I used to be one of the grandest and the most iconic buildings of Davao City. For decades, I stood there with pride as one of the national artists of the country designed me. I used to see people crying and waving to their loved ones as they board the plane, the impatient faces at the waiting shed area right in front of me, and those who were doing their business within my garden.
|The old terminal of Davao International Airport|
But on the fourth day of March 2003, everything went black, chaotic, then hazy.
Sheila can't hardly wait for her dad. She hadn't seen him for years.
Her dad is an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He was scheduled to arrive the day before but because he missed his connecting flight to Manila, he had no choice but to move his arrival in Davao the next day. Sheila is about to graduate in elementary with honors and she can't contain her excitement after learning that her dad is going home to attend her graduation.
"Buti nalang talaga uuwi si Papa at aatend siya ng graduation ko!" (Good thing my dad decided to come home to attend my graduation!).
"Pero hindi niya alam na ga-graduate ako bilang Salutatorian sa batch namin. Hindi ko talaga maisip kung ano ang reaction niya sa sasabihin niya." (But he didn't know that I am our batch's Salutatorian. I can't hardly imagine how he'd react to my surprise!)
Xander works as a Software Engineer of an IT company in Makati City. It was almost four years ago when he accepted his dream job. Although, he had to leave his home, his family and Lexie, his one and only. Long distance relationship was really difficult but they have proven that love knows no distance.
Finally, he is coming home on a Tuesday night. A surprise awaits Lexie hidden inside the tiny box where Xander had kept for months.
"Miss na miss ko na talaga si Lexie (I really, really miss Lexie). I do hope she will accept my gift."
At age 68, Nanay Celing should've been resting inside her house. But because of her grand son's worsening health condition, she has to work all day and all night. Selling chicharon and nuts near the waiting shed of the airport has been her life ever since.
"Kinihanglan nako maningkamot aron makapalit ko og tambal sa akong apo. (I need to work hard so that I could buy some medicines for my grand son)."
It was around five in the afternoon when the crowd started to grow. Luckily, a lot of people bought her goods. Celing smiled, knowing that she could bring home the medicines needed by her apo. Plus his favorite arroz caldo.
A young man, wearing white shirt, black shorts and a pair of cheap flip-flops seemed restless. He was carrying a big backpack along with a Nokia 3210 on his right hand. From time to time, he keeps on patrolling one side of the waiting shed. Beads of sweat started to form around his forehead. He looked anxious and worried. Manang Celing then noticed this fidgety man. She approached him and offered him some of her goods.
"Sir, mani sir oh, og chicharon", she said.
He ignored her.
It started to drizzle and people sought shelter at the waiting shed.
All of the sudden, his cellphone rang.
Annie was once again assigned at the approach control. The weather was starting to change, thus she abruptly radioed the pilots of Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and Air Philippines to notify about the sudden weather change. As an air traffic controller, her task includes controlling and securing the safety of the planes as they make their way to the airport. One by one, the planes landed safely and smoothly.
The last plane taxied its way to the tarmac. Suddenly, a very loud explosion rocked the whole airport complex. It was so loud that one of the window panels of the control tower cracked. Annie saw a smoke coming from the terminal building. She hurriedly called the airport's fire department.
Later they found out that a bomb exploded at the airport's waiting shed.
Minutes before the explosion, I saw some people greeting and hugging their loved ones. Everyone seemed happy until everything went black and chaotic. It shook my foundations, destroyed some of my glass panels, but I remained intact. Then I saw a huge, gaping hole from the waiting shed. Severed body parts had lain near the site. Hundreds got injured from the blast.
The hopes and dreams of Sheila, Lexie, Nanay Celing and the rest of the 19 vicitms had gone in an instant.
Sheila will not be able to march to claim her medals.
Xander will not be able to kneel in front of Lexie and ask her hand for marriage.
Nanay Celing will not be able to shoulder the medical needs of her grandson.
Eight years had passed. The place where I once majestically stood is now abandoned but those bittersweet memories will be forever etched in every beams of my buildings.
I may have survived the blast and only suffered from minor structural damages but the presence of the twenty-two restless souls still echoes and lingers at the abandoned hallways of my foundation, still waiting for their loved ones' arrival.
That fateful Tuesday afternoon had served as a lesson to us. Life is truly short. Let us enjoy every single moment of it.
Disclaimer: Stories are work of fiction but is based from a real event. Any similarities to stories and persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.