By Apipa P. Bagumbaran
MARAWI CITY, May 23–In honor of the 168 soldiers who lost their lives during the 2017 Marawi siege, the Department of Education (DepEd) initiated a tree planting activity in Hadiya Village, one of the resettlement sites in the city.
Deped OPCEN Marawi Deputy Focal Person Ana Zenaida Unte-Alonto said the tree planting is the highlight activity of DepEd in line with the observance of this year’s Marawi Week of Peace.
The tree planting was graced by Task Force Bangon Marawi Chairperson Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, City Mayor Majul Gandamra, and 103rd Infantry Brigade Commander BGen. Jose Maria Cuerpo II.
Del Rosario said the planting of trees representing the 168 fallen heroes is the ultimate honor that they can give to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives so that Marawi will be liberated.
Mayor Gandamra backed up Del Rosario’s message saying the soldiers have perished while protecting residents from the hostilities brought about by the violent extremists who led the destruction of the city.
“This tree planting activity is a symbolic one considering that in many regions of the world trees represent rebirth and growth, while our soldiers have sacrificed their lives protecting the motherland and fellowmen, their martyrdom will not be left unrecognized and the trees that will be planted will symbolize the heroism that they have shown the people of Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, which also paved the way for us to become a better people and rebuild the city,” he said.
The tree planting activity was conducted in partnership with UN-Habitat, 103rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, and local non-government organization Ranao Watch for Empowerment Network Inc. (RAWATEN), which provided golden trumpets tree seedlings.
RAWATEN Inc. Executive Director Johary Ayo said this is their contribution to the rehabilitation of Marawi. “Ito ay aming advocacy sa pangmatagalang kapayapaan. Naisip namin ano ang maitulong namin sa aming gobyerno hindi lang po sa puro reklamo ang mga CSOs,” he added.
(This is our advocacy for sustainable peace. We thought of something that we could do to help the government and not just complaints from the CSOs)
Ayo said the golden trumpet is an ornamental tree that can enliven Hadiya village and can also contribute to ecotourism.
UN-Habitat Project Manager Warren Ubongen, on the other hand, said the plant symbolizes hope for the people. He also assured that each plant has an assigned home partner to ensure that the plant is taken care of.
Meanwhile, Cuerpo expressed appreciation to DepEd for honoring the ultimate sacrifice of the 168 heroes to recover the city from the clutches of the ISIS-inspired Maute group. He recalled that of the 168 heroes, 124 are from Philippine Army, 36 are Philippine Navy sailors and marines, and eight are from the Philippine National Police.
Of the 168 tree seedlings, 109 were planted in Hadiya Village located in Barangay Dulay West. It is the first resettlement site opened and turned over to the 109 displaced families with permanent houses built by UN-Habitat through the funding support from the people of Japan on a 1.8 hectares land procured and developed by the SHFC. The rest of the trees were planted in Darusallam village, another resettlement site supported by UN-Habitat.
Before the tree planting activity, DepEd and the Provincial Government of Lanao del Sur also distributed vegetable seeds to Hadiya village residents as a way to enhance the food security of families. Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation also sponsored a feeding program for 150 children of Hadiya village and those living nearby the resettlement site. Philippine Information Agency