LAST month, news about a clash between government troops and the Maute Terror Group in Marawi City broke out.
The incident resulted to President Rodrigo Duterte declaring martial law for the whole of Mindanao in a bid to fast track in ending the chaos caused by the terrorist group.
Out of fear, residents of Marawi City fled to nearby towns, cities, and provinces. This lead to the establishment of evacuation centers in different areas especially in Iligan City.
While the government mobilizes its different defense arms to fight the terrorists, it has also mobilized other departments to cater to the needs of the evacuees.
The government can only do so much, with a heart to help, Mindanaons across sectors, private and public, came together to help their brothers and sisters who were affected by the crisis in Marawi City.
Among the groups who jumped into action to help the evacuees and those who were affected is JCI Duwaling. Liezel Salera, the organization's president, said their organization called for donations of relief goods with the help of the Mindanao Development Authority (Minda).
"Minda served as the logistics partner of JCI. Taking charge of transporting their donations and distributing them to different evac centers in Marawi. Since the area officers of Minda are already on the ground, it's more efficient for both parties to have this arrangement," said Kathy Mar Meteo, Development Management Officer III of the Public Relations Division, said.
On May 30, Minda posted a call for donations on their official Facebook Page. Suggested donations included halal food items, hijab, malong, fully-covered clothing items, toiletries, sanitary napkins, diapers, medicine, and first aid kits, among others.
Minda's offices in Davao City, Koronadal City, Cagayan de Oro City, Zamboanga City, and Butuan City served as drop-off points for the relief goods. Minda has also set up booths in SM City Davao and SM Lanang Premier, Davao City. SM is also among the companies that partnered with Minda.
However, she said it was not only JCI Duwaling who was working with them to send donations and assistance to the evacuees.
Another private sector partner was the Aboitiz Group, which donated 14,000 packs of the High Energy Biscuits on Thursday to supplement the relief efforts for internally displaced people from Marawi City. The group also distributed 3,000 pieces of Pan-de-Sal per day for seven days for the evacuees through Pilmico's Research & Development Facility/Commissary in Iligan City.
As for JCI Duwaling, they also conducted fund raising initiatives to help the evacuees, you can visit their Facebook page to check out the t-shirts and refrigerator magnets they are selling. You can also log on to their crowd funding page (www.thesparkproject.com/project/global-shapers-relief-effort-for-marawi) if you want to extend help financially.
While efforts from the different sectors can be commended, the volunteers who brought the relief goods were also inspired by what they experienced. Mateo together with other Minda staff also took part in delivering the items to one of the evacuation centers.
"It was both moving and heartbreaking. Moving in a sense that despite the situation of the evacuees, you can see the resilience of the human spirit. I particularly saw kids there playing with each other while their parents lined-up for one of the relief goods being distributed. Others would look on smiling, and when I tried to take photos, they’d happily pose. But, when you really look closer and beyond those smiles, it’s heartbreaking to how these people, kids, parents, and elderlies have to live day by day in a crammed space, waiting for donations to arrive, uncertain if they’d still have a home to go back to. We realized how much still needs to be done – more donations, more frequent deliveries, and simply more positivity to help them get through the crisis," Mateo said.
Her fellow Minda colleague, Eamarie Gilayo, Minda International Relations Division Development Management Officer 3, said though the conduct of relief operations in various parts in Mindanao is not at all new to her, the most recent one in Iligan and Lanao was at a different level.
"The evacuations were not caused by a natural calamity nor were these done under ordinary circumstances. It was due to a war with terrorists, in the period of martial law, against the backdrop of a complicated web of situations," she said.
Gilayo noted that a huge portion of the evacuees were not really in poverty back when they were residing in Marawi, some were entrepreneurs, office workers, students.
"But according to them, knowing and seeing the number of people, groups, agencies who have lent their hands to extend relief and assistance gave them a spark of hope that maybe, it is possible to start again," she said.
Gilayo said the travel to Lanao del Norte was generally peaceful.
"Despite the happenings, the areas we have visited were generally peaceful. Cagayan de Oro and Iligan went with its daily activities as normal. The military personnel manning the checkpoints were all pleasant. The relief operations were organized and the evacuees lining up for the goods were patient, disciplined and followed everything they have been directed to do," she said.
Jose Abad Santos Vice Mayor Jason John Joyce, National Movement of Young Legislators (NMYL) Vice President for Mindanao, also took part in the relief operations. He and other members of NYML pulled their sources together for relief goods not only for the evacuees but also for the soldiers.
He said they were also able to visit Camp BGen Edilberto Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City where they met with the wounded soldiers.
"We gave them pillows because it was among the primary needs of the soldiers...it was both heartwarming and heart wrenching when we visted the soldiers," Joyce said, adding that they also gave toiletries and towels, among other items.
Joyce said he met with other NYML members from Soccsksargen, Northern Mindanao, and Caraga in Cagayan de Oro City to deliver their relief goods to the evacuees in Iligan City. He said the security going there was very strict like how checkpoint in Iligan City lists the plate number of all vehicle coming or how they have a command center where volunteers register their names and declare the items they are bringing with them.
He said when they visited one of the evacuation centers, he noted how everything was organize like how there is a center manager who ensures that everything is running smoothly and how they list those who are receiving the goods.
"Though we are still your legislators, we take responsibility for the things happening in our country," Joyce said.
Though the crisis in Marawi may have caused unfortunate situations to those who are from Marawi City, but through these groups, we saw how Filipinos came together to help their brothers and sisters affected by the war.
"It is a story about unity; it is a story of Mindanawons for Mindanawons," said Joyce.
Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on June 19, 2017.
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