MARAWI CITY – “Business is brisk,” said 29-year-old trader Samer Bauc, as he wrapped eggs for a buyer, who is also a fellow internally displaced individual (IDPs).
“This is the only way to forget the tragic incident that is besetting our city,” Bauc said, referring to the makeshift store he had set-up inside the building they call “Titanic” because of its sheer size.
The infrastructure has now turned into a massive evacuation camp at the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol grounds, which Bauc, along with other 400 IDPs, has been staying in since the fighting erupted between government forces and radical Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups on May 23.
“When the fighting began, we did not immediately flee. We were hopeful that the crisis will end within two to three days. But when the military started its bomb runs on the third day, that’s the time we realized we need to get out of our house,” he recalled.
“This is my first time to experience the brunt of war. My little store helps me overcome the trauma,” he said as he keeps himself busy day-in and day-out “or else I might go crazy.”
Several makeshift stores sprung up at the evacuation centers, which is a testament of the resiliency of the Maranaos. These stores also brought respite to the needs of the evacuees.
“There are personal things that are not part of the aid assistance being provided by the government and other humanitarian agencies,” said an evacuee, who only identified himself as Norman.
“We can easily buy some of the basic everyday necessities without the need to go out of the city,” he said.
One can find a variety of goods being sold at these makeshift stores, from fresh vegetables, eggs, bread, instant coffee, candies and other sweets for children, to kitchen wares and mats.
Another entrepreneur Aida Panginuma, 52, noted that trading has been in their culture.
“There is always a positive way to deal with every crisis,” she explained as she opened few cartons she bought at the nearby town of Baloi in Lanao del Norte to restock her goods at the evacuation site.
She said they are not taking advantage of the situation and the prices have remained affordable.
Panginuma said she is maintaining a stall inside Padian, the city’s main market, but only managed to bring some of her goods in the evacuation site.
“We were preparing for the holy month of Ramadan, when we’re struck by the fighting,” she recalled, noting she stockpiled more than P1-million worth of goods in her store.
“I’m hopeful that my store is still intact. I look forward that after this crisis, we can all move forward and rebuild this beautiful city again,” she said.
Panginuma admitted that life in the evacuation center is hard but “there’s nothing we could do but to carry on living.”
“At the end of the day, we need to rely on each other and help ourselves,” she said.
Aida said she saw some of the Maute members ransacked other stalls in the public market. “Although, they did not harm us, but the effects they brought to our city is devastating,” she said.
Another evacuee, Alexander Alaga, said the stores inside the evacuation camps also serve as their mini cafeterias where they share their stories and comfort each other.
“We kept on praying this crisis will end soon. We are preparing ourselves, emotionally, on how to confront the destructions left by this armed conflict,” he said. ###