When the first artillery fire rang out one afternoon in May, Norodin Lucman thought of the four workers repairing a cellphone tower on his sprawling property. He sent one of his daughters to tell the men to come in.
Plumes of smoke spiraled up from the city below. But Marawi, home to 200,000 people, had survived armed conflict before, and Lucman assumed this one would end in a few days and his guests would go home.
Soon, though, more people began arriving at his door. Militants were torching homes and schools, freeing prisoners, taking hostages and waving Islamic State flags.
The militants had stopped another group of cell tower workers and demanded that they recite the Shahada, a Muslim proclamation of faith. Marawi is predominantly Muslim. But the men were Christians from nearby cities. They failed the test.
When one tried to escape on his motorbike, the militants shot him dead. Amid the chaos, the nine others managed to flee to Lucman’s house.
The Philippine government sent helicopter gunships and tanks to root out the insurgents, who were being funded by Islamic State and soon saw their ranks swell as fighters arrived from Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Chechnya.
The fighting, which continues today, has reduced the city to its foundations, evoking Iraq’s Mosul or Syria’s Aleppo.
But Lucman didn’t know any of that was coming as his house became a refuge.