Barber pays back Marawi kindness
Philippine Daily Inquirer
2017-07-18 05:06:52
Jessie James Vente on his mission to cut hair for free in evacuation centers for displaced Marawi City residents. —JEOFFREY MAITEM

Jessie James Vente on his mission to cut hair for free in evacuation centers for displaced Marawi City residents. —JEOFFREY MAITEM

ILIGAN CITY — As Jessie James Vente cuts hair for free in an evacuation center for displaced Marawi residents, he shows not only his skills as a barber but also a portrait of the predominantly Muslim city as a place where Christians and Muslims peacefully coexist.

Vente, a Christian, has fond memories of Marawi and its people.

He worked for six years as a construction laborer in Marawi and remembers his employer being very good to him.

Vente, 37 and now a father of three, said he felt no discrimination being a Christian in a mostly Muslim city.

“I have friends there and I hope they’re OK,” he said.

Vente stayed for two years in the village of Bangolo, now one of the last areas where Maute group and Abu Sayyaf members are holed up.

Vente had gone full time as a barber, putting up two barber shops of his own in the towns of Tubod and Kapatagan in Lanao del Norte.

Weekly mission

But Marawi, according to Vente, is “very close” to his heart.

Vente said his “heart bleeds” every time he sees reports about the destruction in Marawi.

“I hope the crisis will end soon so the people can rebuild their lives,” he said.

In the meantime, it’s payback time for Vente for the kindness he received from the people of Marawi.

He promised to go around evacuation camps, even just for a day per week, to give free haircuts to evacuees.

Vente’s first stop was at the evacuation center in the village of Maria Christina here where women and their children queued to get free haircuts from him.

Margie Macapundag, 57, a resident displaced from West Marinaut in Marawi, said the evacuees were thankful for Vente’s kindness.

“What he did was a big help. No one here can cut our hair,” said Macapundag.

As of July 9, the National Emergency Operations Center counted at least 410,457 persons belonging to 89,589 families displaced due to the fighting in Marawi.

Displacement

Of these, at least 23,339 persons belonging to 4,277 families were staying in 87 evacuation centers in Iligan City and towns in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur.

At least 387,118 persons belonging to 85,312 families were staying at homes of relatives.

President Duterte had declared martial law in Mindanao in response to the attempt by terror groups to establish an Islamic State vassal in Marawi.

Both Mr. Duterte and the military said they had expected to finish off the remaining terrorist holdouts soon to allow the return of displaced residents.

The Duterte administration was allotting up to P50 billion for Marawi’s reconstruction. —JEOFFREY MAITEM

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