As the cloud of dust and smoke settled, it became clearer that this was an act of terror. Lifeless bodies whose faces were beyond recognition lay scattered from where they once stood. Those who survived managed to shamble off the road, looking for help. The street that was once full of life became sullen and eerily quiet. Fear reeked in every crevices and corner of Roxas Avenue. The bomb not only took the lives of many, but it also quivered our hearts - the heart of every Davaoeño.
This is the place where people from all walks of life consider it as their refuge. This is the place where people enjoy local shopping and delicious but affordable food. This is the place where some law-abiding citizens work hard every night just to provide the basic necessities for their families. This is also the place where the dreams, aspirations, and hopes of many vanished in one blast.
It was almost 11PM and I was preparing for my midnight shift. The air was sterile, and everything was mundane. As a medical resident, we were trained to handle medical emergencies and trauma. When code white was declared in the hospital, I knew from that point something had terribly gone wrong in my beloved city. As the victims were rushed to the emergency room, it felt surreal. I thought was dreaming. I thought I was just watching an episode of my favorite medical drama series. But no, these were real victims. Victims of injustice and terror whose lives will never be the same. Forever traumatized, and scarred for a lifetime. Suddenly, everything became a blur and my world slowed down but I fought back my emotions, held back my tears, and tried my best to save as many lives as we can. I never thought that my city would experience such atrocities. We don't deserve this.
I went home several hours later. I was physically and mentally exhausted. But, I have no right to complain. Those victims whom we tried to save earlier fought for their dear lives. They are law-abiding citizens of this city. They were only doing their jobs at the night market to make ends meet.
I woke up by a familiar voice - so sweet and so gentle. It was my mom. I thought I was having a nightmare. Then, she told me about the terror last night. Reality starts to sink in.
Friday nights are meant for work, well in my case. At half-past ten, I was done with my tasks and I checked my social media accounts. I was busy chatting with my friends when out of the blue, I read a disturbing news. I immediately checked some of my friends who were there at the night market. I was shocked, mad, and worried at the same time.
Morning came and the city was unusually calm. Weekends are usually the busiest and traffic jams are the new normal here. Today was different. There were only a few cars passed by and the silence was really deafening. Together with my group, we went to the funeral homes to give our donations and to pay our last respects to the victims. We may not know them personally or we may not have crossed path at some point in our lives, but we are one with them. Some of the victim's relatives were in total shock and disbelief. Days before, they were with them. They were happy and their lives were brimming with hope. It only took one blast to change everything. My eyes welled up when a child told me that her mother was just sleeping inside the coffin. I held her hand and I told her to be strong and be with her father at all times.
It was two in the afternoon but nothing had changed. It was still eerily quiet. I hailed a cab and he was thankful. I was his first customer of the day. He told me that it might take a month before everything normalizes. It would be a great impact on his daily income. As we drove along the highway, I realized that the bomb did not just affect the lives of the victims, but also the very core of being a Davaoeño. Truth be told, we are all victims.
|Photo by Albert Egot, Jr | Alvertus Photography|
|Photo by Albert Egot, Jr | Alvertus Photography|
We Davaoeños have been through a lot for the past decades. We survived the rebel insurgencies during the 80s. Those were the days when civilians are mercilessly killed by the rebels and bloodshed is as mundane as feeding your pets at home or fetching your child from school.The city had survived and peace reigned for a while. In 1993, a bomb exploded at San Pedro Cathedral, killing dozens of churchgoers. Again, innocent lives were lost in an instant and the lives of their loved ones veered off course. Forever traumatized and scarred for a lifetime. In 2003, dozens were again killed when a powerful C4 bomb went off near the arrival hall of the old terminal of Davao International Airport. But we Davaoeños stood up in those trying times and fought hard to condemn such violence.
No bomb can destroy the foundations of our city. For centuries, our forefathers built our home with dignity, integrity, and respect. This is our home. Our one, and only home. This is the place where peace and progress coexist with each other. This is the place where people coming from different colors live harmoniously. Back to where I came from, there is unity in diversity.
Let us stand up and fight for our home. The measure of the success of terrorism is how long it takes for victims to stand up. We will stand up now.
Like an eagle, we shall soar high again.