Around 300,000 people were affected by the five-month conflict in the southern Philippine city of Marawi. Most of them fled their homes and were forced to live in evacuation centres or with relatives. A number of them lost contact with their loved ones. With the fighting declared over, the residents of Marawi now slowly inch back towards the everyday routine.
In October 2017, the Philippine government declared the end of armed clashes in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. Government forces and IS Ranao fighters had fought intensely for five months, resulting in a battle-scarred city.
Though the armed conflict has ended, thousands of Marawi residents are still dependent on relatives, the authorities and aid organizations. Many have found a temporary home in the evacuations centres in neighbouring towns.
Sadiarah, 75, was cradling her three-month-old grandchild when they fled the fighting in Marawi. All through these difficult months, there has not been a day when she hasn’t longed to get back home. With the worst now over, Sadiarah spends time lulling her grandchild to sleep, hoping they will soon be able to fend for themselves.
Laughter and cheers brighten the evacuation centre of Saguiaran town of Lanao del Sur as children enjoy a game of “sipa”. Displaced by the conflict, children find a sense of familiarity in these small joys.
A woman earns some extra income at the Saguiaran evacuation centre by selling cooked vegetables to fellow evacuees. Sometimes, she receives canned goods in exchange for the food she cooks.
Sarah, 16, found happiness and friends in art. She sketches not only in her notebooks, but even on the tarpaulin inside the tent. Looking at her colourful creations, other children often ask Sarah to draw for them. They also tell each other fairy tales, making the days less stark.
Hadji Ali Mama, 63, draws comfort from his smartphone by playing games on it. His wife passed away while they were in the evacuation centre. Hadji Ali said he prefers to look after his children and grandchildren rather than mourn all day. His wife would have wanted this too, he softly added.
Teenage boys hang out on the steps of Saguiaran Town Hall, a temporary shelter for evacuees.
A child and her parents enter a mosque together.
Students resume their classes at the Ranao Institute of Science and Technology. The conflict destroyed school buildings in Marawi, affecting access to education for many of its youth.
Hoping for normalcy to return, Marawi residents are doing their best to put the conflict behind them and get on with their lives.