MARAWI CITY - Local officials on Tuesday set foot inside ground zero of the 5-month-long conflict that left much of the city in ruins and displaced thousands.
"Wala na kaming babalikan," said Barangay Lumbac Madaya chairwoman Cairon Dimatingcal as she wept and surveyed concrete and steel debris.
(We have nothing to return to.)
City Councilors Nilab Macabangon and Farhana Norilangco were similarly in shock with what they saw.
"Parang magko-collapse ako since nakita ko ito ngayon," Norilangco said.
(I feel as if I'm about to collapse after seeing this.)
"Nakakalungkot makita yung lugar mo nagkaganito, sobrang masakit sa part namin," Macabangon said.
(It is devastating to see your hometown like this. This is painful for us.)
This is also the first time that a media organization was allowed to enter and take footage of the area.
Parts of the war zone were still in flames due to the bombs left by Maute terrorists, which is also why civilians were still barred from returning there.
Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra said the officials were brought to the area so they could tell constituents of what to expect in their homecoming.
"Kapag they will be allowed to get inside, at least medyo conditioned na kanilang pag-iisip na kanilang mararatnan dito at of course they have to expect the worst," Gandamra said.
(Once they are allowed to get inside, at least they would be prepared about what waits for them here. Of course, they have to expect the worst.)
The mayor also rejected down proposals to preserve the main battle area as a historical reminder of the battle for Marawi.
"There should be complete reconstruction and rehabilitation. If we have to expand, we can expand, but other proposals na i-preserve yung ruins ng ground zero, mukhang hindi naayon sa sensibilities ng ating mga kababayan" Gandamra said.