By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan
ZAMBOANGA CITY–The midday call to Muslim prayers blares from a megaphone atop a tent of donated canvas.
Inside on plastic matting, no more than ten men stand, sit, and bow, doing the positions of the salah. Their muddied slippers and sandals wait outside. One man hurries to wash his head, upper body, and limbs with water from a soft drink bottle—the ritualistic cleanse before going in to pray.
The makeshift masjid or mosque stands unnoticeably amid more tents and shanties at the grounds of the Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex, just a walk near the bay.
It’s the city’s main stadium, but for the tens of thousands of locals here, this has been their house, playground, workplace, and village for the past year.
They once lived in barangays like Rio Hondo, Santa Catalina, and Santa Barbara. But a three-week-long firefight between soldiers and rebels that began exactly 12 months ago razed their communities, left hundreds dead, and forced them from their homes and livelihood.
Here at the grandstand, the year that passed hosted an endless cycle of status quos and struggles for survival. For some, it’s only gotten worse, with no end in sight.