from home

Residents in a temporary relocation site in the village of Sagonsongan in Marawi celebrate the breaking of the fast at the end of Ramadan on June 15. (Photo by Divina Suson)

Share this article :
Another Eid al-Fitr has passed during which the people of Marawi in the southern Philippines have had to celebrate away from their homes and communities.

In the village of Sagonsongan on the outskirts of the city, about 400 families marked the Islamic "Feast of Breaking the Fast" in a masjid inside a temporary relocation site.

The place, called Gift of Change, hosted residents from the main battle area during the five-month conflict between government troops and terrorist gunmen last year.

Other displaced families from the city also had to attend Eid prayers and celebrations in masjids or mosques in various temporary relocation sites.

Hadji Abdullah Mohaimen, who lives with his family in the Sagonsongan camp, takes care of the masjid there. 

He said the structure is not yet finished because construction only began at the start of Ramadan.

"But we have to use it even if it is still being constructed because we have nowhere else to pray but a platform outside."

The "platform" Mohaimen was referring to is a wooden structure outside the masjid where the distribution of relief goods is held when government officials come to visit.

"We are thankful that we already have this [masjid] so that people will not have a difficult time looking for a place to pray," he said.

The 48-year-old father of four became emotional while narrating his story. "If only every month was Ramadan so that people will give us something. There is an abundance of food and we are happy, and we can forget about the tragedy," he said.

Marawi's occupation by Islamic State-inspired gunmen last year resulted in fighting that leveled the city and displaced an estimated 400,000 people.

Most of these people have yet to get back to the city pending its reconstruction and rehabilitation by the government.

"We are like wet chicks that are scattered everywhere with nowhere safe to take shelter," Mohaimen told ucanews.com.

The former migrant who worked in Saudi Arabia, however, said he is optimistic that Marawi's people will be able to get back on their feet. "We only need the help of the government," he said.

Mohaimen worked in the Middle East for 16 years as an electrician before returning home in 2008 to run a grocery store in Marawi.

"I built a house because I said I would not leave my family behind again and we would always be together," he said.

But everything was lost in an instant during the war last year.

"If I was not a practicing Muslim, I don't know what would I have done because of the pain I felt," he said with tears in his eyes.

Like Mohaimen, Junader Radia said he feels assured that outsiders have expressed their concern for those affected by the conflict. "I hope we will all be united now," he said.

For Juhary Pacasum, Radia's neighbor, the pain is still there, "but what can I do?, he says"

"We were happy then, we are happy now, but we cannot forget what happened."

Mohaimen, Radia and Pacasum are among the thousands of Marawi residents not allowed back to the city because their communities were totally devastated by the fighting.

They said that during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims spend time praying and fasting, their only prayer was for God to give them strength to continue living for their family.

As a caretaker of the masjid, the former electrician receives about US$56 a month.

During Eid, the government gave each family in the temporary shelters US$5 to buy and cook food for the breaking of the fast.

The residents brought the food inside a tent set up outside the masjid for the celebration.

The full implementation of the rehabilitation program is yet to start but the government is already planning to spend less for the city.

The government announced last week that the rehabilitation of Marawi would now cost 62.26 billion pesos (US$1.1 billion), lower than the initial estimate of around 70.42 billion to 73.42 billion pesos.

The government earlier pledged to roll out a total of 892 programs, activities and projects for Marawi under an ambitious master plan.

But critics said the master plan has not been finalized and remains framed in loose procurement rules and legal shortcuts.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
UCA Newsletter
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter

Also Read

UCA News Podcast
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution