Community devastated by Zamboanga siege celebrates mass, thanksgiving

Jewel Reyes, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 08 2019 11:39 AM

Aurora Melitus, 60, holds her 10th grandson in Zamboanga City, Sunday. ABS-CBN News

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Aurora Melitus, 60, held her 10th grandson in her arms and thanked God the boy was not born yet in 2013 during the Zamboanga siege.

Thousands of residents fled when fighting between government forces and members of the Misuari-led faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) began on September 9, 2013.

What Melitus thought to be temporary evacuation turned into weeks as her family fled to a far-flung village. When they returned to their home in Barangay Sta. Catalina, her house and backyard piggery had been burned to ashes.

A thanksgiving mass was held Sunday ahead of the sixth anniversary of the Zamboanga siege. ABS-CBN News

A thanksgiving mass was held Sunday in Martha Drive here, where the first fighting was reported 6 years ago. On Monday, a wreath-laying ceremony will be held to commemorate the heroes of the Zamboanga siege. 

Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco-Salazar said there are at least 183 families still waiting for permanent shelter, while 4 transitory sites are still in operation.

City Councilor Jimmy Villaflores, then a barangay chairman, said it was difficult to forget the suffering brought by the siege but they remain grateful for their lives as they wish for long-lasting peace.