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IDPs of Marawi Siege saved by face masks

May 27, 2020

MARAWI CITY ----- Three years ago, they were displaced by the Marawi siege. They were vendors at Padian area in Marawi City before the siege. Though community is not oneof the city's 24 barangays (villages) and hardly affected by the five-month war, these 32 women fled Barangay Timbangalan since it is adjacent to the village where heavy fighting was happening. They were displaced and had to seek safe refuge in some parts of Lanao del Sur and neighboring provinces in Northern Mindanao. Some of them even stayed for a while in an evacuation center before finding a more comfortable place for their family. In March 2018, residents of the non-affected areas, including Barangay Timbangalan, were allowed to return to their homes. But life has not been the same for them. They struggled financially because their businesses were not operating like before. “We were told by our barangay chairman to organize ourselves into a cooperative so we could join a seminar for a livelihood. There were three groups who get listed for a seminar with the MARADECA, one group to train for farming, one for cooking and we are for dressmaking,” said Tahira Aragasi, the manager and master cutter of the group. A non-government organization the MARADECA (Maranao People Development Center, Inc.) organizes livelihood trainings and peace and conflict mapping analysis. Aragasi’s group, dubbed the Timbangalan Women’s Association, started with 20 members. Today, the association has over 30 members . Although many are already knowledgeable in dressmaking, they still accept members who needed a livelihood even if she has to start from zero. “May mga mananahi na talaga sa amin simula pa noong bago ang giyera sa Marawi, pero mayroon rin mga gusto pang matuto,” Aragasi said. (Most of us were dressmakers before before the war in Marawi, but still many more want to learn) The grant The group started a dressmaking cooperative selling traditional and artistic Muslim dresses through a P200,000( USD 3,941 ) grant from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the partner agency of MARADECA. This helped them to access technical trainings, buy sewing machines and fabrics to help kick-start their businesses. Demand for their dresses have start to steadily increase, with orders coming in from tourists staying at the local hotel helping them gain a significant profit. They specialize in ceremonial dresses for the enthronement of sultans and  princesses each of which sell for as much as P4,000-7,000 pesos. Still others make dresses for rent. The business has helped the women earn on their own, feel empowered, and improve the status of the whole household. Anisah Dima, 60, is a solo parent with four children, one of whom is already an adult. She has been a widow for 20 years. Of the four , only one was left alive, the three others died of various sicknesses when they were  small. Anisah joined the cooperative months after it started. Before she joined the cooperative as sewer, she was farming a small parcel of land some kilometers away from Timbangalan. “I only knew a little about sewing because I am more a farmer. Now that I am older, I asked them if I can join the group because my body can no longer endure  farming. She (Aragasi) taught me how to sew,” Dima said in Filipino. During the pandemic When the coronavirus pandemic hit the Philippines, the women’s livelihoods were greatly affected. Due to social distancing and the ‘no mass gathering’ protocols, the women were unable to keep their business like  before. The village that they live in is also quite isolated and they were unable to access the face masks and hand sanitizers they needed.  While they received cash aid from the government’s social amelioration program (SAP), it was not enough for most of the families with five to seven members . With a leftover inventory of  textiles that MARADECA gave them, the women decided to instead start stitching face masks. “May mga tulong na natanggap pero hindi sapat kasi kailangan pang bumili ng gatas at diaper ng anak. Lalo na at Ramadan, kailangan ng maraming pagkain,” Aragasi noted. (The food packs we received were not enough because we still have to buy other needs like milk and diapers for infants and we need more food for the Ramadan.) Orders coming The masks they made have been certified by the Department of Health (DOH).  Aragasi said the first batch of facemasks she made was for personal use. She posted it on social media and as a locally trusted business, orders for their masks started coming in. The first order they received was from the Army’s Civil Military Battalion who ordered 200 pieces which was distributed to their personnel. “Then the LGUs (local government units) in Lanao del Sur ordered for their frontliners. It was a big help for us to survive during the pandemic,” Aragasi said. MARADECA MARADECA’s chief executive officer Salic Ibrahim said Timbangalan is one of the eight barangays in Marawi City they support. When they consulted the beneficiaries on what kind of livelihood they preferred to engage in, MARADECA was already preparing them with trainings. “Before we give them projects, they should be trainef on how to sustain it. They must be prepared especially in terms of business to change their mindsets to be able to sustain their business,” Ibrahim said. MARADECA also trained youth volunteers who helped their beneficiaries in their various businesses as business consultants. But because of the pandemic, Ibrahim said he is apprehensive that the income they have before the community quarantine was spent for their daily needs. “Mao nay among gikabalak-an kay naa sa ilaha ang ilang income, Dili sila maka lihok og maayo, wala silay income, daghan nila ang wala naapil sa SAP, maong tan-aw namo nagastos nila ang ilang pondo. Hinaut nga duna pa mi maapsan,” Ibarahim said. (We are worried now because with movements curtailed they cannot earn, many of them are not beneficiaries of SAP, so we expect they spent their earnings, I hope we can still save their livelihood.)

