I confess that, despite sitting on the same island, Marawi never really came to mind until the crisis exploded last month. Marawi is one of those places far out of the way from my usual routes. I have no family nor business there. What little I do know comes from the news that's coming out of the city. The news is bad, very bad.
I confess, too, that when the news of the fighting first broke out, I didn't give it much thought. Out there in the hinterlands, or so my thinking went, that kind of thing is not uncommon. I thought it would blow over quickly. But it hasn't. Close to a month now, no clear victory, no clear resolution seems at hand. This looks to be a fight to the death.
Of death, the official toll from the military stands at 310: 59 government troops, 26 from civilians, and 225 from the militants (http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/614751/marawi-death-toll-now-310-military-official/story/). This does not count the 59 dead in the evacuation centers (http://www.rappler.com/nation/173101-death-toll-marawi-evacuation-center). With many still unaccounted for and the end nowhere in sight, the actual number could be much higher. This is a crisis of epic proportions.
Even after the military clears the last holdouts from Marawi, could anyone really declare a victory? The city is shattered, and by that, I don't mean just the buildings but the people. The enemy, in this case, is not some invader from foreign soil but neighbors and relatives, infected though they have been with some foreign ideology. Many of the fighters have been as young as twelve or thirteen.
How did it come to this? This wasn't on the agenda at all. Our attention has been directed towards new international alignments, towards investment and infrastructure, towards neutralizing political enemies, and, of course, towards the drug war. That Marawi should explode like this comes as a surprise to many of us, and worse, it seems, as a surprise to the people who are supposed to be in charge.
And more importantly, how will we get out of this?