• FROM MARAWI TO MANILA:

    Young war refugees start life anew

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    Hanna is a freshman at the Ramon Avanceña High School; Fayad and Jonaidah are Grade 5 students; siblings Jalin, Anifa and Bomhit have enrolled at the Geronimo Santiago Elementary School in Manila.

    These children do not know each other but they have something in common: they are all victims of the war in Marawi City.

    Hanna (not her real name) was accompanied to Manila by her sister, Sittie. In an interview with The Manila Times, Sittie said only she and Hanna were able to leave Marawi because they did not have enough money to cover the fare of their mother and five other siblings.

    With some help from relatives, the two sisters will start a new life in Manila, far from their family but safe from the marauding members of the Maute Group.

    Sittie said that her family wanted Hanna to finish schooling so that she can find a job to support her family back home. “Kahit nandito kami [Manila], pero nanduon pa sila, nakakatakot pa din lalo na pag ganyan yung naririnig sa balita [Even though we are here, we are still afraid, especially when we hear the news because our family is still there),” Sittie said.

    Hanna, 18, dreams of becoming an engineer one day. “Gusto ko pong makatapos para makapaghanap ako ng matinong trabaho . . . magandang trabaho [I want to finish school so that I can find a good job],” she said.

    FAR FROM THE BOMBS Faisal and Rasmiah with Jalil, Anifa, Bomhi and Aina. Second photo shows Anifa and Bomhit inside their classroom. PHOTO BY KIMBERLY LIBRERO

    Unlike Hanna and Sittie, Fayad has his family with him in Manila. His mother thought he died during the May 23 attack in Marawi. “Maraming nabaril, nagtakbuhan sila. Ang mama ko hindi ko makita. Yun pala nasa tanod sa barangay. Sobrang iyak, parang namatayan [People were shot, they were running. I could not find my mother. Then I found out that she was with a village watchman. She was crying hard, grieving.]”.”

    After staying in Cagayan de Oro for two days, Fayad said he, his mother and a sibling left for Manila, leaving an older sister behind who, they thought, was lost. He said his sister had called, saying she was still in Lanao del Sur but safe.

    Fayad said he had to cope with the changes but is happy now that he had made new friends.

    “Madami na akong kaibigan, pati mga pinsan, pinupuntahan nila ako sa bahay. [I now have a lot of friends, and even my cousins visit me at home,]” he told the Times.

    Not going back
    Jonaidah, 12, is also a 5th grader. She wants to become a doctor to help Muslim communities.

    Her mother had decided that they will not go back to Marawi and will pursue a new life in Manila. This sits well with Jonaidah, who has been traumatized by the guns and bombs. Jonaidah admitted that sometimes, she would question why fate seemed to be hard on Muslims. “Sana matapos na ang gulo, para matahimik na ang mga Muslim. Kawawa naman ang mga Muslim… walang sisilungan, walang damit [I hope the war will end so the Muslims will be at peace. I feel sad for Muslims, They have no home, no clothes.],” she said.

    Mohammad, another 5th grader, said he misses his playmates in Marawi. “Sana makalaro ko sila ulit [I wish we can play again],” said Mohammad, who left Marawi with his family.

    Reunited
    When Faisal Samporna and Rasmiah Compa learned of the fighting in Marawi, Rasmiah called her mother to check on her children – Jalin, Anifa and Bomhit.

    The two, who were working in Manila, immediately sent money, worried that the children and other members of their family lost all their belongings when the fighting erupted on May 23.

    But for lack of money, the couple only managed to buy a ticket for their first child Jalin.

    Jalin left Marawi hungry and with only the filthy shirt on his back.

    “Napakaitim ng damit niya, madumi, napakadungis, payat, naka-tsinelas lang siya, gutom na gutom [His clothes were filthy, he was very dirty. He was thin and very hungry,] Rasmiah described Jalin when he arrived in Manila.

    Now that he is safe, Jalin does not want to go back to Marawi.

    “Ayoko na po doon, may mga Maute group…wasak na ang bahay namin [I don’t want to go back there anymore, there are Maute rebels. Our home was wrecked,] he told The Manila Times.

    On Tuesday, Jalin was reunited with Anifa and Bomhit. The three children were joined by their cousin Aima, whose father remains trapped in Marawi.

    Jalil, Anifa, Bomhit and Aima are enrolled at the Geronimo Santiago Elementary School. Jalil is in Grade 6, while Anifa, Bomhit and Aima are in Grade 1. The school offers the Madrasah program and has the highest number of students from Marawi with 46 transferees. It has an 80 percent Muslim population.

    School principal Rodel Sampang said the school is working on a guidance counselling program for the transferees with the participation of the students’ guardians. “Nakikisalamuha naman sila. Malaking tulong na may local [Muslim] community to support them, lalo na yung parents [They mingle with others. It’s a big help that there is a local Muslim community to support them, especially the parents,] he said.

    Based on the Division of City Schools in Manila, there are 107 children who transferred from Marawi.

    Wilfredo Cabral, the schools superintendent and Department of Education (DepEd)-National Capital Region (NCR) officer-in-charge, said schools will be open for enrollment until the end of June to accommodate the transferees.

    Cabral said officials will come up with a scheme to help late enrollees catch up on their lessons.

    “We are still checking how they can make up. They can fi­nish a module or have materials at home,” he said.

    Education Secretary Leonor Briones had ordered schools to accept students from Marawi even if they fail to present their school credentials.

    There are around 20,000 children displaced in Lanao del Sur as a result of the conflict.

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