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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Boy, displaced by war in Marawi, dreams of becoming an engineer

MARAWI CITY – Life in evacuation camps can be hard. Families have to huddle together in cramped spaces and have to make do with whatever donations they receive. It is gloomy and not exactly the kind of setting that would inspire someone who has to contend with the struggles of daily survival there to set a life goal.
“Dati, hindi ko po alam ano ba talaga gusto ko paglaki ko. Pero dahil sa nangyari ngayon, gustung-gusto ko na maging engineer. Gusto ko makapagpatayo ng mga bahay,” said 11-year old Jamar Datu Maas as he looks at other families staying at an evacuation camp in Saguairan, a town just few kilometers from Marawi City.
The conditions in the evacuation camp have inspired Jamar to dream of becoming an engineer some day and to help build houses for people in his hometown of Marawi. Jamar is the eldest among a siblings of three, and their mother Kuray, 28, is a single-mom who peddles vegetables around their lakeside village of Caloocan to be able to support all of them.
Their life before the May 23 siege was simple, but they were happy, he said. Jamar said he was playing with friends outside their house that faithful afternoon or May 23 when the fighting between security forces and Maute group members broke out. “Naglalaro kami ng mga kaibigan ko tapos may nakita kami na limang ISIS (Maute and Abu Sayyaf group members) na dumaan, natakot kami at tumakbo kasi baka barilin kami,” Jamar narrated as he tries painfully to visualize the unimaginable violence that broke out in the village and spread throughout the city. 
Armed only with prayers and the will tom survive, Jamar said he and his siblings, all towed by their frightened mother, took an 11-kilometer journey by foot – with the little belongings they managed to carry – as they dangerously escaped the fighting. “Simula bahay namin, tumakbo, naglakad lang kami papalayo kasi wala kaming sasakyan, hanggang sa nakaabot kami dito sa Saguiaran,” he said.
Despite the weeks of government offensives, part of the city, including Barangay Caloocan, remains in the control of the terrorists. More than 240 families, including Jamar’s, are all crowded together in a 900 square-meter covered court in Saguiaran that has limited sanitation facilities and little protection from the elements.
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), led by Governor Mujiv Hataman, has promised to start building additional toilets, washing and bathing facilities in the camp. The harsh conditions in the camp haven’t dampen the spirit of Jamar and children like him, whose formal education has now been put on hold. “Sana matapos na itong gulo, gustung-gusto ko na mag-aral. Gusto ko matulungan ang nanay ko kasi kawawa lang siya, at siya ang bumubuhay sa amin lahat. Pero paano ko siya matutulungan kung magulo sa lugar namin, wala na kaming bahay dahil binomba,” Jamar said as he tries to hold back his tears.
Most of the houses in Barangay Caloocan have been destroyed by the fighting because it is within Marawi’s Marinaut disctrict which has been the target of intense aerial bombardment by the military.
Jamar, who is on 5th grade, promised to embark on becoming an engineer when the situation normalizes. He beamed with enthusiasm and said:”Pag naging engineer na ako, gagawa ako ng bahay para sa lahat ng mga tao dito sa evacuation center, libre na yun.” (Bureau of Public Information)
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