RELIEF OPERATION. A Xavier Ateneo team distributed relief goods at the Bito Buadi Itowa evacuation center in Marawi on July 9. Contributed photo. 

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — On the morning of July 9, a team from Xavier Ateneo left Cagayan de Oro City to deliver 50 sacks of relief goods and materials for the construction of a communal kitchen and toilet at the Bito Buadi Itowa evacuation center in Marawi. 

The group arrived in Iligan City, the closest city to Marawi, at 11AM, and was guided by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Office of Civil Defense on their way to the municipality of Saguiaran.

Abubakar de Juan Basman, a Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office representative and an alumnus of XU Sira’j Muslim Religious Organization, had earlier secured clearance from the AFP Marawi Command Center for the XU group to visit the war-torn capital of Lanao del Sur.  

After disembarking the loads from the cargo truck, volunteers at the evacuation center worked together to construct their communal kitchen and toilet. 

Around 4PM, the relief goods were distributed to the evacuees. Nineteen sacks were also set aside for the nearby barangay, Buadi Parba, and to be allocated with the assistance of PDRRMO. 

The construction of their communal kitchen and toilet finished around 6:30 in the evening. 

BAYANIHAN. Volunteers at the evacuation center work together to construct their communal kitchen and toilet. Contributed photo. 

The Marawi crisis

Zia Alonto Adiong, the spokesperson of the Marawi Crisis Committee, was grateful for XU’s relief efforts, collectively known as #TabangMarawi, for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing the war in their hometown that erupted on May 23.

He said, he is open to engaging in a dialogue forum at Xavier Ateneo should an opportunity present, to raise awareness of the context of the Marawi crisis. 

Similar expression of gratitude was said by Brigadier General Ramiro Manuel Rey, commanding officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Marawi crisis, as he welcomed the XU team in Bito. 

Rey, whose wife is an XU alumna, encouraged the team to extend their assistance to several underserved communities inside Marawi City, particularly in the areas of Districts 1 and 2, on the western side of Lake Lanao.  

He also asked donors to consider giving other relief items. The evacuees need kitchen wares and dining utensils so they can cook, rather than rely on canned and instant goods.

The number of evacuees in Bito had increased from 78 families to 113 since the last XU visit, on June 26.  

For safekeeping, the barangay was advised to set up a mechanism for an orderly and fair distribution of relief goods. 

Red Cross has started constructing two communal kitchens and concrete toilets and bathrooms for the community. The structures are expected for completion in 8 days. 

Rain catchment serves as the water source of the community and vast idle lands ideal for vegetable farming surround Bito.

ABOHAN FOR THE COMMUNITY. With their newly-constructed communal kitchen and makeshift fireplace, evacuees in Barangay Bito can now cook their food and be less reliant to instant and canned goods. Contributed photo.   

Improving relief efforts

The Austrian Catholic Agency (ACA), one of the active partners of the team, recommended a number of strategies to improve the relief and rehabilitation efforts in the evacuation centers. 

“There is greater value in the construction of basic infrastructures such as communal kitchens to ease crowding and additional toilets to keep the environment clean and healthy,” an ACA report said. 

“Distribute and install water filter systems to several evacuation centers immediately. Seek training on its functionality and installation procedure,” it added.  

It was also suggested to solicit for clothes through donation drives in schools, parishes, and other organizations, instead of purchasing them.

ACA also pointed out that there is a need to explore partnerships with pharmaceutical companies to donate basic medicines for diarrhea, fever, cough, and colds, among others.

Psychosocial interventions and livelihood activities were also pushed in the evacuation centers while the IDPs wait for the national rehabilitation program to take off. 

Xavier Ateneo now prepares to respond in the recovery and rehab phase, with the targets of hosting peacebuilding dialogues, conducting social thermal mapping, counseling, formation, and process documentation. 

Bloody clashes between the extremist Maute Group and the government forces jolted the capital of the province of Lanao del Sur — Marawi City — leaving in its wake curtailment of lives, destruction of public and private establishments, and displacement of thousands of civilians.

These challenging circumstances have called for synergy, unity, and compassion to which Xavier Ateneo responded with the #TabangMarawi relief operation, involving her community members as organizers and volunteers.

Xavier Ateneo’s Social Development Office and XU Central Student Government are manning the relief operation at the XU Peace Park. As of this report, Tabang Marawi has already received more than Php2M worth of cash and in-kind donations.∎

COURTESY CALL. Zia Alonto Adiong (in blue undershirt), the spokesperson of the Marawi Crisis Committee, was grateful for XU’s relief efforts, collectively known as #TabangMarawi, for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing the war in their hometown that erupted on May 23. Contributed photo.