Echoing voices of the men and women in Amatonding building

At first glance, the Amatonding Building looks just like another ordinary structure. The unpainted three-storey concrete structure looks commonplace though incomplete in its construction and surrounded by corrugated stainless sheets that serve as gate along a paved street in Tubod, Iligan City. And yet, this would-be hospital holds the tales of Moro families who left their homes in Marawi City afar from the clash of guns and bombs that ensued on the dark night of the 23rd of May, 2017.

A few children loiter in the fronting street while adults guard their young like shepherds against wolves that may come to devour their flock. In rust-colored grills in windows in the façade of the building are peering eyes wary of any sign of intrusion. Inside, rooms run at parallel sides of tiled hallways. Mattresses, mats and blankets are laid in floors and wet clothes are left to dry in windows. Moro men, women and children mingle going about their daily routines in rooms that serve as makeshift home. They welcome the new-comers with hearty chit-chats and honor the cameras with images of their smiles.

But, their foreheads and brows wrinkle with worry and betray their smiles. And when asked of the night on the 23rd of May, their faces are momentarily marked with horrified expressions. Their melancholy eyes turn to the distance as if their recollections are projected into the space in vivid images. Once the families speak, the words to narrate the untold tales bottled inside desperately spill to the surface towards sympathetic ears.

Theirs is a tale of fear and horror that struck them that fateful day. They share the nightmare of loud guns and booming bombs that suddenly broke their peace. They narrate that at the signal of danger, they all scampered to duck and cover for safety turning off their lights and hiding in the darkness for fear of discovery from the men that seek to disturb their homes and take their lives. In the cover of night, they held each other tight silently crying to the heavens to get them safely through their ordeal. At sign of light, they all hurried to secure their loved ones and things ready to flee and escape the dangers only a few measures away. At the chance when the streets were momentarily empty, the families rushed to uncertainty fooling Death and escaping from its clutches.

Their plight that took them to Iligan City was a long and difficult one. But, it was one plight that promised of more ordeals to come. In the 28th of May, 2017, they found shelter in Amatonding building. The unsung hero, the owner, was kindhearted enough to provide them the recluse free of the accommodation, electricity and water. Seeking refuge from the firefight between government armed forces and alleged Maute Group members, these twenty-nine families fled their hometown with only a few of their things and their will to live. And now, they face another battle --- the battle to survive each day with barely a meal a day.

While fate favored them with a warm and protective shelter, the one hundred nineteen individuals housed in Amatonding Building have to make do with the food and goods offered by the Bangsamoro Development Agency. The relief has come a long way since it was given in the 1st of June, 2017 with each family making sure their grumbling stomachs and parched throats were filled even with just a little of food from the relief each day stretching what little they have. Their names are not among the list of evacuees of the local government units, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and other organizations that are making relief efforts in the region. Unaccounted and undocumented, the families fear the next meal that they hoped for from these organizations might never come. Uprooted from their livelihood and with only little resources left, the families rely on kind hearts to help them through until they can return to their hometown or recover from the demise the conflict has brought to their doorsteps.

They share the same nightmare. But they also share the same hopes and dreams. They dream that one day they can safely return to their homes and rebuild their lives. They dream their children can once again play under the sunlight or go to school without looking behind their backs. They dream they can watch television or do laundry or have a hearty dinner or go about their daily routines without fear of being hit by stray bullets and bombs. They dream they can once again stand on their own feet without fear that they might once again run for their lives or mourn over the loss of loved ones who are “collateral damage”. And they hope to live in a community where genuine and lasting peace is a reality.

In the mean time, in this building named Amatonding, in Tubod, Iligan City, the families that fled Marawi City, with their tired bodies and battered souls, pray they can go to sleep without worrying of their next meal. And as they resound their dreams, they hope their voices will echo and not drown into the sea of apathy and inaction.

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Give to the ‘Welcoming the Strangers’ Program to support those displaced by the Marawi crisis, write us at services@rmp-nmr.org, or send your donations to:

 

(Peso Account)

Account name: Rmp-Nmr, Inc

Account number: 9359-1348-08

Bank name and location:

Bank of the Philippine Islands

Quezon Avenue Branch

Iligan City

SWIFT code: BOPIPHMM

 

(Euro Account)

Account name: Rmp- Nmr, Inc

Account number: 002044- 0298- 74

Bank name and location:

Bank of the Philippine Islands

Main Branch

Cagayan de Oro City

SWIFT code: BOPIPHMM

 

(Dollar Account)

Account name: RMP-NMR, Inc

Account number: 9354-0175-36

Bank name and location:

Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI)

Quezon Avenue Branch

Iligan City

Swift Code: BOPIPHMM