by Yas Ocampo / Mindanao Times
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 03 Sept) — A group of massage therapists, eyes welling with tears, gathered outside the morgue of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) at around 3 a.m., Saturday, looking for a woman.
They said the woman’s husband was not aware of what happened, as he was on duty as night security guard at a shopping mall here.
Sadly, Maria Luz Arellano was recognized by her fellow therapists. She was wearing a bloodstained Spongebob scrub suit.
The husband didn’t know that just a few hours before, a blast ripped though the otherwise quiet night along Roxas Avenue, shattering each and every Dabawenyo’s confidence about the city still being safe.
Burdened with the news, Maria Luz’s colleague Emmanuel Flora braved his tears and spoke to local media, pleading with President Rodrigo Duterte to find the culprits. Flora is the president of the association of therapists and Maria Luz was a member. Five members of the association were killed in the blast.
“She has three children,” Flora said, using the Good Morning towel around his neck to wipe his tears. “They are 4, 5, and 6 years old.”
Around midnight, 10 black body bags were lined up right outside the Ateneo de Davao University’s Roxas compound after investigators cleared the perimeter of bystanders and contaminants to the crime scene. Rescuers and onlookers gathered around the 10 bags, inanimate and totally removed from the fact that underneath that plastic covering were mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins and friends.
Outside the SPMC gate, a couple arrived, both of them therapists, too.
“We were supposed to be there,” he said. “But she was not feeling well,” he said, pointing towards his wife’s baby bump. But they both bawled when they saw the face of their loved one flashed as one of the casualties from a cellular phone.
They were quite sure. She looked like the pregnant sister, and she was wearing an orange scrub suit. Her name is not among those admitted to the SPMC.
And so, they went to the funeral parlor. Their names, too, have been lost in the midst of the chaos.
Lost in the chaos was a mother and son who died together during the Friday night blast.
Daniel Larida, 12, was pronounced dead on arrival at the Southern Philippines Medical Center. His mother, Melanie, was also killed from injuries and trauma that suffered from the blast, according to information from the SPMC.
Dennis Larida, who made it out of the tragedy with only minor injuries, now will have to live the rest of his life analyzing and second-guessing each moment prior to the blast, the question of “what if,” tormenting him forever.
A source who knew the family told TIMES that the Larida family was supposed to attend a fellowship scheduled over the weekend at their Christian church in Toril District.
They decided to visit the night market to get a massage, and dig through the second-hand goods for their family costume in time for the church celebration this month.
The Laridas are only three of the 34 names written on a whiteboard at the government-run hospital. At the San Pedro Hospital, there are at least 27 names of injured Dabawenyos.
As of 5 a.m., Saturday, three have been recorded dead at the SPMC, which uses “expired” as its term for patients who lose their lives on the table.
Another patient, according to Department of Health assistant secretary Abdullah Dumama, Jr., died during surgery. ‘Ms. X89’ has not yet been identified.
At the SPMC, there were 16 patients critically injured, while another 12 had fewer injuries. Three have been discharged.
Another pregnant woman, on the other hand, was kept at intensive care. The fate of Vicenta Depalubos’s baby, barely seven months in the womb, precarious since the mother is comatose.
Doctors are working to relieve the swelling in her skull.
In the madness of the first few hours, a few names were left out, forgotten, or misplaced.
But some of the names were immediately available.
Onlookers were quick to point out how a policeman was among those slain. SPO1 Jay Abresin was reportedly taking a break, and decided to relax at the outdoor massage spot. He was a personnel of the Aviation Security Group. Pharmacy student Kristyll Decolongon, 17, of the San Pedro College was also among those killed on the spot.
The figures differ about the number of patients that were admitted to various hospitals. The DOH said there were at least 55 admitted in various hospitals, while 18 were outpatient cases. The rumored fourth death at the Davao Doctor’s Hospital has not yet been confirmed as of press time.
According to the Davao City Police Office, five of those killed were therapists themselves. Killed were Caila Merecido, Eufemia Biscocho, Mercy Bacilisco, Arellano, and Rogelio Cagantas. The rest were either bystanders or those among the customers.
In the previous administration, the therapists have been given a small area where they could practice their trade, in a better-lit area compared to the old darker areas near City Hall, around 2 kilometers away.
The blast sparked old wounds for Dabawenyos who, every year, have to commemorate the victims of the March 4 and April 2, 2003 bombings outside the old Davao International Airport and the international seaport, both in Sasa.
Meanwhile, despite the terror attack, Davao City remains unbowed.
In fact, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio has ordered that the night market be reopened again as soon as the police gathers evidence in their post-blast investigation.
“We will not be terrorized by this heinous crime and I call on all Dabawenyos to unite and let us help each other rise from this senseless incident,” she said in a statement. “Let us remain vigilant, please report any and all suspicious activity, no matter how insignificant it may seem,” she said. (Yas Ocampo is a reporter of Mindanao Times. Permission to reprint this piece granted by Mindanao Times)