By: Mark Sulla

 

My friend and I were supposed to go Roxas Avenue’s night market to have our dinner. The day had ended and a round of grueling exams have been finished. We missed the spice of the pork and chicken barbeque; the crack of squid balls and kikiam frying; and the crispiness of proven and chicken skin. But we chose to go to a known fastfood joint instead. I went home and did my usual routine of opening Facebook and Twitter before going to bed.

Then I came across a live stream broadcasted by a fellow Atenean. The livestream had the caption, “bombing at roxas avenue”. I couldn’t believe it. A bombing? At the heart of Davao City? At first glance, I thought it was only an explosion caused by a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tank due to the close vicinity of the food stalls where the phone camera of the live stream was pointed, yet later evidence showed otherwise.

Due to technical problems, I tuned in to another live stream and it was there that I saw everything clearer and indeed, more terrifying. Every second and every minute that live stream was shown, it made me feel that I was really there, right at ground zero. I saw people rushing to the safety of Rodriguez Hall and a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) officer establishing a perimeter. I saw Davaoenos trying to comfort and help one another while at the same time looking shell-shocked and blank.

I heard the sirens of the ambulances and the fire engines as well as the screams and wails in the Community Center. The horror and disbelief all made themselves known not only to me, but to all of us on that very night. Who would have known carnage such as this would occur to these innocent people, students and parents and children, on an unsuspecting Friday night? Yet it is that very thought that makes it all the more horrifying: the unpredictability and its unexpectedness.

A few hours after the devastating incident, the improvised explosive device (IED) left fourteen people dead and sixty-seven more injured. No words could describe the dreadfulness, the bloodbath of seeing the graphic pictures and videos after the blast. Now, thoughts of “What if I was there?” or “I could have been there” still ring in our minds. Nonetheless, these are the very thoughts the perpetrators want us to think. They want to sow division and hate.

The bomb, the rifle, and the sword are not their weapons. It is terror. And terrified, we Davaoeños are. As long as the terror against civilians and non-combatants will advance and spread their agenda, it will always be these terrorists’ greatest weapon. If and when we succumb to these thoughts, then they have already won. Throughout this ordeal, it is our duty to remind ourselves and our fellowmen that terror will not sow, that the distrust will not grow, and that the divide will not shatter.

However, let us remind ourselves that we can fight and strike back though numb with pain and shock. Do not let them win. Do not let them sow fear, plant distrust, and bring division amongst us. If we allow them into our minds then tthe terror would reduce us to inaction, the distrust will only bring us hate and the divide will only tear us apart. Instead of inaction, let us act. Instead of distrust, let us trust.

Instead of divide, let us unite. Our troops fighting at the battlefront in the jungles of Sulu are doing their part. Let us do ours as well in the home front. The perpetrators have sent their message. Now it is our move. They sent a question, a statement, and a challenge. As both Davaoeños and Filipinos, we will reply:

“Our heads are bloody, but unbowed.”

 

 

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