Fleeing Marawi: 'We can overcome this'
Through our partners, Oxfam is providing life-saving support for clean water, sanitation and hygiene; helping displaced families get the information they need about their legal and human rights; and connecting them to medical, legal and other support services while advocating for durable peace. Our partners for our humanitarian response in Marawi City are the Humanitarian Response Consortium, Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc., United Youth of the Philippines - Women, Al Mujadilah Development Foundation, Community Organizers Multiversity, Nisa Ul Haqq fi Bangsamoro, Tarbilang Foundation Incorporated and Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development.
Here are the stories of people who were forced to flee their homes in Marawi City.
Words and images by Rhea Catada/Oxfam
Fifty-year-old widow Darimba Akhmad has become like a matriarch to nine families ever since armed clashes erupted in their hometown, Marawi City. “I have four kids, the eldest is 33, and the youngest is 13. I take care of them, but I also watch over eight other families here in the evacuation center.” Darimba’s family, together with eight others from their neighborhood, boarded a rented jeepney (traditional public utility vehicle) to flee Marawi City.
As the most senior in the group, Darimba has become the leader of the group that sought refuge in a small livelihoods center in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte. “We have more than 30 kids in total, that’s why we all banded together on board that jeepney. We wanted to keep the children safe.” Darimba said that because they left in a huff, they were not able to bring some household essentials with them. “We don’t have enough milk for the kids, we don’t have cooking utensils for our food. We borrow from families living in houses nearby. I am also concerned about the welfare of the ones among us who are physically weak. For instance, we have a mother who just gave birth here. We try to take care of her, but she needs medical attention.” Darimba said that even though they face so many challenges in the evacuation center, she has to stay positive. “I have to be strong for them. We need to keep our faith. We can overcome this.”
“My 12-year-old grandson Makapiya has cerebral palsy. Ever since his parents died a long time ago, I have acted as his solo parent, and I am doing my best to take care of him,” shares 78-year-old Raga Lininding.
After the fire-fighting started in Marawi City, Grandma Raga immediately fled home with her grandson Makapiya, as well as her other grandson, 24-year-old tricycle driver Bowie and his wife. “When we heard shots and explosions, we took Makapiya’s wheelchair, then we took whatever we can and put it inside a small suitcase. The four of us boarded Bowie’s tricycle and reached this evacuation center in Saguiaran. The stress and the pressure of it all took its toll on Bowie’s wife, who was six months pregnant. After dropping us here at the evacuation center, Bowie took his wife to a nearby health center. They eventually lost their child and, up to now, my grandson’s wife is feeling weak. This is a tragedy for the family. Later on, we also learned that our house back in Marawi was burned down. So many tragedies in less than a month. For now, we try to make do with whatever we have. We just try to be grateful that we are all alive and we have each other.”
“My favourite subject in school is Science. I love learning how the world works, how our bodies work,” shared 15-year-old Osnia Atingan. Osnia is one of the 340,000 people displaced by the Marawi armed clashes. Together with her parents and her one-year-old sister, Osnia is currently staying in a cramped evacuation center in Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur. “When we heard explosions and shots being fired in Marawi, we immediately fled our homes. We rode a motorbike, and we were not able to bring enough with us, not even milk for my sister. I still find it difficult to sleep here in the evacuation center. Sometimes, I feel like I can still hear the sound of the explosions and gunshots. That experience still scares me and remembering it sometimes keeps me up all night. I just want to go back to how it was before, back home. I miss the comfort of my own bed and, most importantly, I miss going to school. I dream of becoming a nurse one day and help the sick and the needy. Some day, I am sure we can all go after our dreams, peacefully.”
“We just want our kids to enjoy their childhood.” Forty-one-year-old Sophia Bangunan is a mother of 10, who currently stays in gymnasium in Saguiaran, together with thousands of other people who were displaced by the Marawi crisis. “Everything that we have now were just donated to us and we are grateful. When we fled our home in Marawi, we left everything. That is why we’re glad that the government and several NGOs gave us sleeping mats (banig), food, and cooking pots. I just need money to buy milk for my one-year-old son. We miss our life back home. We used to live near the market, at the heart of the city, so my husband and I earned our living by selling fish and vegetables. We were contented with our life. But when the armed clashes started, we felt like our world has ended. We heard gunshots and explosions. And, every night here in the evacuation center, those sounds revisit us in our dreams. Later on we learned that our house burned down. It was heartbreaking news. Right now, even if we are not in the best situation, we try to be positive for our kids and nieces. As much as we can, we don’t want the kids to worry and carry our burdens. We just want them to enjoy their childhood. Hopefully one day, there will be peace, and we can take back the lives we had before the crisis happened.”