Refugees begin long trip home to Zambo-A A +A
Sunday, October 13, 2013
WITH high hopes that they can rise again after the chaos, 17 evacuees from Zamboanga finally began to head home yesterday.
Before leaving Cebu City as part of the first batch of 60 evacuees, Doreen Saggap admitted she felt uncertain about what will happen to them, after two weeks of being away from home.
“We are not yet certain how to start again our everyday lives,” said Saggap, a businesswoman who used to sell fish and fruits in their town.
But even with her reservations, Saggap expressed her desire to go home. “No matter what happens, we will always go back there,” said Saggap.
For hundreds of Zamboanga City residents, the ordeal began last Sept. 9 when a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) held civilians hostage in parts of four barangays. They said they had intended to raise the MNLF flag at City Hall, but were kept at bay by government forces.
Military operations were declared over last Sept. 28, but by then the conflict had displaced hundreds and forced local businesses to suspend operations.
Now, Saggap said she takes comfort from the news of a relative who already went home and informed her that it’s safe to go back.
“The military is already on its clearing operations, that is why we decided to finally go back,” Saggap said.
The Cebu City Government paid for the evacuees’ fares, and the Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) distributed yesterday the cash assistance from the City.
Each individual received P1,100 cash and a total of P18,700 from the City’s “balik probinsya” program.
Ester Concha, DSWS chief, said the amount covered the fare and food expenses of each individual.
They also brought along with them the 10-wheeler flatbed truck they used when they fled.
Past noon yesterday, the evacuees departed from Barangay Punta Princesa, Cebu City and traveled toward the town of Samboan.
They will cross by barge from Samboan to reach Dapitan and will proceed to their hometown in Talon-talon, Zamboanga City by land.
A few days ago, some evacuees already went home using their own funds, said Concha.
The evacuees from Zamboanga arrived in Cebu last Sept. 25 to avoid getting caught in the crossfire between government troops and the MNLF.
A total of 33 adults and 22 children have been staying in an apartment rented by Sarah Mae Basillo. All of them are relatives of Basillo, who hails from Zamboanga but now lives in Cebu.
A second batch of evacuees is expected to go home to Zamboanga next week.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 13, 2013.