*Appeal to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte by the Ranaw Multi-Sectoral Movement, a group of Marawi residents displaced by the battle with local militants link with with the Islamic State (ISIS) that started last May 2017.
We, the people of Marawi City and those who are one with us, would like to appeal to your kind office to intervene in the planned rebuilding of our beloved city and to stop the plan to establish an Ecozone that was presented to us by Sec. Eduardo Del Rosario, Chairman of Task Force Bangon Marawi, and Usec Adoracion M. Navarro, Regional Development Office of the NEDA on March 21-22, 2018 during the Multi-Sectoral Consultation on Marawi Rehabilitation held at the Social Hall, Capitol Complex, Marawi City.
We are Meranaw, the people of the lake. Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful has given us this land, this lake. Long before the Spaniards came. Long before the Americans came. Long before the establishment of the Republic of the Philippines, we were and have always been the people of the lake. We determine our fate since our ancestors first settled in this land guided by our leaders, the will of our people and the guiding will of Allah (swt).
Under the eyes of He who is the giver of life, we lived and built our community. In peace. In harmony. In freedom!
A freedom we so loved that we resisted those who dared deprive us of this freedom. Resisted Spain. Resisted the United States. Resisted all invaders. With our blood. With our lives. With fierce determination to keep our people free and dignified.
With the same determination, we built Marawi. Slowly. Gradually. One house at a time. One masjid (mosque) at a time. One village at a time. We built this City of Our Dreams and Aspirations. The embodiment of our culture and identity. The expression of our faith. Through the years, Marawi stood fast. Thrived and flourished.
Marawi was, is, and will always be our pride and our symbol. Marawi that is now in shambles. Devastated. Ravaged by a war we never wanted. Forced upon us by the exigencies of these times and historical imperatives.
Mr. President, we understand the urgencies that led to the war. We may not all agree to the manner it was waged and won. What we can do now is to face the future and do what is best to be done.
Right now, the future seems threatening. Forces are moving that threaten to do far greater damage to our people than what the war has done. The bullet-riddled, crumbling remains of the Grand Masjid in our beloved Marawi, silent as it is now and absent of prayers, cries out.
For in the guise of rebuilding our home, in the guise of laying down the foundations of a better, progressive and modern city, the will and vision of those who live far from us who built this city are being imposed upon us. This is an invasion of a different kind. This one threatens to rob our soul.
Plans have been made without our participation. Plans that neither bear the stamp of our will nor reflect our culture. Plans whose mechanics and implementation are not clear to us. But one thing is clear: the people of Marawi are largely left out. Those who came to present the plan dismissed our comments, recommendations, and protestations as though we knew nothing and have no business getting involved in rebuilding our very own city.
Mr. President, as former mayor of a great city, you must know that a city is not merely the sum of its buildings. Not merely an occasion for economic gain. Not merely a blueprint of a well laid out interconnection of industrial, commercial, entertainment parks, however grand.
A city symbolizes its people. Built upon the aspirations and dreams of its people. Nurtured by and reflective of the identity of its people. We are not building a city from debris. We are rebuilding a city from history and from memory.
The blueprint of this city is in the hearts and minds of the Meranaws, and not in the drawing boards of urban architects and master planners.
Mr. President, you belong to our people. You know we will not keep quiet and simply accept this. We cannot accept that those who know so little of us would map out how to rebuild our city. Our home for since time immemorial.
We appeal then to you, Mr. President, to grant us, the people of the lake, the rightful heirs to this land, our right to rebuild this city with your guidance, support and protection.
We appeal to you to let Marawi be rebuilt the way our ancestors did: one house at a time, one masjid at a time. One village at a time. We welcome those who are willing to help us in this endeavor, for the challenges are daunting and the costs are high. We appeal though that please help us rebuild according to our will in pursuit of the will of Allah (swt). Stand with us, help us, please, be one of us.
Mr. President, please put a stop to the proposed Eco zone and military camp plans until we have been heard, until our dreams and aspirations, our cultural sensitivities and our faith find expression in the rebuilding of Marawi City, our home.
This is the cry of our people. This is the cry of Marawi. This is our appeal, Mr. President.