CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Aid or without aid, allow us to go home.

This was the appeal of the Marawi residents to the Duterte administration whose homes were destroyed due to the fighting between state forces and extremist groups last year as the country remembers the city’s first anniversary of its liberation on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

“The government should listen to us, should listen to the community, should listen to the residents of Marawi. Let our voices be heard,” said youth leader Jalilah Hadji Sapiin.

Sapiin, 27, is a community development officer in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and member of the Bangsamoro Youth Leaders Program-Leadership Communities.

She is also the project head of “Palapa sa Lumba,” a project funded by Ayala Foundation, Inc. #ForMindanao and the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines.

“So what do we want as people of Marawi? We want to go home, whether they pay [us or not], we don’t need it,” she said, referring to the proposed reparation that the national government will give out to residents affected by the conflict.

Sapiin said she is also a member of the Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch, one of the groups that is closely monitoring the plans to rebuild Marawi, and from they have gathered, they found out there was no solid framework being established by the government to rehabilitate the city.

“They (government) don’t have a concrete plan. That’s what I have observed,” she said.

She said there should be a strong alliance among the government, concerned agencies and the people of Marawi.

“I don’t understand. They always ask us what we want to happen to Marawi during open forums, but then, when we expressed our desire, and then we looked at the government plan, what we said during the forums were not included,” she added.

“The government should let us work with them, for us to exert effort in rebuilding our Marawi. The government needs us to rebuild Marawi because our hearts are there, and we have the passion to do it,” Sapiin said.

If only the government will give the Maranaos the full rein to do the rebuilding of Marawi themselves, Sapiin said they can do it even without the financial assistance.

“This is not a matter of financial assistance coming from the government. This is a matter of making them believe that we can rise again,” she said.

As proof their resiliency, she said the Maranaos were able to bounce back even at the height of the conflict.

“Actually you can see it, during the siege it felt like normal, because the Maranaos, even though they lost their businesses in Marawi, they were able to put up their businesses again in Iligan, in Saguiaran. They even managed to smile in spite of what happened,” Sapiin said.(

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