CONVERSATION. Xavier Ateneo Religious Studies faculty member Justiniano Damiao talks with a Marawi resident who is now living at one of the evacuation centers after the siege erupted in late May 2017. Contributed photo.

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — The residents of Marawi, the capital city of Lanao del Sur in Mindanao, have been confronted with a heartless monster in the form of terrorism and destruction. 

The siege has brought about chaos to the Islamic city and has displaced thousands of its residents, who are suffering not only economic loss, but also social, psychological, health, and spiritual adversities. 

This gripping scenario has prompted an interdisciplinary research team from Xavier Ateneo’s College of Arts and Sciences — composed of researchers from the departments of psychology, philosophy, and religious studies (theology) — to draw together and think of ways to help mitigate the effects of this war. 

The XU team members included Dr Mary Rachelle Wapaño, Rogelio Lee Jr, Janet Ibale, Derrick Bart Pimentel, Vicente Carbon, Adlai Valledor, Justiniano Damiao, Peter Baltazar, Jaime Lachica, and Dr Belinda Calibo.

“There is a need for psychosocial support, by processing their experience,” said Lee, who has personally interacted with the evacuees during their visit at the Tarbiah Islamic Institute in Pantar, Marawi and in other temporary shelters. 

“They need to be listened to, especially in that stress-producing situation, focusing on their resiliency and hope. In the process, we highlight their coping [mechanisms] and resources, the here and now,” he added.

The prime purpose of the team is to help the internally-displaced residents (IDPs) or bakwits not only in their physiological needs (through relief operations) but also in the psycho-spiritual aspect of living.

This collective action serves as their response to the call for understanding and solidarity of Bangsamoro civil society leader Samira Gutoc in her heartbreaking entreaty featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer in its July 23 issue, by reporter DJ Yap. 

Gutoc’s few but heavy words, “I am from Marawi City. Please ask us, what we feel?”, inspirited the team to research on how to conduct a psychosocial intervention in the evacuation centers of Marawi.

Together with the Xavier Ateneo Social Development cluster team led by Nestor Banuag, the ArtScies interdisciplinary research team visited Marawi’s evacuation shelters.

From the command center (provincial capitol of Lanao del Sur), they planned to conduct psychosocial support interventions, facilitate cleanup drives, distribute relief goods, and coordinate with other stakeholders for future activities. 

Their on-site experience fueled their enthusiasm to pursue a psycho-spiritual program on how to restore confidence and strengthen the dignity of the displaced residents in their adopted evacuation centers while they wait for the rehabilitation of their beloved Marawi City.

The Marawi war erupted on May 23, after a contingent of roughly 500 members of the ISIS-inspired Maute terrorist group attacked the city, resulting in over 500 deaths, displacement of more than 400,000 people, and billions worth of damage to property.

The national government targets to earmark at least Php10B initially for the Marawi rehabilitation and recovery.∎


XAVIER ATENEO TEAM. An interdisciplinary research team from Xavier Ateneo’s College of Arts and Sciences was formed — composed of researchers from the departments of psychology, philosophy, and religious studies (theology) — to think of ways to help mitigate the effects of this war. Contributed photo. 

 

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