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Meranaws gather in mosque for Eid prayers amid pandemic

May 27, 2020

BALOI, LANAO DEL NORTE ----- Despite the IATF's prevailing 'no mass gathering policy' due to the coronavirus pandemic, some 150 Meranaws still gathered in a mosque in Baloi, Lanao del Norte for the Eidl Fitr prayer at 6am on Sunday (May 24).  They were teenagers, middle-aged men and women who brought their children and infants with them, senior citizens and even persons with disability.  They flocked to the mosque along a national highway at 6AM for the Eid al-Fitr prayers.  No one was seen wearing facemasks, and because of the limited space inside the mosque, social distancing was not observed. Neither was there soap for handwashing, alcohol or disinfectant at the entrance for the worhsippers to use before going inside.  Hadji Sirad Abdul-asis, Imam of Baloi mosque, said they still gathered for the prayer that ends the one-month Ramadan of Muslim despite the guideline because they are not afraid of the virus.  Abdul-asis said they are aware of the order of the Grand Mufti on the suspension of the congregational prayers during the Ramadan and the Eid'l Fitr but they still opted to pursue the grand prayer because there has so far been no reported COVID-19 case in Baloi.  "Nasubukan namin sa loob ng dalawang buwan, walang kahit isang namatay sa lugar namin dito sa Baloi. Ibig sabihin, ang nakakaalam lang sa mga nangyari ay si Allah SWT," Abdul-asis said.  (We survived for two months that no one died of the virus here in Baloi. That means only Allah SWT knows of what is happening.)  However he noted that they reminded the sick faithful to just stay at home.  "Dati pa naman, hindi na namin pinapayagan ang mga may sakit na pumunta pa sa mosque," Abdul-asis added.  (Even before, we did not allow sick people to enter the mosque.)  Mayor Hanifa Ali in a phone interview said the local government unit of Baloi will invite on Monday (May 25) the chairperson of the barangay where the mosque is located.  "We will investigate, we will call the attention of the barangay captain because we have an executive order reiterating the guidelines of the National Inter-Agency Task Force prohibiting any forms of social gathering," Ali said.

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TES grants released for over 11,000 beneficiaries in BARMM private universities

May 18, 2020

COTABATO CITY --- Around 11,446 students in private higher education institutions (PHEI) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao shall be granted by the Commission on Higher Education and the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) with Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) stipends.  An initial 120,000 students from 404 PHEIs nationwide will get their TES. Among this, 25 schools will be coming from the Bangsamoro region.  CHED is instructing these private schools to immediately coordinate with their grantees on the best way to distribute TES while following their respective local government quarantine rules.  The TES is a government grants-in-aid program made possible through Republic Act 10931 that gives P60,000 per school year to financially needy students in private schools and those studying in private schools in municipalities and cities without public universities. The TES is used by students to pay their tuition and miscellaneous fees and other education expenses. It is the flagship social development program of the Duterte administration on higher education.  MBHTE Minister Iqbal emphasized that these stipends will greatly support and assist the PHEIs and its Bangsamoro students especially as the nation copes with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.#

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MILF community members thankful as relief comes to the village

May 8, 2020

MUNAI, Lanao del Norte -- As a response to the request of a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) community here, the Salam Agricultural Limited Partnership, Incorporated (Salam) provided 200 sacks of quality rice to the village at Sitio Kura-kura, Barangay Tamparan, this municipality.     Commissioner Abdullah “Bravo” Macapaar of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) stepped-up for the survival of his people by sending a request to Salam asking for any form of assistance as the whole country fights against the highly infectious coronavirus disease (COVID-19).     This was fulfilled with the coordination of a private power company and assistance of the army troops from the 2nd Mechanized Infantry “Magbalantay” Brigade under BGen. Facundo Palafox IV.     Neil Konrad Binayao III, external relations officer of Salam, shared that Salam management, together with partner companies in the area, mobilized resources in the form of rice which is the staple food of every Filipino family.     “Salam has an agri-business venture inside the MILF camp; Abaca and commercial treatment station but unfortunately, because of the quarantine measures, they have to declare work stoppage that contributed to the hardships of the people in Sitio Kura-kura,” Binayao explained.     Binayao said Salam support to provide sustainable development is the private sector’s contribution to the government’s peace efforts.     “The company believes that in order to have lasting peace in the area there has to be sustainable and equitable development. We believe that it’s a key component towards lasting peace,” Binayao added.     Though no one from the community is infected by COVID-19, Commissioner Macapaar admitted that the economic effects caused by the disease slowed down the development of the area as they comply with the guidelines of the government’s implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ)  to protect the health of the villagers.     This includes infrastructure projects, road concreting projects, and the production of Abaca where the residents mostly rely on their livelihood.     Commissioner Macapaar extended his gratitude to the private sectors, local government units (LGU) and the national government for the attention they have given to MILF communities since the establishment of the BTA.     “Ang sabi ng Presidente natin, yung kampo (MILF Camp Bilal) palitan po natin ng community ng mga Muslim - ng mga combatant. Marami na ang mga nangyayari, yung mga armas ng ating mga combatant ay pinalitan ng cash, package ng PhilHealth, 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program), scholarship at iba pang mga livelihood. Nagpapasalamat talaga ako sa ating Presidente,” Commissioner Macapaar expressed.     [The President said that he will turn my camp (MILF Camp Bilal) into a Muslim community - a community for the combatants. A lot has been happening since then, the combatants’ firearms was surrendered in exchange for cash, PhilHealth package, 4Ps (Pantawin Pamilyang Pilipino Program), scholarships, and other livelihood programs. I am thankful to our President.]     Commissioner Macapaar said that this is the fourth time the community received aid since the outbreak of the pandemic begun.     The leader appreciated the efforts being harnessed just to push through helping them especially now that the whole Sitio celebrates the holy month of Ramadhan.     “Alhamdulillah! Maganda ang relasyon namin sa tropa ng militar at sa lokal na pamahalaan dito. Ang sasabihin ko lang sa kapwa ko Muslim, hanggang hindi po matapos ang May 15, sana po ay manatili po tayo sa bahay kase yun ang unang gamot sa lumaganap na sakit, magbasa lang po tayo nag Qur’an,” Commissioner Macapaar relayed.     [Alhamdulillah! So far, our relationship with the military and the government has been very cordial. My message to my fellow Muslims, until May 15, let’s remain inside our homes because it is the number one prevention against COVID-19, and let us read the Qur’an.] (CLV / PIA ICIC)

