Marawi residents visit homes for the first time

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(Photo: Gerg Cahiles/CNN Philippines)

Marawi City (CNN Philippines, April 1) — For the first time residents from the most affected areas in Marawi City were allowed to go home Sunday.

The local government said the visit had been scheduled earlier, even before the protest staged by several residents on Good Friday, where they demanded to be allowed back to ground zero.

The first of nine batches lined up as early as 6 a.m., causing traffic near Baloi Bridge, which once separated the main fighting area from the safe zone.

Around 1,200 families made up the first batch of returnees. They were given three days to check their properties and salvage any belongings that survived the attacks.

Some residents expressed shock as they saw what was left of their town, trying to make sense of what happened to the place they once called home.

 

Others were disheartened, still in pain and anguish over what they lost.

Obarobar Macalindong, a resident of Marawi, said, "Hindi ko kaya. Kasi walang natira e. Anong aasahan namin?"

[Translation: I can't bear it. Nothing is left. What can we rely on?]

Johaina Mondas Delna, another Marawi resident, said she couldn't breathe when she first saw the extent of destruction, but her husband told her to be strong.

"Sabi ng asawa ko, relax ka. Hindi lang tayo ang nawalan. Lahat tayo pare-parehas. Kasi doon tayo mag-ano sa Allah kung sino ang may kagagawan nito. Sana biyayain ng Allah kasi wala tayong ibang malapitan kundi Allah," she said.

[Translation:My husband told me to relax. We weren't the only ones who suffered losses. We are all equal. We should ask Allah for help because He is the only one whom we can go to.]

But there were residents who were eager to go back, hoping it would give closure to the tragedy and trauma they suffered for months.

Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra said, "Dahil first day, medyo...'yung iba nandon pa sa pila. But basically, masaya naman ang tao kasi nakita na na nila ang kanilang pamamahay before we are going to start the reconstruction nitong most affected areas."

[Translation: Because it's the first day, others were still reliving the past. But basically, people were happy because they were able to see their homes before we start the reconstruction of the most affected areas.]

While others were able to retrieve some of their belongings, some left with nothing – but they hope they would be able to come back soon to rebuild their homes.

More residents will be allowed to enter the areas in the next few weeks

But after the scheduled visits, Gandamra said it may take three more years before his constituents from the most affected area can return and start rebuilding their homes.

That’s after the government is done with the rehabilitation and rebuilding of major roads and infrastructures in Marawi.

The main battle area is composed of 24 barangays which have been divided into nine sectors.

The first batch of Marawi residents have until April 3 to visit their homes.

There will be a total of nine batches of residents going back to ground zero, each given three days. They can check their properties from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on their scheduled dates.

Residents asked to be on alert

More residents will be allowed to return in the coming weeks.

Authorities warn them of unexploded ordnance and home-made bombs.

Task Force Tabang Deputy Commander Col. Romeo Brawner said although they have carried out sweeping activities in the area thrice, they cannot fully assure residents it's already clear of bombs and unexploded ordnance.

On Sunday, a 60-millimeter mortar was found in a backyard in Barangay Lilod Saduc.

Brawner reminded residents to alert authorities should they find unexploded bombs.