MANILA - As the battle between state troops and Islamic State-linked fighters raged, the Philippine flag was raised in the besieged city of Marawi on Monday, Independence Day.
Soldiers, policemen, government employees, volunteers, and civilians sang the Philippine national anthem while gathered at the capitol of Lanao del Sur for the June 12 rites.
The celebration of the 119th Independence Day there pushed through even as government forces conducted air strikes in the morning.
Marawi Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra thanked everyone helping in the fight against terrorists, especially the soldiers, policemen and civilian volunteers in the conflict's front line.
"Nais ko pong pasalamatan ang lahat ng aking kababayan sa buong Pilipinas na tumulong sa amin dito sa Marawi City para bumangon muli," he said in a speech.
(I would like to thank all my fellow Filipinos who have been helping us here in Marawi to rise again.)
Clashes between government troops and terrorists from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups erupted May 23, and has since left at least 140 members of the Maute group, 58 soldiers, and 21 civilians dead.
On Friday, 13 Marines were killed. Remains of 8 have been sent home to their families on Sunday.
Military officials earlier said troops were doing their best to liberate Marawi in time for the June 12 celebration.
But Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces spokesperson, said Independence Day rites will push through, conflict or no conflict.
Police forces already mounted Philippine flags around Marawi on Sunday, eve of Independence Day.
Policemen hope the flags will motivate their comrades who were still fighting terrorists in Marawi.
"Para sa Araw ng Kalayaan at pampalakas loob sa tropa. Mapupuno ang Marawi ng bandila natin," said one of them.
(This is for our Independence Day and a motivation for our troops. We will Marawi of our flag.)
--with reports from Chiara Zambrano, Jeff Canoy and Henry Atuelan, ABS-CBN News