Nor Matua, 21, still vividly recounted the horrors of the unprecedented urban war in her hometown of Marawi, but as she and her family slipped out of the conflict-stricken city and found refuge in Bohol, the second year college student now looks forward to pursuing her studies in the province to become a teacher.
“We want to study. It is our key to a better future,” said Matua who is now temporarily staying inside a mosque in Tagbilaran City.
Matua was a BSED (Bachelor in Secondary Education) student at the Mindanao State University which was just a few kilometers away from the established strongholds of the Maute terrorists who laid siege in Marawi City since May 23.
Dozens of civilians have already been killed while hundreds of residents were displaced including Matua, her relatives and several other families who fled to Bohol after escaping the ravaged Islamic city.
“We had to evacuate or we will also get hurt. Bombs and guns do not choose their targets. Many people have died,” she said.
Matua and the other evacuees arrived in Bohol through Jagna town on June 4.
Six families are now temporarily living at the Masjid Darussalam Mosque sleeping on mats provided by the local government while other evacuees are staying with relatives in Barangay Poblacion 1 in Tagbilaran City.
Like Matua, other children in the group of evacuees including Aslimah Amer Lomala, 17, Samia Abdul, 15, and Aslimah Matua also seek to continue their education in Bohol.
They also want to finish their studies to chart a better future for their families, Matua said.
“I’m the eldest among my siblings and I want to finish my education so my brothers and sisters could also study,” added Nor Matua.
All four students were enrolled at the Bohol International College (BIC) despite lacking necessary documents which they left dashing out of their hometown as it turned into a full-blown war zone.
The BIC administration extended consideration to the children given their circumstances.
They were also set to meet the school’s president, Vice Gov. Dioniso Balite, to discuss their study arrangements.
Meanwhile, Nor’s younger siblings were enrolled in a public elementary school in Tagbilaran City and their parents started to seek livelihood to provide for their families while in Bohol.
They are optimistic that they would be able to start new lives in the province or pick up from where they left off when the dust of war settles and peace is reestablished in their home city of Marawi.
However, not all evacuees who fled from the fierce fighting in Marawi City found refuge in peaceful areas such as Bohol.
Some who escaped from the city died in over-crowded and unsanitary evacuation centers, said health officials.
At least 24 people have died in the centers since fighting between security forces and Islamist militants erupted in Marawi City, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial told reporters.
Many of those who died were elderly and had pre-existing conditions, but at least two of the fatalities were due to diarrhea.
While in Marawi City itself, the death toll of civilians, government troops and terrorists has risen to 310 as of June 16 according to the military. (Allen Doydora)