By Ali Macabalang
Marawi City – The holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin today if the new moon is sighted. But the month of prayer and fasting from dawn to dusk among Muslims will still be bleak for the displaced residents of this city, the lone Islamic City of the Philippines.
Last year, the Ramadan fast – one of the five pillars of Islam – began on May 27, three days after Maute terrorists lay siege on this city forcing over 200 residents to flee.
“For the first time, azan (call to prayer) did not reverberate in down town Marawi on the first dawn of fasting,” Malik Ganda, a Marawi resident recalled.
Days later, the exodus to safe evacuation centers emptied most of the 96 villages. And Marawi’s 160 mosques where Maranaos gathered for prayer and solemn rites during Ramadan have likewise been deserted.
Yesterday, ustadz (Islamic cleric) Paisal Hamid said: “Similar lonely Ramadan observance is imminent here since all major masjids (mosques) remain in rubble after destruction in military airstrikes and artillery fires.”
“The same (bleak fast) is true to thousands of Marawi residents who remain stranded in evacuation centers (in the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro and elsewhere) where food rations became rare,” Hamid added.
Few hundreds of evacuees have been allowed to return here and occupy government resettlement shelters built in areas outside the city’s most affected area (MAAs) or Ground Zero.
Because no market place has been built yet in the resettlement areas, shelters’ occupants depend on food donations from humanitarian groups and individuals.
“Some little cash donations will not be enough to buy food or goods due to transport cost (in distant market places else elsewhere),” a resettled evacuee told Manila Bulletin in the vernacular.
Evacuees in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities have renewed their call for government to allow them to come home and spend Ramadan fast in this war-torn Islamic city.
“We have had enough of penitence like one whole year of fasting in evacuation centers. We hope President Duterte will hear finally our prayer for homecoming. Ramadan will be dull for us again but we want to spend it in our city,” Ismael, a student evacuee told Manila Bulletin.