Former residents of war-torn Marawi were allowed back Sunday for the first time after fleeing for their lives nearly a year ago, according to The Manila Times Online on Monday.
Tearful residents were seen digging through rubble that was once their homes, trying to retrieve salvageable belongings.
“I cried in anger, pain,” said Samsida Mangcol, 44, of the moment she saw what was left of her bridal boutique which now has “I love ISIS” spray-painted across one side of the wall.
“I used to rent out clothes but now I have become a beggar asking my relatives for things to eat and wear,” said as she caressed a ruined wedding gown.
On Sunday, some 7,000 former residents walked forlornly through streets strewn with rubble, twisted and the shells of burnt and bullet-ridden cars. The military said that there are still several unexploded bombs buried under the rubble.
“Our house was still new when left it. We had prepared everything for Ramadan,” said Maimona Ambola, a 44-year old mother of seven.
“But a bomb has destroyed it all. Our bed has turned into ashes,” she lamented.
Over the course of next month, groups of residents will be allowed to return for up to three days each, to see their old homes and salvage what they can before rebuilding starts.
The principal Islamic city in the Philippines, Marawi was besieged by hundreds of IS-affiliated Maute terrorists and their foreign jihadists in an attempt to establish a Southeast Asian base.
Government forces fought against the terrorists in a fierce battle which ended in October, killing near 1,200 people, including troops, terrorists and civilians.
As many as 200,000 residents fled the city in a rush for safety. They have been living in evacuation centres or with their relatives in other towns.