"Life in Marawi was quiet and peaceful. I awoke every day at the sound of the 'adhan' (Muslim call to prayer), to the astonishing view of Lake Lanao, and with a breeze of cold, fresh air."

Such is the memory of Asmenah Manabilang Barambangan, 24, of her home city in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao before Islamic State-inspired terrorists infiltrated it six months ago, triggering a five-month-long battle with government forces.

Barambangan, a law student in Manila who grew up in the predominantly Muslim city, said its cool weather, lush environment and simplicity is what likely enticed many people to settle there.