Where we were, no one heard the explosion. At about 1.3 kilometers away from ground zero, on a packed night at a rooftop bar, the calm sky overhead was partly covered by a string of Christmas lights that ran from the high walls to the ceiling of the bar counter at the other end.
Who broke the news first? The face, even the voice that first spoke of the tragedy, could have been anyone’s. It could have begun as a whisper that raced from table to table, until everyone began chanting the same blood-curdling fact. Until it was loud enough to be heard. Until the blaring sirens came as easily as they disappeared beyond senses. Still, neighboring tables needed to repeat it to me over and over again: Roxas was bombed. Confirmed? Roxas was bombed. Are you sure? Roxas was bombed.
This is the city that once stood its ground against the grip of gangsterism from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. Davao cleansed—and infamously amassed human rights issues since then—its corners and alleyways so it could coddle a thriving environment for the general populace. This is the city where environmentalists recently successfully thwarted the amendment to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan to remove 10 percent of green spaces for future land developers. Civil society organizations—“mere” civilians, stubborn yet well-meaning advocates—are listened to in the usually airtight council sessions.
Though it is far from perfect, many of Davao’s residents have been a stubborn and unforgiving lot when it comes to defending the common good.
After an explosion on that Friday night, not much has changed. We know the numbers, we know the names of the casualties, yet the aftereffect is bigger than what quantitative statistics can tell us. Once the dust has settled, the feeling is overwhelming.
Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is quoted simply: “We will stand up now.” Not only with prayers, viral messages, and candlelight gatherings, but with action.
We return to our regularly scheduled program—business as usual to pump the city’s veins to keep it alive and kicking. This, most of all, is the most helpful thing we can do. We go to work like any other day—not because we have forgotten, but because we are brave enough to look an act of intended bloodshed in the eye to tell it to buzz off. This is a signal that sends a message loud and clear.
No one bombs Davao City and lives to tell the others that the Dabawenyos are defeated.
Condolences and well wishes to the families and loved ones of those whose lives have been disrupted or cut short by the night market tragedy. We will rise with you.
Janna Moya, 22, lives in Davao City and works in a nongovernment organization.
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