MARAWI CITY —– Several civil society organizations have helped the internally displaced persons (IDPs) put up a commemorative marker of the graves, Thursday morning, inside the Maqbara public cemetery in Barangay Papandayan Caniogan, here.
This as IDPs commemorate the secod year of the siege that lasted for five months.
Two hundred eighty two unidentified cadavers were buried in this two-hectare government owned property, two kilometers away from the most affected area, formerly called the main battle area.
According to the caretaker Somagayan Puno, the last cadaver buried was found in April this year at Barangay Basak Malutlut, where the siege started.
He did not clarified if the human bones were retrieved at the place where the conflict started – at the apartment of the Abu Sayaff leader Isnilon Hapilon, reportedly the appointed emir of ISIS in Southeast Asia.
Norsalima Abdulrahman, 17, attended the unveiling with the hope that she could get updates from the government on how a displaced residents, like her, who lost their families to war could receive assistance.
She went to the commemoration even if she is unsure that her father and two siblings are included in the graves marked only with a piece of wood, painted with white, erected above each tomb.
"Pamilya kasi, kaya kahit di ako sigurado, pumunta ako," she said.
Her uncle, Adman Rasuman, first cousin of her father, accompanied her with hope that they can get update of their quest on finding for the missing family members.
Rasuman adopted Norsalima when her parents separated years before the siege. Her parents got a family of their own. Her mother, who died years ago, lived in Luzon.
Her father lived in Barangay Bubong Lilod Madaya while her father, Usman, lived in Daguduban with her two small siblings, then 12-year brother Alinor and 6-year old Sittie Ainah.
When the siege started at 2pm in May 23, Norsalima's father took refuge at Rasuman's house with the two children but at 5pm, Usman and the two children went back to their house in Daguduban to get their things but never came back.
"We were trapped for three days, we waited for them but when they never came back, we decided to get out and fleed to Cagayan de Oro City," Rasuman said.
The only remembrance Norsalima have of his family is a small picture of her then 6-year old sister Sittie Ainah.
Norsalima submitted DNA samples to the National Bureau of Investigation before the siege ended and have been waiting for the result.
She said, she had not lost hope that she could find, atleast cadavers of her fater and two siblings.
"This is not only a visiting to a graveyard but this is somehow a symbol of oppression that until now this government never recognize the documentation of the people, civilians who died during the siege," Abdul Atar, Sultan of Marawi, said in his message during the commemoration ceremony.
"It is our right not only as a Muslim but also to a non-Muslim who were buried in this very important area," Atar added.
Who will help?
"We will connect with the right agency under Department of Interior and Local Government to find out the status on the DNA testing because that will serve as the basis on future claims of relatives," said Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, chairman of Task Force Bangon Marawi, the group that supervises the Marawi rehabilitation program.
More cadavers to come
Drieza Lininding, an IDP and chairman of Moro Concensus Group, said their commemoration of the siege is "to remind the living, especially to the state actors, the cost of violence and the cost of war."
"There are more cadavers to come. We are told that the contractors of the debris management are being trained to handle cadavers because they expect there are still (many) unextracted cadavers in the main affected areas," Lininding said.