AS THOUSANDS of civilians fled Marawi City following the firefight between members of a local terror group and state forces starting Tuesday afternoon, some displaced residents found it difficult to seek shelter in neighboring areas.
Although Lanao del Norte and the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro have set up temporary shelters to welcome the influx of internally displaced residents from Marawi, others like Fatima (not her real name), 36, married, have opted not to go to the evacuation centers.
Fatima, from Barangay Bangon in Marawi, is one of those who escaped the skirmishes in Marawi as she and her four children hitched a ride on her husband’s relatives’ vehicle that left the city Wednesday night.
They arrived in Cagayan de Oro late Thursday morning because of the traffic congestion that caused a gridlock in Iligan.
Fatima said they decided to relocate to the city so she and her kids could have a decent place to stay. Her husband is working in Manila.
Before chaos ensued, Fatima recalled she just stepped out of a money-transfer office inside the Mindanao State University main campus in Barangay Rapasun to get the cash her husband sent.
At Barangay Basak Malutlot, she saw soldiers positioned on the streets, and when she reached City Hall, it was at this point when people were running in different directions as gunshots were heard from afar.
Fatima said she lost no time in going to her neighbor’s house, her husband’s relatives, and decided to hitch a ride with them going out of Marawi.
“We haven’t brought anything. Me and my children only had the clothes we wear,” she said. “We didn’t care if there were gunshots. We just wanted to get out of Marawi.”
He said there were armed men she suspected of being Maute group members outside her house who told them to move out immediately.
“[The armed men] ordered us to hurry up and leave Marawi. They also said they will burn our houses,” she added.
When they reached Iligan City, they spent the night at a lodge before proceeding to Cagayan de Oro in the morning.
Speaking to this reporter at a police checkpoint in Sitio Kinasanghan, Barangay Iponan where a team from the City Public Safety Battalion was flagging down vehicles coming from the western part of Mindanao, Fatima said they were still searching for a place to stay.
Most of those who fled Iligan stayed in their relatives’ houses in Cagayan de Oro, but Fatima said her kin’s residences are already full of evacuees from Marawi.
She said she wanted her children to live in Cagayan de Oro for the moment and have them study here, but it will be hard for them since their school documents were destroyed after the Maute Group burned the Dansalan College campus in Barangay Moncado Colony to the ground.
“I don’t know [if they can enroll in Cagayan de Oro]. They have no credentials anymore since [Dansalan College] is no more,” Fatima said.
As of 5:50 p.m., there are about 5,000 evacuees from Marawi who are staying in temporary shelter facilities in Iligan.