Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Renowned architect Felino Palafox proposes to keep Marawi---now a huge heap of rubble after five months of ferocious fighting---as WAR MEMORIAL and construct a new city elsewhere. But restoring Marawi to pre-jihadist glory would not only be a triumph of technological skills but also a symbol of Filipino indomitable spirit. Alay sa Kawal Foundation faces huge financial strain from Marawi fighting

World-renowned Architect and Urban Planner Felino "Jun" Palafox
Faced with the daunting task of rebuilding once-beautiful and idyllic Marawi City which nestles by scenic Lake Lanao, President Duterte recently brought world-renowned Filipino architect-urban planner Felino “Jun” Palafox there---even as the smoke of battle still rises from the vast heap of destruction in the bloody urban warfare the city has undergone.  

Already, at this point, talk is bruited about massive reconstruction and restoration effort for Marawi City that’s akin to the gigantic Marshall Plan to rebuild the destroyed cities and economies of Western Europe in the aftermath of  World War II.

Architect Jun Palafox has offered to undertake Marawi's reconstruction and no one is better qualified for this daunting task than he, as he has gained vast international reputation as a hot-shot architect and urban planner.  But just as important, Jun Palafox has the heart and patriotism to restore this city to what was once the country’s Islamic citadel by the shores of Lake Lanao.


That said, I also read that Architect Palafox is toying with the idea of recommending preservation of  Marawi city in its current state of total ruin--- and instead build an entirely new city further up the shores of Lake Lanao. From what I gather, Jun Palafox’s idea is to make the heart of the city---now in total ruins---into a WAR MEMORIAL  and just create a new Marawi elsewhere. 

I can understand where Jun is coming from:  as a memorial to man’s folly, downtown Marawi, where fiercest fighting had taken place for five months, would have few equals in the world in its ruinous state. But a memorial is just that: a memorial.  I personally would prefer to see that our most famous Islamic city rise again from the ashes of war---and through the collective effort of all who had loved and rhapsodized her in past eras, recapture her beauty.

Restoring Marawi to her glorious past would not only be a show-piece of architectural and urban skills, but more importantly, A TRIUMPH OF THE FILIPINO’S INDOMITABLE SPIRIT.

Alay sa Kawal Foundation officials, led by its Chair, former VP Jejomar Binay, meeting last Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, with widows and parents of AFP enlisted personnel killed in action in various encounters with dissidents.

Yesterday morning, Oct. 19,  the Alay sa Kawal (ASK) Foundation, which I founded 30 years ago after my husband was badly wounded in an encounter with the NPAs in Cagayan Valley, awarded cash assistance to 30 spouses or parents of AFP enlisted personnel killed in various encounters with enemies of the state around the country.

I was inspired to found ASK in 1987, after I realized from the example of soldiers who had perished or were badly wounded in that encounter with my husband,  how much their widows  needed financial assistance to raise very young children orphaned by their soldier-fathers.  

Since then the Foundation, led for some years now by our chair, former Vice President Jejomar Binay, has continued with its checks to the widows or parents of soldiers who have perished all over the country.  In the scheme of things, the checks ASK gives out are small (P30,000 per family) and to date ASK has helped  some 5,500 soldiers’ families already.

The donations, small as they are, however, must be viewed as a token of civilian concern for our men in uniform---the ordinary soldiers---raised from the civilian sector to help alleviate in a small way the plight of their widows and orphans.


At yesterday’s ASK donation awards, I realized how pitifully young are most of the wives who were left behind by their soldier-husbands, and how the burden of rearing children orphaned by fathers would be such a burden to these young mothers.  I also realized that with the war in Marawi against jihadist elements over the past five months, the list of our soldier-beneficiaries will be increasing.

At latest count some 162 soldiers of the state have lost their lives in fighting hundreds of jihadists who had invaded and sought to conquer Marawi for ISIS.


This means more efforts on the part of the Alay sa Kawal Foundation to raise funds for these new families recently orphaned.  It should be pointed out, however, that never before have the Filipino people regarded their soldiers with so much affection and respect as in the battle for the re-conquest of Marawi from jihadist terrorists.  

That saga has brought about untold heroisms, but alas, it has also brought so much suffering among families that have been orphaned of fathers, brothers and sons. How these families are now deprived of love and care because of the senseless war among fellow Filipinos, instigated by a few jihadist foreigners.


Our cash donations for widows of ordinary Filipino soldiers killed in action have continued since 1987, as fund-raising has been conducted through the years  by a board of professionals. Aside from former VP Binay,  they include lawyer Ramon Pedrosa, former Postmaster General Cesar Sarino, businessman Hermie Esguerra, Alfonso “Boy” Reyno of the Manila Jockey Club and others---who are  dedicated to honoring our heroes who have fought against jihadists and leftist elements.  We hope that the Alay sa Kawal Foundation would continue to be supported in its fund-raising by our fellow Filipino citizens.

But more than cash donations, we hope and pray for peace to descend on our beloved country, so that Filipinos need not kill fellow Filipinos. Instead, we pray that we could all unite to make our country ever more progressive---assuring each and every Filipino of a just and peaceful existence, where families can rear and educate their children for a bright future.

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