MARAWI CITY –  Local government, traditional and sectoral leaders here paid tribute to Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) Chairman Eduardo Del Rosario for his selfless efforts and genuine commitment to rebuild the only Islamic City in the country.

In a simple but emotion-filled thanksgiving program held at the City Hall on Thursday, Mayor Majul Gandamra led other Maranaw leaders in expressing their gratitude to the TFBM chief, who is also the secretary of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development.

“Rebuilding a city from the ground up after a traumatic event is not an easy task to fulfill. The shoes that Secretary Del Rosario had to wear to spearhead every single detail in the city’s rehabilitation is so great that no other person could have done it the way he did it,” Mayor Gandamra said in his speech.

He was emotional as he praised the Secretary’s leadership, saying, “And now that we are almost at the end of the road of the city’s rehabilitation, we are nothing but grateful for all the help that he had extended to Marawi City and its people. The task that was put on his shoulders, that was very difficult, has been fulfilled with a performance that is remarkable.”

The chairman of the Marawi Sultanate League, Sultan Nasser Disomangcop Sampaco, likewise expressed his appreciation of Secretary Del Rosario’s efforts to prioritize the religious infrastructure in the city despite not being from the same religious denomination and cultural background as the majority of Marawi’s citizens.

“Pambihirang opisyal — kahit siya ay hindi Muslim at hindi Maranaw, gumawa s’ya ng paraan upang makahanap ng mga donor upang maipatayo at maipaayos ang ating mga mosque na nasira sa ground zero. Lahat ito ay dahil nais n’yang manatiling malakas ang ating pananampalataya bilang mga Muslim (An extraordinary official – despite not being a Muslim or a Maranaw, he went out of his way to find donors who could help in rebuilding and repairing our mosques that were destroyed in ground zero. He did all of this because he wanted our faith as Muslims to remain strong),” he said.

The sultan emphasized his pride in the Secretary whom he said was “closer to a blood tie, being our only adopted son in the Marawi Sultanate League.”

“Hindi po sapat ang salitang ‘salamat’ para sa lahat ng nagawa n’ya para amin, bahagi na s’ya ng aming history (The word ‘thanks’ is not enough for all that he has done for us, he is now part of our history); wherever he is, whatever he is doing, he will always remain in our hearts,” he continued.

Meanwhile, civil society organization Siyap Ko Pagtaw Operations For People Empowerment Inc. Chairman Aslani Cabugatan Montila thanked the housing czar for his support of the Marawi Compensation Bill, which awards compensation of the victims of the armed conflict in the city in 2017.

“Secretary, if we had the power to make you stay as chairman of TFBM, we will do it as a sign of satisfaction with your efforts. Our words are not enough to express our gratitude to you for being the ‘father’ of Marawi City,” he said along with the burst of applause from the program attendees.

Secretary Del Rosario in his speech responded to the outpour of sentiments from the officials, stressing that the success of the rehabilitation project was borne out of the collective efforts of everyone involved.

“Key to the success was the support of the local government unit, the councils, civil society organizations, the local business sector and the traditional leaders who have constantly inspired me. Despite our differing beliefs and cultures, we became united because of our common objective to revive this war-torn city. We have all done our share in this project, talagang nagpursigi tayo (we really persevered),” he said.

He further enjoined those in the private and public sectors to “never again” allow terror groups to take roots in the city, saying, “Kung mahal natin ang Marawi City at nais natin itong umasenso pa, kailangang magkaisa tayo laban sa mga nagbabanta sa ating kapayapaan (If we love Marawi City and we want it to keep developing, we must unite against those who are threatening our peace).”

Asked what he has planned next as the transition of government looms, the Secretary assured that “there is nothing to worry about because the budget and documentation, among other matters will be safely handed over to the implementing agencies.”

He then closed his speech with a short but heartfelt line: “I will never say goodbye because Marawi will remain permanent in my heart.”

Secretary Del Rosario was designated as the TFBM chairman in 2017 in the aftermath of the Marawi siege, which left the once-glorious city in ruins. He was mandated to spearhead the rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction efforts in the city. — KCM