ILIGAN CITY – Messages of hope and compassion reigned over here on Sunday (October 1) as the people of Marawi and Iligan exchanged symbolic gifts to celebrate and cement their relationship amid challenges brought about by the ongoing crisis.
A peace gong, which was erected at the city’s public plaza, was unveiled to show the people of Marawi’s deep appreciation to the people of Iligan for unconditionally accepting them and providing them a second home.
Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser, Undersecretary Nabil Tan, in behalf of Secretary Jesus Dureza, emphasized the need to further the peace building in the country. He led the banging of the peace gong along with Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra and Iligan City Vice Mayor Jemar Vera Cruz.
Speaking on behalf of the people of Marawi, Mayor Majul Gandamra expressed his gratitude to the people of Iligan, saying that the city is “first” among others, which opened its doors to the distraught people of Marawi seeking refuge.
For his part, Iligan city Mayor Celso Regencia vowed that they will continue to provide the needed help and sanctuary to the displaced people of Marawi.
“Kung tayo magkakaisa, ang Iligan City at ang Marawi City, wala silang (terrorists) lugar dito,” he said.
The crisis in Marawi has been running for almost four months since terrorist groups lay siege in the city.
“Let’s take away deep-seated biases and prejudices against each other,” Regencia said, adding that what is happening in Iligan shows the triumph of the people for coexistence.
Iligan City Vice Mayor Jemar Vera Cruz said they have welcomed “the people of Marawi with open arms.”
“All of us desire peace in Mindanao. Peace will not come to us if we will not work for it. We have to work together,” he urged.
“Peace is not just the absence of violence. Peace should be based on justice, truth and love. Peace is having good relationship,” he noted.
Undersecretary Diosita T. Andot of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace (OPAPP) said the agency decided to culminate the celebration of the National Peace Consciousness Month in this city because of the solidarity and compassion that have been reigning since the crisis began.
“The city of Iligan epitomized what peace is. When we opened our doors to the people of Marawi,” she noted.
She said the military campaign in Marawi is just part of winning the war against violent extremism.
“We are trying to win the war through might. The threat to our peace and security is huge. We need the help of the security to counter violent extremism,” she acknowledged.
“However, there is also a need to pursue the healing process. Hindi madali tanggapin at makakalimutan ang nangyari sa Marawi,” she noted.
“Even if the war will end, there is a bigger war. We need to fight for peace. Addressing social injustices,” she urged.
OPAPP, which is leading the government’s celebration of peace month, has also completed the journey of its “Peace Buzz” here.
The Peace Buzz has been crisscrossing the country since September 21. It aims to promote a culture of peace throughout the archipelago.
“We should keep buzzing for peace na dapat po na naririnig sa Mindanao and buong Pilipinas,” Andot said.
“We need to strengthen the buzzing to reach every nook and corner of the country. We need unity. It is a key to advance the peace,” she said, encouraging people to “defend peace up to our last breath.”
The people of Cordillera also gave the people of Marawi a framed peace prayer to show its solidarity delivered by the Peace Buzz from Baguio.
Part of the culmination activities is a food fair, where internally displaced persons of Marawi sold their products at the public square to augment their livelihood. ###