MANILA - "What happened to Marawi?"
Asking this question among themselves, residents displaced from conflict-stricken Marawi City broke into tears upon seeing for the first time the devastation left by five months of firefights in their hometown.
They were among the first batch of residents allowed to return to their homes in villages least destroyed by the prolonged fighting between state troops and Islamic State-linked terrorists.
Only two residents from each household in the village were allowed to check and clean their houses Thursday, as troops continued clearing operations in the battle zone.
Residents in the barangay were allowed to return to their homes on Oct. 29.
Those from the other "least destroyed" barangays were, meanwhile, allowed to go back to their villages on Oct. 30.
Authorities have yet to schedule the return of those from barangays in the main battle area.
Government declared the end of hostilities in Marawi City on Monday and has begun plans for the rehabilitation of the once bustling commercial capital. --report from Kori Quintos, ABS-CBN News