A small crowd of victims and government officials gathered to light candles and pray at the spot on the road outside the perimeter fence of the Davao International Seaport where the bomb exploded on April 2, 2003.
Many of the victims wept, recalling the twisted bodies and broken limbs after the powerful bomb cut a swathe of destruction among street vendors and passengers, most of them poor.
The improvised explosive device was timed to set off as passengers were disembarking from Super Ferry 15 which had just arrived from Manila.
“The emotional scar is still there. The pain is always there,” Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said as he led the lighting of the candles.
The crowd offered no moment of silence but for those who survived, the site and the date itself set triggered memories.
“When I saw the broken bodies lying everywhere I though how lucky am I to survive this,” said Winry Valdez, 45, a security guard of the Philippine Port Authority.
Valdez had manned the gates at the Davao International Seaport, bodily checking every passenger, when the bomb exploded around 6:45 pm.
He narrated he was busy checking on passengers and was unaware that someone had hidden a bomb in a backpack under a stall only five meters away.
The blast tore a row of stalls outside the gate. Those who were not killed at the initial blast died from the hot molten shrapnel from the improvised explosive device.
“The blast left me stunned. I slowly rubbed my hands all over my head. I can not forget that,” Valdez said.
He still recalls now, four years later, the bloody milieu of broken bodies and limbs when he looked up: bodies lay among broken bottles of soft drinks and food. A doll from one of the victim lay near a trash can.
Valdez said he helped bring many of the wounded to the passing vehicles they flagged for help until he realized that he, too, was wounded. A police mobile brought him to the Davao Regional Hospital.
He said for four years he had to bear the painful memory. Every year he would light a candle at the bomb site.
“I was really traumatized. It was good that my superiors transferred me far away from the gates,” Valdez told MindaNews.
Like Valdez, Lilia Tiongco, 40, was also heavily traumatized. Like the other victims, Tiongco would light a candle every year for her friends who died that day.
This morning, when she woke up, she told herself to celebrate her second life.
“Today is like my new birthday. I might have died that day but God did not forget me,” Tiongco said.
Tiongco was standing near Valdez near the gates when the bomb exploded. The blast left her dazed until she saw her bloody hands and stomach. The she realized she was hit by the deadly shrapnel.
Tiongco could not speak for several weeks as doctors operated on the wounds she sustained on her throat, hands and stomach.
She did not go back selling food at the port area either after she was healed a year later. And when she did go back to selling at the port, Tiongco said she was very nervous.
“I had goose bumps the first day I came back here. Images of the dead came back in my head,” Tiongco said.
Tiongco went back selling because she had no other means of livelihood to feed her five growing children.
Like Tiongco, Clairta Yafog was also at the seaport to earn a hundred pesos for her daughter’s graduation.
Yafog decided to sell eggs and cold water that day after her daughter, Jodelyn, told her she needed P100 for her elementary graduation.
She said she thought she was lucky when a neighbor loaned her enough money to buy four trays of eggs and plastic bags for the water.
“My daughter and I really wanted to earn P100 that day. It was for her graduation,” she said.
They had actually sold P200 worth of eggs when the bomb exploded. Luckily, she told her daughter to go home minutes before it happened.
The shrapnel shattered the arms of Yafog. Doctors have had to put stainless steel for her to use her arms.
Today, Yafog is in dire financial straits. She cannot use her hands to lift heavy things and cannot go back to accepting laundry. She does not want to go back to Sasa anymore because of fear.
The bombers, after all, are still at large.