Evacuees yearn to spend Eid’l Fitr at home » Manila Bulletin News

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By Ali Macabalang

ILIGAN CITY – As the military hierarchy announced a “near end” to the bloody fighting in Marawi City and high civilian officials’ expressed readiness to launch subsequent rehabilitation and reconstruction works, ethnic Muslim evacuees sheltered in this city and elsewhere are yearning to spend Eid’l Fitr” at home and make up for the religious rituals they have missed while at the evacuation camps.

Eid’l Fitr is the feast for the end of the month-long obligatory fasting among Muslims worldwide during Ramadan. It falls either on June 25 or 26, depending on the sighting of the new moon, which the government considers a nonworking national holiday.

Members of Iligan City police ask people to get out of their vehicles and submit themselves to a strict search (Mark Balmores / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“In my supplications, I have always prayed for an end in the fighting before Eid’l Fitr” comes. We want to observe it in any manner we can afford in our own home,” Akmad Pantao, a 59-year-old father of four, told the Manila Bulletin in Maranao dialect.

Another refugee, Maimona Sumorang, 61, a mother of three with four grandchildren, said: “We missed fasting because of our emergency situation that I know Allah (God) understands. We wish for a modest Eid’l Fitr celebration in Marawi.”

At an evacuation camp in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte, journalists saw 39-year-old Ismael carrying on his lap his infant kid and gazing at endless horizon in apparent trauma.

Relatives said Ismael had left behind in Marawi City his four elder children when he and his infant child were hauled from the street by one of the vehicles provided by the authorities to ferry residents at the height of fighting on May 26.

“We hope Ismael could be reunited with his other children during Eid’l Fitr’. We fervently pray for such reunion,” said a relative, who failed to give her name as she rushed toward a relief team that just arrived to distribute food items.

Intermittent airstrikes and bursts of gunfire continued in Marawi City on Monday, indicating that there were remnants of the militant Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups still putting up fight against security forces.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the continuing offensives were meant to fully flush the militants out of Marawi City, echoing though his earlier pronouncement that the fighting was leading to a “near end.”

Military authorities could not specify any date for government to allow more than 200,000 evacuees to return home.

In the meantime, the emergency response committee led by Lanao del Sur Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. said the open field inside the provincial capitol complex in Marawi City was being prepared as a site for the congregational Eid’l Fitr prayer.

Dr. Habib Macaayong, president of the Mindanao State University (MSU) system, said the vast athletic field inside the university main campus in Marawi City will accommodate at least 15,000 Muslim faithful for the Eid’l Fitr early morning congregational ritual.

The MSU main campus, which lies at least 1,000 feet above sea level, is one of few areas that not been occupied by the extremist militants since the start of the siege on May 23.

Some MSU personnel, meanwhile, posted in Facebook some photos showing hundreds of employees staging a Monday mass flag ceremony for the first time in four weeks.

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