At The Da’Wah Center: A Call for Help
and photos by CARLOS H. CONDE
in the hall where many a Moro dream was declared in the past, people like
21-year-old Maira are dreaming of just one thing: to be given the chance to
return to their homes, free from the ravages of strife.
"We've been here for almost two years now," Maira says, covering her
face with a scarf.
She sounds as if some great force had swept them off their land and forced them
to endure the indignity of living within the dark confines of the Da'wah Center
in Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao. (Da'wah literally means
That force was Joseph Estrada and the war he unleashed on the Moro people, with
In this multipurpose center alone, at least 300 families are living in
conditions that can only be described as miserable. Children are far from
healthy. Food is hard to come by. And although the government and some
nongovernmental organizations like the Kadtuntaya Foundation and the Medicins
Sans Frontiers have done their share in alleviating the conditions of the
refugees, there are still many of them who are without jobs, without food, and
without adequate shelter (many of them have even used anti-Estrada banners to
build their shanties or divide the main hall of the center into several
Worse, they have been bereft, too, of dignity. There's just too much suffering
not to think of that, no matter that it may not be accurate or fair. "I
cannot even describe what I and the others here feel," Maira says, her
voice shaking. "I'm still mad."
Maira is from Barira, a town allegedly within the influence of the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front. She was studying at the Cotabato State Polytechnic College
when the war destroyed their home and forced her family to evacuate to the
Da'wah Center. She has never gone back to school since.
"We cannot go back to our town because of the presence of many soldiers
there," Maira says. Her parents, she says, are hardly inside the center.
"They are always out looking for work."
All over Maguindanao, thousands of Moro people displaced by Estrada's war are
still languishing in subhuman conditions.
All over this province, one can still hear the wailing of sick and hungry
children, one can still discern sadness in the blank stares of old men seemingly
resigned to their fate, and one can still hear the mutterings of angry women
who, nearly two years after the all-out war, are still trying to make sense of
it all. (MindaNews/Bulatlat.com)
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