By Stephen J. Pedroza
MARAWI CITY, Philippines – On a sunny, windy Tuesday morning (July 17), sixty families, displaced by a brutal siege, officially received the keys to their transitory houses at the Angat Buhay Village, situated in Barangay Sagonsongan in the Islamic City of Marawi, capital of Lanao del Sur.
Vice President Leni Robredo led the turnover ceremony, along with Marawi Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra, Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan president Fr. Roberto C. Yap SJ, and Metro Stonerich Corporation (contractor) chief operating officer Eliseo Aurellado, and other partners of the housing project for internally-displaced people (IDP).
“Nakakadurug ng puso na marinig ang mga kwento nga mga pamilyang nandito, ang mga pinagdaanan nila,” Robredo said. “Ang nais natin ay makatulong tayo kahit papano para maibsan ang kanilang paghihirap. Marami tayong partners na palaging handang tumulong sa mga taga-Marawi.”
(It’s heart-rending to hear the stories of the families here, what they had been through. What we want is to help them somehow to relieve their suffering. We have many partners who are always ready to help the residents of Marawi.)
“Kung titignan natin ang enormity ng problema, maliliit lang talaga ang mga ganitong tulong pero kung lahat tayo ay magpi-pitch-in, lumalaki ang tulong na ating napapaabot sa kanila.”
(If we look at the enormity of the problem, these are only small acts of helping out but if everyone will pitch in, the assistance we extend to them becomes bigger.)
VP Leni urged the private sector to continue their support for the rebuilding of the war-torn city, particularly in providing livelihood and educational programs.
Each house in the Angat Buhay Village has a floor area of 24m2, kitchen sink, restroom, yards, and a rainwater catchment. The design and construction of the houses were provided pro bono by the United Architects of the Philippines - QC Elliptical Chapter and Metro Stonerich Corp, respectively.
Funding for the construction materials of the houses was sourced from the donations of the “Piso Para sa Laban ni Leni” Program (around Php7M), non-government organizations, and all Ateneo schools across the country through the Tabang Marawi operations.
The Philippine Toy Library Foundation also put up a toy library and indoor playground for kids, while the Latter-Day Saints Charities built a temporary learning space in the community.
From Xavier Ecoville to Angat Buhay
Xavier University’s engagement in this housing project is a continuation of Tabang Marawi, which began almost immediately after the Marawi siege that erupted in May 2017 and has been sustained up to today, even after the fighting ceased in October last year.
For its remarkable experience in building Xavier Ecoville, a resettlement community for over 500 families displaced by Tropical Storm Sendong in Cagayan de Oro City, the university was tapped as the local implementing partner by the Office of Vice President for this project.
“Our promise in Xavier Ecoville is the same with our promise here in the Angat Buhat village,” said Xavier Ateneo president Yap. “We are not just building houses, we are building a community.”
To integrate social formation and holistic community development, Xavier Ateneo has committed to working with the local government and civil society groups, such as the Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation, in ways appropriate and sensitive to the Maranao culture.
Yap added: “Thank you to the OVP, LGU of Marawi, and all our partners for trusting us and giving us the opportunity to help in building the Angat Buhay Village. Thank you for your cooperation.”
He assured that after the turnover of houses, the university’s support will continue. He said: “We are committed to strengthening the community here through social formation. Our promise is to be here with the community until May 2019.”
After the construction of 60 houses, 40 more will be added in the coming months. Donations for the construction of the additional units may be coursed through the Tabang Marawi of Xavier Ateneo.
New community, new hope
The LGU of Marawi secured the site in Brgy Sagonsongan for the Angat Buhay Village as well as the light and water connection. The area development activities had been undertaken with funding assistance from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Task Force Bangon Marawi.
“On behalf of the City of Marawi, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Office of the Vice President, Xavier University, and all the partners of Angat Buhay for this housing project,” said Gandamra.
LGU Marawi, through its technical working group on Kalambalingan (a Maranao term for “homecoming”) and in coordination with Xavier Ateneo, identified and screened the beneficiaries of the said village.
Noralyn Bangon, one of the beneficiaries, shared how their family made do after the Marawi siege.
“This is my first time to speak in front of many people, I’m nervous and I don’t know what to say,” Bangon shared in a program following the turnover ceremony.
She continued: “I cried when I learned that I am one of the beneficiaries of this housing project. We came back to zero, everything we owned was gone. All the things we had worked hard for were gone. If it weren’t because of the help and assistance of our relatives, siblings, and friends who were not affected [by the war], we would have nothing.”
More than a year after the Marawi war, Bangon’s family, for now, has a house to come home to.
“I consider this [house] as my mansion now,” she quipped.
Bangon’s story was not far from those of the thousands of families who are still waiting for the national government’s comprehensive rehabilitation on the ground zero of Marawi, which includes the construction of permanent houses for the IDPs.
The Marawi siege was a five-month-long (May-October 2017) urban battle between government forces and the ISIS-affiliated Maute Group that displaced more than 600,000 individuals.
Local leaders and residents have acknowledged that rehabilitating Marawi is an immense task that requires massive financial and logistical resources and support to achieve.
As Gandamra said: “Because of the magnitude of the problem here in Marawi, we cannot solve [the challenges] alone. We need the support of the national government, private sector, international agencies, NGOs, and everyone, dahil marami pa ang nangangailangan (because a lot more people still need help).”
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