MANILA - (UPDATED) An air of grief continues to envelope the besieged city of Marawi ahead of what's supposed to be the joyful celebration of Eid al-Fitr when Muslims break their holy month of fasting, a local official said Sunday.
Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra said most of the city's 200,000 residents will still mark Ramadan in evacuation centers while grieving for those killed in the fighting between state troops and Islamic State-linked militants.
"We are celebrating it away from our homes and celebrating it while mourning the deaths of our innocent civilians and of course, the government troops," Gandamra said in a phone interview with ANC.
This year's Eid al-Fitr will start on Sunday night when the crescent moon is sighted.
The day before the celebration, families typically donate food such as rice, barley or dates, to the less well off. The donation is known as "sadaqah al-fitr" or charity of fast-breaking. Eid itself marks the first day of the Islamic calendar's month of Shawwal.
On Eid itself, families would wake early , eat a small meal before attending special prayers at mosques, arenas or stadiums, and then go on to feast at friends or relatives' houses. It is also a day for asking for forgiveness and visiting graves.
Resident Hajji Muhammad Nuraldin Moti said this was year's Eid al-Fitr is the first time in recent memory that Marawi's townspeople will not hold festivities.
"'Di namin kapiling mga pamilya namin, di kami makapagcelebrate tulad ng kaugalian namin" he told ABS-CBN News during the congressional prayers at the provincial capitol building.
The sentiment was echoed by resident Kairia Saidon, who said, "Sa araw na ngayon hindi namin halos maisip, dapat ngayon kasama mga anak namin, sa ngayon watak na watak kami dahil sa nangyari sa Marawi City."
Norhata Mangondato, meanwhile, expressed anger towards the extremists at the heart of the 34-day conflict.
"Kami po kahit kailan hindi sumuporta sa mga Maute brothers.. Sinira n'yo ang Marawi, kayong mga Maute. Sana walang matira sa inyo," she said.
Imam Alim Ansari Abdulmalik however asked Muslims to strive for a positive outlook despite the conflict.
"Ang mensahe ko sa kanila, sila'y magtiis, gawin nilang positive. Hindi ito nangangahulugang tapos na ang mundo" Abdulmalik said in tears, as he gave a sermon at the mosque.
The military has suspended all offensives against rebels holed up in Marawi from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday to give way to Eid rites.
Gandamra said authorities and volunteers will use the truce to evacuate civilians trapped in war zones.
Local officials, he said, have also started talks with the national government for plans to rehabilitate the city after the fighting ends.
"Kami po ay nanawagan na sana po ay ipagpatuloy natin ang panalangin na itong kaguluhan sa atin lugar dito sa Marawi City ay matapos na po," the mayor added.
(We are appealing for the public to continue praying for the armed conflict in Marawi to end soon.)
On Saturday, security forces continued intense air raids and artillery fire on pockets of Marawi still occupied by the militants, while troops fought house-to-house gunbattles on the ground.
Nearly 300 militants and 67 government troops have been killed in the fighting, according to official figures.
There are "strong indications" that two or three of the Maute brothers -- among the key players in the siege -- had been killed, including Omarkhayam Maute, believed to be the group's top leader, said . Gen. Carlito Galvez, head of the military's Western Mindanao Command.
Only one brother, Abdullah, has been visible in the fighting, Galvez added. -- With Reuters; Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News