‘Forsaken’ Lanao town awaits gov’t aid

By Bonita Ermac

BUTIG, Lanao del Sur – As far as Asmiah H. Omar is concerned, this town, which was caught in the middle of the battle between soldiers and Islamist militants in 2016, has been all but forsaken by the government.

Ragayan Elementary School (VIA BONITA ERMAC / MANILA BULLETIN)
Ragayan Elementary School (VIA BONITA ERMAC / MANILA BULLETIN)

The fighting has left Butig in ruins, Omar, a Grade Six teacher at Poctan Elementary School here, said in an interview with Manila Bulletin.

She feels government efforts to rebuild the town and help the people recover from their loss have ground to a halt.

“Nahuli kami sa priority. Parang hindi kami napansin. Kami iyong una na nawalan, na-depressed as in sumabog iyong mga bahay, buildings, kahit isang poste walang Makita,” Omar said.

“It is a very sad feeling. Everytime you wake up in the morning, wala ka ng makikitang bahay”, she said.

The fighting forced Omar and many other residents to leave Butig. When they returned, they found their homes destroyed.

Omar and her family stayed at a school’s stage along with two other families.

She said about 50 houses were heavily damaged.

“Pakiramdam namin parang nawalan kami ng dyamante na hindi na maisasa-uli. Pero kahit konti man lang walang nakiramdam na tumulong ng ganito at magbigay ng ganyan,” she said.

Government assistance did not arrive until much later.

Omar said their hopes to have their homes rebuilt have faded.

“Sa Marawi ginagawan na ng paraan, rehabilitation, may bahay na kahit konti, may nauwian na ang nawalan ng bahay”, said Omar, referring to the massive reconstruction effort in Marawi City.

Poctan Elementary School will have to cope with overcrowded classrooms, “so that the pupils will not be left behind in their studies” she said.

Omar was thankful when a foundation distributed school supplies to the students recently.

In the neighboring barangay, Ragayan Elementary School was heavily damaged by the fighting because it was where the militants stayed.

The school not only lacks basic materials, but also need more teachers. But principal Namraidah B. Bao said teachers avoid being assigned to Ragayan because they are afraid.