A NUMBER of Maranaos displaced by the now month-long fighting in Marawi City have complained of discrimination, saying some house and apartment owners in the city are refusing to rent out their properties after learning they are Maranaos.
A Maranao dentist, who declined to be named, said her family was not allowed to enter the premises of a subdivision in Upper Carmen after security guards learned they were Muslims.
"Ayaw daw ng may-ari na magtake in ng mga Muslims (The owner of the subdivision didn’t like to take in Muslims)," she said in an interview.
"Before asking anything else, they ask kung Maranao ba ako (if you are Maranao), and when I said yes, automatic sinasabi (they will reply) ‘they do not accept, or walang available’," the 31-year-old dentist said.
Because of the incident, she said her family was forced to stay in a high-end subdivision in the city, although they are still looking for a cheaper place to rent.
She said finding a house for rent is getting harder every day.
A dentist based in Iligan City, she said, she has to travel everyday for work.
"We still need to find a cheaper house kasi (because) we are planning to stay here until matapos na ang gulo sa (the fighting will end in) Marawi," she said.
"We hope na wala ang (that there will be no) discrimination. We are just visitors here in your city, and considering what we have been through, we are really looking for a friendly neighborhood now, sana they can extend their friendly gesture, at mapanindigan ang (and affirm the) City of Golden Friendship," she said.
She added if her family had a choice they would have stayed in Iligan City but its apartments there are full already.
"If this happens to you, I am sure we will warmly welcome you in our place," she added.
Asinda, a student who is in the city for her internship, said she also experienced the same rejection.
Asinda said finding a place to stay in for 7 months was a challenge for her and her eight Maranao classmates.
"Kahit may available na space, sinasabi nila na wala na once they see the kumbong (veil) we wear in our heads. May iba nga na hindi na nag-a-ask, basta nakita nila ang kumbong, wala o hindi na agad ang sagot (Even though there’s still space but the owners will refuse whenever they see you wearing a veil)," she said.
Reports of similar treatment experienced by Maranaos, many of them internally displaced persons (IDPs), has prompted human rights advocate Tommy Pangcoga to rant on social media against what Pangcoga calls a “very ugly yet well hidden anti-Muslim prejudice.”
“Even well-to-do Maranaos displaced by the crisis are turned away in the city of my youth simply because they are Muslim. Peace building for Mindanao began in one of the session halls of Xavier University in 1998. Yet outside its four walls, bigotry and otherness pervades under sheep's clothing,” Pangcoga wrote.
Pangcoga, who used to be a resident but who now lives in General Santos City, said he was disheartened that many city residents have apparently become prejudiced.
“I am disheartened. I am embarrassed. I am humiliated. I am angry. Muslim lawyers should put their foot down and give these residential businessmen the legal nightmare of their lives,” Pangcoga added in the post.
Another Maranao woman, who likewise requested anonymity, said the anti-Muslim sentiments of some city residents have been there even before the fighting in Marawi City displaced over 300,000 people.
She recounted that on February 13, they found a house in a subdivision here and gave the down payment for it. However, three days later, when they were supposed to move in, the guards barred them from entering the subdivision.
"Kahit na pinapakiusapan na sila nung lesser namin. Ayaw talaga. Sabi nila kailangan daw ng (Even though our lesser beg to them, they didn’t let us in. They said we have ask for) approval from the main office, which is sa (in) Manila," she said.
"We thought they are anti-Muslims, my papa asked if he could enter the house we were moving in then for the 3 p.m. prayer, but even for that purpose, we were still not allowed to enter," she said.
She said she is now staying in Iligan City after spending five days in a hotel here but said even there, she still could not find a place where her family could stay.
"All subdivisions we could find do not take Muslims," she said.
"Not all Muslims are terrorists. Just the fact that these Isis (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria)-inspired group chose to terrorize Marawi, an Islamic City, is reason enough that we are victims as well," she said.
"Where's the bayanihan essence nating mga Filipino? We're not asking you to do us any favor, may matuluyan lang kami (if we can have place to stay) and we're more than willing to go along your rules. Kasi truth be told, naparanoid kami sa nangyari (we are paranoid with the situation),"
Mohamad Gondarangin, president of the Oro Muslim Association, meanwhile, is asking the Kagay-anons to be more welcoming to the displaced Maranao people.
"Sana sa mga panahong ito, ipairal natin ang (Nowadays, we have to prevail the) Filipino hospitality, sana mangibabaw ang (may we assert) unity, kaysa sa (rather than) division," Gondarangin said.
Gondarangin also appealed for Kagayanons’ understanding toward the plight of Maranaos following to the ongoing firefight in Marawi City.
"Sana ipakiita natin nakahit anong mangyari tayo ay magkakapatid, dahil mga Filipino lang naman tayong lahat (May we show to them that whatever happens, we are still siblings since we are all Filipinos)," he added. (With reports from JB Deveza)