Can Marawi City’s reputation as a no-go-zone for Filipino Christians be changed?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte finally found a reason to declare Martial Law in Mindanao, the Philippines’ second biggest island and host to the country’s most troubled flashpoints. This follows an eruption of violence in the Mindanao city of Marawi, Lanao del Sur in which pro-Islamic State insurgents based there known as the Maute clashed with Philippine Army troops plunging the whole city into lockdown. Duterte, himself a native of Mindanao, vowed to effect “harsh” military rule over the island which has long been a haven and base of operations for a number of Islamic terrorist groups.

Marawi City is one, of if not the most, predominantly Muslim city in the Philippines and has, fairly or unfairly, suffered a reputation as a no-go-zone for Filipino Christians for some time. Across various online forums, assessments of how safe one could feel in Marawi City are varied. Mindanao State University (MSU) — one of the Philippines’ top universities — is located in the outskirts of Marawi. It is often cited as proof that Christians can be counted as inhabitants of Marawi and, indeed, the majority of MSU students and faculty are Christian. However a commentor in the Living in Cebu Forum site noted that most MSU students “go to Iligan [City] for their big city needs”, presumably a preference to the option of venturing into downtown Marawi. Indeed, another went further to describe Marawi as “a scary place”

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

…it’s like being in Yemen. Took two hours to find a taxi in Iligan City as all of them were scared. The guy that finally agreed, took the taxi sign off his roof. Must have passed 20 checkpoints. I’ve been through Tondo and other [so-called] ghettos, and none creeped [me] out like Marawi.

Safety, it seems, is conditional and relative in Marawi City. A Yahoo! Answers thread yielded some interesting anecdotes from Netizens responding to the question “Marawi City: Is it safe to go around? I am a christian…?” One remarked that Marawi is safe “if you are from that place or have friends to watch over your back”, but adds…

If [you are] just a tourist visiting, [it’s] another issue. We cant generalize people but some muslims have unpredictable nature even if you look at them in a bad way or a single remark about their culture/religion can spark a quarrel , worst in war.

So [it is] not safe.

Another said that it is a place where vehicles stolen in Cagayan de Oro City are sent to, never to be recovered again — perhaps a reference to stories about military and police personnel pursuing criminals themselves being disinclined to pursue them into Marawi itself.

As such, it is not surprising that Marawi and cities like it are prime candidates for Islamic terrorists to establish footholds in. Because they are regarded as “Muslim territory” the perception that people in these regions are more tolerant or even accommodation of Islamic extremists is there.

It comes back to the question of how well Filipino Muslims, as has been asked of Muslim minorities living in predominantly Christian or secular societies around the world, can police their own ranks and manage on their own issues that contribute to the radicalisation of members of their community. Lanao del Sur and surrounding provinces are part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and, as such, enjoy some degree of freedom to self-govern. This granting of latitude to govern as an autonomous entity was on the basis of religious identity as the name given to this collective of provinces implies.

The people of Marawi and the greater community of Filipino Muslims should confront the reality of Islamic extremism and how, by all accounts, much of it flourishes in predominantly Muslim-populated regions in the Philippines. This reality cannot be escaped by simply “praying for peace” or counting on social media “influencers” to liberally issue meaningless calls to “stand together in solidarity” with their “Muslim brothers”.

11 Replies to “Can Marawi City’s reputation as a no-go-zone for Filipino Christians be changed?”

  1. Wait, what? There are Christians in the Philippines? Where are they all hiding?

    Honestly, until Filipinos as a whole become less tolerant of petty wrongdoing among themselves, terrorism will take root and grow. Most Filipinos know that ordinary crime – theft, assault, murder – is largely ignored by the authorities, and tolerated by society at large. It’s hardly a surprise that criminal gangs find the place a haven for their activities.

    As a matter of priority, Duterte needs to give honest, decent people a reason to be honest and decent in a country where honesty and decency is routinely punished, and thuggery is rewarded. The stupid and the lazy join extremists groups because there’s nothing else to do.

    1. Yes, there are “Christians” in our country, @marius but they’re NOT a 100% Christians, just a brand or marketing name but not showing of being a true Christians like compassion to the poor, loving & respect to their families, following the 10 Commandments of God, etc. I don’t know about the Muslim Filipinos if they follow closely to their faith but I guess that there’s no such thing as perfect religion, it’s only just a perfect God. Really.

  2. president Duterte should put an end to cpp-npa and mnlf, milf, biff, asg, maute, etc…there should be only one armed forces in the Philippines, the afp, and the pnp. these terrorist groups are finance by the yellow dynasty for them to keep hold on luisita. these terrorist has a truce to stand by its side to throw the Philippine Republic. the citizens should be armed to protect their families against these groups.

    1. @mrericx: well, if there’s nothing to distinguish them from non-Christians, I’d say they’re 0% Christian and 100% hypocrite.

      Religion in the Philippines, as you correctly said, is just a cynical marketing exercise to extract money from gullible people and create a climate of unquestioning obedience to the rich and powerful. And it works. Very, very well. Until the average Filipino notices this and says “enough, no more”, then widespread discontent, social disintegration, and terrorism is inevitable.

      @salagintong bukid: so let me get this straight. Your solution to the problem of Filipinos running around killing each other is to give guns to everyone. Yeah, that sounds like a good plan.

      When will Filipinos realise that you can’t fix every problem by shooting at it? It’s that kind of attitude that’s brought you to this point: an almost inevitable civil war.

      I suppose, on the upside, when you’re all done shooting at each other, the Chinese will march in and take what’s left, and you’ll be able to settle back into your standard historical role: slaves to a foreign power. Well done! Pinoy Pride!

  3. Si gam “PAGPAG” aquino ng Kultong Dilaw, may pakana niyan nagpunta siya sa Marawi bago nagkagulo!!! Dapat imbestigahan ng gobyerno.

    1. if the rumor is true Bam coming from Lanao and upon entering Marawi there’s a change of security and those might be the terrorist . so he might be the one who brings those Maute group to Marawi. yup, the afp should investigate the identities of those security with Bam entering Marawi. the yellow dynasty will do everything to keep luisita on their hands.

  4. One of the important thing we are aware of is: religious extremism is the problem of our age. Most of these religious extremists are Islamic Radical extremists.

    To die in battle with infidels, and to give your life to Allah, killing infidels, is a direct path to Paradise…they believed.

    I have not heard any Islamic martyr coming back to life…and had tasted Paradise and 72 virgins.

    Maute Group and its affiliates, want to establish Islamic Caliphate in that area…It will be subject to Sharia Laws, and other Islamic Radical laws, beliefs and customs…

  5. Marawi city is a lawless place. Carnapped cars and stolen motorcycles in Mindanao usually end there. I remember an incident before where the service pick up of a soft drinks salesman got lost and later was found in Marawi. There are no van salesmen going there not even medreps for fear of being held up or kidnapped for ransom. In marawi, it is not uncommon to see cars parked beside payag looking houses. When the airport in Baloi was still operating, those marawi natives taking a flight struts around like arrogant spoiled brats treating airport personnel and those around them like servants. The only time they behave is when they are in Iligan where they do their groceries and shopping. I find it rather odd that we are sending relief goods to a community who refuse to reach out and not show any welcoming gesture for as long as one can remember.

  6. Will Marawi’s reputation ever change? – Hate to be negative but I don’t think so or at least not in this generations’ lifetime. It saddens me that based on the recent videos I’ve seen about the Marawi situation, it looks like the Philippines just had its own Mogadishu.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.