By Feddie A. Espiritu | Photos by Alma Alvarez

MARAWI CITY, Philippines– Love prevailed in the air at three largest relocations sites in this battle torn city over this Valentine’s weekend as both Muslim family refugees and Christian medical mission volunteers momentarily shelved aside religious differences harmonized by charity and human needs.

Children and adults swarmed over boxes of medicines and vitamins, medical and livelihood equipment, health supplies, clothes, food and rice that were being unloaded by volunteers and relocated residents in Sarimanok and Bagong Pag-asa tent cities, as well as in Songonsongan where clusters of residential homes and amenities were being erected by government and private sectors.

Photo: Dispensing Medicines from America (By Alma Alvarez)
Photo: Treating Muslim Youth (By Alma Alvarez)

Cupid shot the hearts of both genteel charity providers and gleaming recipients for the 2-day collaborated medical and relief mission of ANCOP (Answering the Cry of the Poor) USA, Foundation of Couples for Christ (CFC), the Local Government Units, the Department of Health of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Angat Buhay flagship program of Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo. The humanitarian mission started on February 14 with Holy Mass presided and commencement blessings by Father Nono Reteracion of mission volunteers at the Redemptorist Our Lady Perpetual Help Church in Iligan City.

Kids enjoyed incentives of stateside candies that warded off fears of vaccinations provided by local DOH workers. Bad recall stemming from the Dengvaxia crisis still lingered even among Mulsim populace. In equalizing the sweet treats, children were also given free toothbrushes and toothpastes while waiting in line. Both young and old patients received free brown bagger lunches and snacks as they waited for medical and dental services watching their brethren nurses dipped into pre-shipped stacks of medicines prescribed by ANCOP USA and locally-based attending physicians. Blood pressure and sugar levels were measured while others acquired free reading glasses.

Seminars and meetings progressed at nearby Harmony Learning Center and DOH Health Center. Volunteers savored their packed lunches without leaving their posts and promptly resumed services after the last bite. Youngster environmentalists reciprocated generosity and charity by picking up trashes and dumping them in large collection bags without even being told.

Photo: Marawi Dental team Volunteers (By Alma Alvarez)

Hawkeyed infantry elements of Philippine Army Lieutenant Colonel Jamaloding R. Polog, Commander of Joint Task Group Tabang, were strategically deployed to preempt any disruptive act that may controvert the feverish Valentine love offering.

Buzzing multitudes never heard any political speeches but only intermittent instructions as medical operations progressed despite evident milieu of the oncoming elections season en-route and within the vicinity of mission areas.

Muslim brethren respected the Catholic Holy Mass at the Songonsongan covered basketball court presided by Bishop Edwin dela Pena of the Prelature of Marawi to start off the final day of the medical and relief mission. On one hand, the Christian missionaries displayed mutual reverence of the Friday Muslim noon prayers by halting all operations at Songonsongan. Instead, the teams motored to Sarimanok and Bagong Pag-asa to turn over to Muslim camp managers volumes of medicines, vitamins and 5,000 kilos of rice packed at 10 kilos each per family.

ANCOP USA President Roger Santos of New Jersey bared about 2,000 residents of the three Marawi areas dislocated from the ground-zero battle areas were served during the 2-day Valentine medical and relief mission love offering undertaken as integral part of Bangon Marawi rehabilitation program.

Vice President Leni Robredo thanked and commended the ANCOP USA and local volunteers who flew in from Bacolod from earlier medical mission for a send-off luncheon she hosted last February 12 at her New Manila office in appreciation of past, present and future poverty alleviation cooperation of Angat Buhay and ANCOP USA.

During the mission, LTC Polog paved the way for quick visit of ground zero of Marawi battle. Grim images of ravaging devastation all the more galvanized the mission volunteers’ resolute will to serve the refugees for their remaining hours of servitude. However, the spent volunteers never failed to enjoy nature’s beauty of Lanao primed by visual treat of majestic Maria Cristina Falls, complete with operations overview briefing and tour by Plant Manager Romeo Encabo who directed of spillway gates to excite the volunteers with larger cascading waterfalls . Local dishes and tropical fruits like durian, marang, lanzones and pomelo were feasted on after tiring and consuming day. Groups visited also Temago Falls and went on pilgrimage at the Divine Mercy Shrine en-route to Laguindingan Airport in Cayayan de Oro on their flight back to Manila to culminate their Marawi missionary sojourn.

Photo: Grim War Devastation (By Alma Alvarez)
Photo: Most Battle Affected Area (By Alma Alvarez)

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