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A spoonful of support

May 8, 2020

MARAWI CITY -- It was a warm summer day. While most people looked for other ways to spend their time at home, members of My Deen Food Catering endured the heat in the kitchen to diligently prepare hearty packed meals.     The packed meals were ordered by Save the Children Foundation and will be donated to frontliners in Marawi City and other areas of Lanao del Sur.      Abdul Mahayman Modaalay, chairperson of the catering service cooperative, did not hesitate in accommodating the bulk order. After all, he was already used to cooking and serving those who are in need.        Abdul’s passion for cooking started with his love for kapagana, a native Maranao’s practice of offering different food to the guests. On almost every occasion, he cooked a lot of food “to share happiness with everybody.” Abdul believed that food is what brings the family to gather together.     On normal occasions, he catered food for family occasions and did a few orders from his relatives and friends. When the Marawi siege happened, Abdul and his colleagues in the catering service decided to reach out and served a lot of internally displaced persons (IDPs). However, they humbly admitted to having only helped a limited number of IDPs because of the shortage of equipment.      Still, it did not stop them from their passion for cooking and serving other people. The catering service improved when the cooperative received cooking and catering equipment from DTI’s Shared Service Facility (SSF) for the Bangon Marawi project.     “The SSF from DTI helps us make our business more efficient.” Abdul shared. “We can hold a large scale of people gathering with the help of the facilities shared to us from DTI.”     On March 21 and 23, My Deen Food Catering delivered 300 packed meals to the foundation. They are expected to provide 300 more packed meals in the coming weeks.      “We are delighted that we had a little share in serving them [frontliners] the best food in our home that . . . somehow can give strength to the hard situation that we are currently facing.” Abdul expressed. “Thank you very much [to the frontliners] for the job you did to help our fellow citizens. You deserve to be heroes of our country.” (DTI-10/PIA ICIC)

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Army rescues Lanao Sur studes stranded in Marawi

April 27, 2020

ILIGAN CITY ----- Some 251 students of Mindanao State University (MSU) Main Campus in Marawi City were rescued by the Philippine Army on Friday (April 24) and transported to their respective home in Lanao del Sur. These students were stranded at their dormitories inside the university campus when the enhanced community quarantine was implemented in the province on March 17 and then extended to April 30. Military trucks of the 82nd Infantry Battalion (IB), 55th IB, 49th IB and the 12th Civil Military Operations Battalion, all under 103rd Infantry “Haribon” Brigade, were deployed to ferry the students back to their homes in 25 municipalities of Lanao del Sur. The transport of the students back home was carried out in collaboration with the Lanao del Sur Inter-Agency Task Force (LDS - IATF) for the Management of COVID-19, the Provincial Government of Lanao del Sur, the university management and the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade. Lt. Charles Leiand Regala, Civil-Military Operations Officer of 82nd IB, said there are still some 654 remaining stranded students in MSU who will be transported outside Lanao del Sur in the coming days. “The authorities have already coordinated with the adjacent provinces to finalize the arrangements and requirements for the next transportation assistance,” said Regala. The university recently sent off some of its stranded students to Maguindanao and Zamboanga del Norte. MSU deployed its university buses to assist the transport of the students. Meanwhile, the army continues to provide manpower and security assistance during the relief distribution of the Lanao del Sur provincial government.

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