Marawi City, for most people, is just a constant source of one bad news after another.

Of kidnappings and rido (clan wars), of drugs and election violence, and many more. To friends who ask me whom to vote for during elections, my usual answer is: “I haven’t given it much thought, because I know I won’t be going to my precinct as we’re leaving early for coverage in Marawi and its neighboring places, where the action usually is.”

But behind those headlines, the country’s lone Islamic City is just like most cities in the Philippines. The Meranaws, too, eke out a living, they go to church, they go to the streets to protest unjust policies, they spend quality time with their loved ones, they celebrate, their children play and go to school.

This is the side of Marawi that I would like to show to the world, a picture of the city and its people that may never be seen again after the five-month long siege in 2017. Enough of the photographs and video clips of the devastation brought about by the war.

As a journalist, I’ve been covering Marawi since the late 1980s, and thus amassed a number of pictures of the place and its people. 

Next to my hometown of Iligan City, Marawi is literally the city closest to me as it is only 36 kilometers away, less than an hour’s drive. It is also the birthplace of my late father, Marawi having had the more advanced hospital back then, a hundred or so years ago. (Yes, I’m referring to the Amai Pakpak Medical Center, built by the US Army under John Pershing, then called the Lanao General Hospital.)

What makes Marawi special is its long colorful history amidst the backdrop of the country’s second largest lake and a cool climate unlike most places in this hot tropical country, the city being situated 700 meters above sea level.

Allow me to share with you the Marawi that I knew.