LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines – Her family had millions-worth of hardware business and a house and lot in Marawi City.
Her eldest child went to an expensive private school in Manila and frequently visits home in Marawi by plane.
She could afford to spend almost P10,000 to pay for the regular veterinary check-up of her seven cats in Iligan City.
But that was before the ISIS-inspired Maute group staged an attack in the predominantly Islamic City that escalated into a full-blown war with the government forces.
Noraida Salem Latip, 40, a mother of 5, could only cry seeing photographs of their almost P10-million worth of properties in Barangay Datu Sa Dansalan turned into dust, posted on social media taken by journalists.
The properties were put up from their hard-earned money. Latip said she sold a P2.5-million worth of house in Manila and her seven stalls in the night market bazaar in a high-end subdivision in Parañaque City to put up a business in Marawi City.
“But they were gone in a flash. It’s devastating,” she said.
Latip and her husband were in Iligan City on May 23 to get supplies worth of P280,000 for their hardware store when the war erupted. When they arrived in Marawi in the afternoon, the firefight between the militants and the government troops was already going on.
Like other residents in Marawi, Latip thought the gunfight would stop in less than a week.
The couple stayed in their three-storey building, where their hardware store on the first floor.
“We didn’t leave the house because in the afternoon on May 24, during the gunfight, we saw five men, but we didn’t know if they’re ISIS or civilians,” she said.
But Latip said, she could not endure the noise due to military planes and dropped bombs.
“My ears were painful like they’re going to explode. The vibration of our rolled up doors was very loud. We were like rats hiding,” she said.
When they hear a helicopter or plane, they would go down to the first floor. When the planes are gone, the militants and soldiers would continue fighting outside their house so they would go up to the third floor again. The situation, she said, was terrible.
After one week of the siege, they decided to get out and escape.
“When we went out of our house, we realized that some of our neighbors were also hiding in their houses. They were just waiting for others to go out. Then, we went out together,” she said.
‘Poorer than rats’
Latip and her family are now living with relatives in Barangay Dilimbayan in Tugaya town.
“Sometimes, we stay here for three days, then in another place for the next three days. We eat in other houses and help in the chores,” she said.
“We’re poorer than rats there. The small amount of money before is now a big help,” Latip added.
At first, Latip said she and her husband did not join the other evacuees lining up to get relief goods because they thought it is only for the less fortunate families who need them more.
Their two children went back to school at Mindanao State University – Marawi Campus, while their eldest child stopped. He is supposed to be a third year Information Technology student at an AMA campus in Manila.
“It’s very painful. We have worked hard for our children to finish their studies so they will not end up like us who only finished high school,” she said
There was a time when she sent a message to former Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, asking for help because like other house-based displaced families, relief goods would hardly reach to them. In response to her email, a staff of Taguiwalo sent Latip P700 through a remittance center.
She later learned that it was solicited from Facebook.
“I said, they are blessing from the Lord. Small amount but it made me very happy for the big help. I could give my child for the fare to go to school and buy some food,” she said.
Before the war, Latip said the P700 is her budget for phone credit and for the allowance of her child in Grade school.
“When we still had some money, every Ramadan, when a relative would visit our house, I would give them P700 to P1,000, aside from food. That’s when I realized how it felt when you don’t have anything and somebody gave you a little amount, your happiness could reach the sky,” she recalled.
Letters to the President
Latip, who also knows a little in technology, keeps on sending messages to every email address she found, especially if it has connections with President Rodrigo Duterte. She keeps on asking financial help to start up a new business.
Several emails, she said, did not receive replies.
Her husband had gone to Manila to supposedly borrow some amount from relatives to start up a business, but he failed. They also approached some friends in Iligan City, including their former suppliers, but they also failed.
Latip said they are doing this so that they can continue to provide their children’s needs especially to their studies.
“I’m afraid they won’t be able to finish their studies because of the war,” she said.
As of this writing, Latip and her husband are on the way to Iligan City to bring the reply of the Presidential Complaint Center of the Office of the President in Malacañang to her letter dated September 29, which was “seeking presidential intercession relative to her request for livelihood/financial assistance”.
In the reply, she was referred to the City Social Welfare and Development Office in Iligan City.(davaotoday.com)