TINGOG KABATAN-ONAN: Blood-stained Paradise

By Carl Ace R.Parilla

MUSUAN, Maramag, Bukidnon (Bukidnon News.Net/22 January 2015) Anger and fear. Imagine a place full of anger and fear. Imagine faces of people scared of their own vulnerability to any unforeseen mishaps. Imagine sound of fury barely contained by the mouths that rage with what their eyes see. Imagine yourself standing in a ground drowned in the abyss of anxiety. Imagine.

Eerie sirens wailing back and forth. Lights of red and blue slitting the nightfall darkness. I was trapped in a stagnant traffic to Central Mindanao University along with the other passengers in the yellow public vehicle. As I have read on Facebook, I knew that it was due to the bombing incident that just happened near my school. The driver, who seemed drunk, kept pushing his way by driving along the sidewalk; making other passengers mad. While the mad passengers argue with the driver who kept on shouting that he know what he’s doing, I was just sitting there silently, irritated. One thing for sure, I know these passengers were just frightened after knowing that there was a bombing incidence.

In a while, I felt that the traffic is not getting any better at all. So I went down the cab, paid my uncompensated fare, and walked my way to school where I also lodge by the weekdays.

I walked from CMU Cemetery to the university motorpool; which made my sole ache a bit. While walking, all I saw were faces of annoyed people who were just as eager to reach their home.

In front of me were three college youngsters, freshmen perhaps evident with the P.E. uniform they were wearing. They were making fun of the bombing incident by screaming ‘bomb!’ in every bus they passed by. Surely, these students don’t know yet the scale of the savagery they’re mocking. (Editor’s note: Cracking bomb jokes is a crime covered by P.D. 1727)

I entered the campus via the gate fronting the motor pool, which is still before the incident site. I went to my college’s animal station to feed the dog I kept for my Canine Medicine class. My schoolmate, ate Pearlie was also there at that time. I asked her what she knew about the bombing. She said that there were confirmed fatalities but was not uncertain about the number.

I had goose bumps all over my body. I have not thought that the bombing was massive enough that it would claim lives. Actually, earlier that time I thought it was just another bombing incident similar with what happened last November, which is just a month before the Dec. 9 incident.

Stunned by the fact that it has claimed lives, I suddenly decided to walk to the campus main gate, where the ill-fated bus was bombed.

My eyes widened with what I have seen. Men in camouflage were all over the place. Policemen were still doing forensics. The Rural Transit bus 2640 was already emptied by that time I reached the site. I noticed an elderly lady who was in teaching uniform. She was holding a camera and was showing pictures to some soldiers. The lady was actually a faculty member of the College of Agriculture. Out of curiosity, I approached her and asked if I can also view the pictures. She willingly showed me the pictures one by one. She was murmuring something which I haven’t clearly heard.

My mind was numbed by the sight of the pictures.

I saw lifeless faces dripped with blood. There were also images of the bus interior. Blood was all over the floor. Merciless. That’s the only word I have uttered after seeing the images.

I was standing in the crowd of startled people. All of them were expressing anger and fear. The atmosphere seemed to be so depressing. I asked myself, “What if it happened to the people I know? What if it happened to the people I love? What if I was there at the bus too?”. My eyes and my hands were shaking. I just can’t contain the pain that I felt while I was looking all over the place.

I left the place with grumbling in my mind. Silently, I was thinking how anyone can possibly do such a heartless thing especially to innocent people. I’m sure people around me at that time were thinking the same, too.

Along my way to my boarding house, I passed by the university hospital. I noticed two familiar people sitting on the bench in the parking lot. They were Marvin, my board mate, and his girlfriend, Lechelle A. who was also my classmate.

I wondered what they were doing at the hospital at that time. Worry was painted all over her face. I approached them and asked what was wrong. Marvin told me they were looking for her girlfriend’s sister, who was on her way home to Malaybalay City. She has not been taking their calls since they knew about the bombing and has not yet reached home, even if she left CMU three hours earlier.

Marielle, her sister, was not in the list of wounded passengers that were rushed to the CMU infirmary.

When I have told them that I was from the site and I saw pictures of the victims, they asked me if I have seen from the photos a girl wearing a violet shirt who looks like Lechelle. I said I wasn’t sure but I think I have not seen a girl in violet shirt.

As I have reached my room, I still can’t get rid of the faces of the victims that kept on flashing on my mind. A few hours later, I heard Marvin’s shaking voice. He was on the phone with Lechelle, who was with her family in Maramag that time. It was confirmed. Her sister was one of the last two unidentified victims at the morgue.

My heart seemed to shatter into pieces hearing their conversation. I have a younger sibling too. I can’t imagine how painful it could be to lose a loved one; much more not being able to say goodbye.

The morning came – it was still a school day but things did not seem normal. There was a noticeable decrease in the usual number of students I see on the campus. Probably due to what happened last night, many commuting students were afraid to ride a bus for that very random event might happen again. The campus lost its vibrant spirit. Most, if not all, students wore black; a gesture to show they grieved for the lost lives and condemned the ruthless event.

People were talking about who probably did the bombing. Some correlated the bombing as opposition to the renewal of the term of the university president. News reported information from the military that this was an activity of novice terrorists. While Gov. Zubiri on the radio was claiming that this is an act of extortion towards RTMI. A picture of the alleged suspect of the crime has even flooded the social media at that time.

For the first time in my five years in CMU, the campus had a very sad Christmas.

It was over a month now, but justice has not been served yet. Now, the students were starting to ride buses again, simply because it’s our way of travelling from home to school. However, every student, me included, still fear the bus ride. What if this will happen again? We never know. The fact that it happened twice in a month time in the same place (Dologon), nothing can make the students and other commuters alike feel safe each time we ride a bus. From our observation, RTMI has not done concrete actions to ensure safety of its passenger and its fleet.

CMU has a long history of havoc that once shed blood to its soil; we know that. But ever since there was relative peace here, only this bombing incident rattled the harmony and serenity we’ve been living with for years.

People will soon talk less about this. But we students will never forget how our paradise had been stained with blood.

As much as we want justice to be served as fast as possible, all we can do is just wait and pray that it may not be added to the long list of random killing in our country that go along memory lane – denied with justice.

Imagine CMU. Imagine a place full of anger and fear. That’s how we feel.

(TINGOG KABATAN-ONAN or Voice of the Youth (formerly Bata’ng Bukidnon) is the sub-section in BUKIDNON VIEWS dedicated to young contributors’ opinion pieces. Carl Ace Rojas Parilla, 20, is a student of veterinary medicine at Central Mindanao University. He hails from Impalutao, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon.)