Almost one year after we launched our Mingo for Marawi campaign to send emergency relief to evacuees of the conflict-torn Marawi City in Mindanao, NVC had the privilege of meeting our beneficiaries face-to-face and going to Ground Zero of the conflict, where we saw with our own eyes the heartbreaking, lasting effects of war.
Wherever we go, we are blessed to have an awesome team of ground partners who make sure that NVC’s brand of love is delivered. Here are just some of the people we met and the stories we have from our trip to Marawi.
We walked through what seemed like an unreal scene, but what saw were the very real ravages of war in Marawi.
We pay tribute to the men in uniform who risk their lives to protect us, who are often forgotten and misunderstood because of a few like them who have lost their way. In conversation with them we discovered stories of loved ones back home far away, including little sons and daughters who hardly see their fathers, and wives who cry quiet tears on their pillows at night, not knowing if they will someday lose their men in battle. We salute to these heroes and pray for God’s loving protection upon them. That is the least that we can do for our men and women in uniform.
If we could only write one story, it would be about Sabia.
Fixed into marriage at thirteen, she has, at 67 years, 21 children and 150 grandchildren. Once a hotcake vendor and a barrio midwife in Marawi, Sabia’s active and comfortable life was interrupted too soon when her family fled their home as the battle erupted a year ago. She now lives in the Bahay Pagasa cluster of temporary shelters, together with her family and many others who live on harvests from the communal garden in the center.
Sabia is left with memories of those happier days along with a few bullet-ridden items they have recovered from what was once their home in Ground Zero. That includes the bed of many memories on which she sits in this photo.
We made the trip to Marawi to implement the sponsorship of Sun Life Foundation, which includes the enrolment of 623 Marawi children in a 6-month Mingo Meals nutrition program, and the opening of an upgraded learning center for displaced children.
The Mingo nutrition program starts with the arduous task of conducting home visits, ensuring that the enrolees would truly benefit from Mingo, and documenting the weight of every child. The next step is briefing parents on the Mingo nutrition protocol and officially launching the program. After this, 623 children in two temporary shelter facilities for those who fled Marawi will begin to enjoy their daily Mingo dose to calm their hungry stomachs.
Abubakar lost his livelihood selling ready-to-wear clothes when the Marawi siege erupted. He, his wife, and ten children had to flee without looking back. But with resilient faith he has started a new business, selling goods from his sari-sari store at the Bakwit Village where he lives together with about 2,000 others, in 300 houses and 100 container vans. Six of his children will eat better soon as they have been enrolled to receive daily Mingo Meals for six months, through the support of Sun Life Foundation.
It is in the most difficult of circumstances that heroes emerge. Yesterday, we came face to face with one of them.
Khuzaimah (Khuzy) Maranda Mangate has been a tireless worker for the poor and underprivileged in Mindanao all of her grown up years, but we take all our hats off to Khuzy’s option to voluntarily stay in the temporary shelters of Bakwit Village for those who have fled Marawi, so she could oversee, hands on, up close and personal, the management of the compound.
Yet it was only yesterday that she visited the heart of Marawi’s ruins of war in Ground Zero for the first time. Despite her bravery and strength, she believed that seeing the shattered city, once vibrant and bustling, would tear her heart to pieces. But without telling NVC, she quelled her fears because she felt that bringing us to Ground Zero was something she could do for us.
We have many photos of Khuzy facing the cameras up front but we chose this one of Khuzy as she enters her bullet-ridden mosque for the first time since the war, her silhouette framed by the grandeur of the structure. Only now we know how her heart cried at that moment for the past, the present and the future of this land she loves so much.
We are sorry Khuzy, that we unknowingly put you through this moment. And know that with all our hearts, we salute you for all the good that you do so unselfishly, for the least of our brethren.
Etched on Ustad Samanoding Balindong’s countenance are the two wars that have created havoc on his life.
Shortly after his young wife died due to illness, he had to flee his home in Butig, Lanao in 2016 when military and Maute forces clashed. Though a lesser known war and government emerged victorious over a shorter period of fighting, the war left most of the town’s buildings either bombed-out or peppered with bullet holes. Ustad opted to rebuild life for himself and his two children in Marawi, only to flee his home again when last year’s war erupted.
Today, at the Bakwit Village, Ustad is chairman of the religious committee. His faith in Allah’s all knowing plans for him and his family sustains him as he faces an unknown future. But during unguarded moments, the pain of his past, the sufferings of his present and the uncertainty of his future, are all mirrored on his face.
No place like home
“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home…” so the song goes, and with greatest credit to the human spirit, even if home is a tent and the family living in it has lost their all, they can make their surroundings as cheery as can be.
The centerpiece is a large flat screen from the home they fled in Marawi, recovered but with a bullet hole that has rendered it useless. It is now this temporary home’s pièce de résistance, the canvas for a creation whose main feature is a picked-up handout with instructions on how to deal with IED’s (improvised explosive devises) that may still be found around.
Happiness is truly a choice. And when one makes the choice, nothing can bury happiness.