Mother was minutes away from Cotabato blast

Aug. 07, 2013

Photo contributed by Kabataan Cotabato City



A day before the Cotabato City bombing, Sittie Rajabia and her husband, Elson, were joking after hearing a United States government advisory of an Al Qaeda threat.

“Nagbibiruan pa nga kami nung lumabas sa news na may advisory. Sabi ni Elson tiyak may sasabog na naman nito (We were joking when the news of the advisory came out. Elson thought a bomb might go off next) ” she told Davao Today.

“Hindi namin inakala na magkakatotoo nga at sa Cotabato pa! (We never thought that it would happen and it happened here in Cotabato!)”

Rajabia, a mother of two and a former development broadcaster now taking up law studies, left her house at 4:20 pm that day, ten minutes before the bomb exploded in Sinsuat Avenue.  The motorcycle she rode decided to take another route.

“Muntik narin ako masama dun sa bombing, daanan kasi namin yun sa may Manara Street. Dapat didto mi moagi kaso nagliko ang driver padulong sa Casa Blanca (I was almost included in the list of victims, because that was where we cross near Manara Street.  We were supposed to cross there, but the driver turned at Casa Blanca),” she said.

Rajabia thought at first it was another one of the bomb explosions that has been happening in the city since July.

“Sa una murag wala lang kasi we used to hear bombings dinhi. Pero pagkakita namo nga nag panic na mga pasahero and naa black smoke makita namo less than one kilometer from us, murag lahi na akong na feel (I thought it was one of those bombings we used to hear. But when I saw passengers panicking and a black smoke less than a kilometer from us, I felt something’s different here),” she recalled.

Rajabia said her family immediately called her, “Nagpanic na pod mga tao sa balay kay gipapauli nako dayun. They thought na naapil nako kay bag-o lang gyud ko nakagawas sa balay then may narinig na na malakas na sumabog  (My family panicked and told me to come back home. They thought I was hurt because I just got out then they heard the huge explostion).”

The explosion happened in a busy intersection in Cotabato City Monday along Sinsuat Avenue fronting Funeraria Villa, killing five instantly, while three others died at  the hospital. The bomb also burned four cars, five motorcycles and seven business establishments.

“First time ko nakaramdam ng ganung takot sa Cotabato City, kasi maraming casualties at walang pili. Nakakapanindig balahibo sa totoo lang, hindi ko maintindihan, naiyak ako sa takot.(It was the first time I felt that kind of fear here in Cotabato City, because it happened at random and there were many casualties.  I couldn’t understand anything and I just cried),” Rajabia explained.

Award-winning indie filmmaker Teng Mangansakan was in Cotabato when the incident happened.  He told Davao Today this incident makes people more scared.

“I would usually avoid heaps of boxes or garbage in the city for fear that a bomb could be planted there. Now I feel that even with the proximity of cars and vehicles, nobody is safe,” he said.

Mangansakan, who had filmed stories of Moro evacuation following military offensives in Central Mindanao, said the bombing “does not do good for a city struggling with an image problem. It also sends a message that the month of Ramadan is nothing sacred as any day of the year, and that vengeance, hate and evil know no respite.”

Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani Jr. told reporters his political rivals with “private armed groups” could be the suspect behind this bombing, since his sister, City Administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, was in one of the vehicles that passed through the street.  His sister was not hurt but one of her escorts was killed.

But Rajabia said she doubts this. “Sa totoo lang wala masyadong kumakagat sa isyu na sina Mayor ang target.”

Peace advocate Fr. Eliseo ‘Jun’ Mercado of the Oblates Missionary Immaculate posted on his Facebook page Tuesday that he doubted anything will come out of the police investigation.

“Government once again tells the people that they would pursue the perpetrators… yet from as far back as I can remember and that is 1965, no one is made responsible for any killing in the place,” his post said.

Photo contributed by Kabataan Cotabato City

Photo contributed by Kabataan Cotabato City

Mercado echoed the people’s fears saying “People learn to live in their insecurities… knowing fully well that all government can do is for the soundbytes.  Now I am hearing it again… Meanwhile people continue to live in their insecurities; grapples with their fears; bury their dead; and make lamentations for their wounds.”

Meanwhile, OMI provincial superior Fr. Lauro de Guia in a statement called for people to overcome the tragedy and support calls for peace in the region.

“Our efforts to achieve peace in the various aspects of our social and political life must also continue despite this tragic event. We pray to God to grant early recovery to the wounded, consolation to those who lost their loved ones, and courage and wisdom to our traumatized society to be able to find a way forward in our search for authentic peace,” the statement said.  (

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