MARAWI CITY, Philippines — Thirty five displaced children from Marawi City have traveled almost 1,500 kilometers to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte at around 2:30 pm today, Aug. 29.
The children were among those chosen by the provincial government and the military to join the educational tour meant to show them that an environment outside their war-stricken city exists.
Among them is 8-year-old Sittie Aisa Maruhom from Banggolo district, an area that has turned into a battle field of the troops fighting against ISIS-inspired extremists.
Maruhom said she will take the opportunity to ask President Rodrigo Duterte to lift his imposition of martial law in Mindanao.
“Hihilingin ko rin na mabigyan niya (Duterte) kami ng bahay (I will also ask him to give us a house),” said Maruhom who grew up seeing her parents tending a snack-inn in the once busy village as their source of living.
“Pero wala na, wala na kaming bahay, nalagyan na ng bomba (But we don’t have our homes anymore, it was bombed),” she said.
Like Maruhom, 11-year old Princess Edris, who is from Barangay Bubong Punod, said she wants the crisis to end.
“Gusto ko pong sabihin sa mahal kong pangulo na sana matapos na ang gulo sa Marawi at saka mabigyan ng hanapbuhay ang mga magulang ko (I want to tell my beloved President that I wish to end the war in Marawi and to give livelihood opportunity to my parents),” Princess said.
Meanwhile, 10-year old Mohammad Ali from Barangay Cadayunan 2 said he prays that genuine peace in Marawi City will be restored soon.
The Joint Task Force Marawi set the educational tour for the displaced children who are temporarily staying in the different evacuation centers in Marawi, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte.
With the theme “Tabak Educational Tour: Peaceful Environment for Marawi Children,” the participants left on Monday, August 28.
They left the provincial capitol compound on board the provincial bus going to Laguindingan Airport in Cagayan de Oro City after a simple send off ceremony.
Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, JTF Marawi spokesperson, said the tour is expected to provide the children, who live in conflict-affected areas, with educational experience, social and cultural values for peace-building, and exposure to peaceful environments.
“They were identified as among those vulnerable and susceptible to violent extremism,” the JTF Marawi said in a statement.
“This is one of the initiatives of the armed forces and to ensure that those children displaced by the crisis in Marawi City are given adequate support and psycho-social treatment by the government,” it said.
In an interview with Davao Today, Amina Manonggiring, whose 11-year old daughter is among the participants, said she was happy that her daughter is one of the chosen kids who will join the educational tour.
“Sinabi ko sa kanya na sabihin kay presidente na sana bigyan kami ng bahay at saka kapital sa negosyo kasi nasunog na ang bahay namin sa Moncado Colony (I told her to tell President to give us a home and financial capital because our house in Moncado Colony got burned),” Manonggiring said while watching the bus that ferried the kids to the airport left.
Her family is temporarily staying in a government building inside the provincial capitol compound.
Salam Mulay, another evacuee who also stays in the evacuation center at the provincial capitol said she also wishes that the same opportunity will be given to them.
Meeting the President and talk to him in person is what she have been praying for.
“Sana kami din matatanda ay pipiliin din na mag-field trip at makausap si Presidente. Para mahiling din namin ang mga gusto naming hilingin sa kanya, unang-una ay kapayapaan dito sa Mindanao (I hope the elderlies like me will also be chosen to meet with the President so we can tell him we wish peace here in Mindanao),” Mulay, who have never set foot outside Marawi city, said.
Martial law was declared in Mindanao in May, following the attack of the Maute group in Marawi City. However, Congress in a joint session requested by the President, extended it until the end of the year. (davaotoday.com)