Feature: Life goes on
by Macky Macavinta
Koronadal City (23 June) -- In the aftermath of the June 20 twin grenade attacks in front of the town hall here, the people of Maasim and the local government leaders carried on Sunday (June 21) the celebration of their 37th Foundation Anniversary and Kestebeng Festival.
The foundation day activities kicked off with a repeat of the June 18 Walk for Peace attended by different tribal communities which converged at the municipal gym.
Maasim Mayor Aniceto Lopez Jr.'s and Sarangani Governor Migs Dominguez's speeches were nothing short of inspiring as they urged the people to stand strong in the face of adversity.
Despite the grim incidents of the previous night, the people of Maasim will not stand down and cower in fear.
"Even with what happened last night, we still continued with our search for the Mutya ng Maasim," Mayor Lopez stated.
The atmosphere in the area was less than festive as the presentation of the winners of the previous night's events was followed by the street dancing competition while a myriad of street vendors continued with their trade surrounding the event area.
"Nahadlok gihapon mi, pero daghan pa man mi baligyaunon (Though there is still a feeling of fear, we continue to sell our wares)," said vendor Belen Gicali.
"Gatuo man mi na kaya mi protektahan sa military. Pero dapat magtinabangay sad mi ug magbantay-bantay sa daplin. Kung magpalabi ta ug kahadlok, wala tay mahimo ani, (We still believe that the military forces in the area can protect us. But we should also take it upon ourselves to help each other and remain vigilant. We will not prosper if we give in to fear)," Gicali added.
Gicali is one of the many vendors who braved the aftermath of the grenade attacks and continued to sell her wares during the festival.
"This is a sign that the people are ready to stand up against the face of adversity, but we must double up our security measures," Vice Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon said, when asked if the resolve of the people was enough to act as a deterrent to lawless individuals in the absence of military personnel.
"What is important is that the community provides us with the information of what is happening in the area which will help in the defense of their area."
"The continuation of the festivities, in the midst of what happened yesterday, is a really good sign that the people of Maasim are ready to keep going," Solon concluded.
"The continuation of the festivities will help discourage those responsible for last night's incident as it shows how the people of Maasim feel towards such acts," noted Lt. Col. Edgardo de Leon, commander of the 73rd Infantry Battalion.
De Leon stated they added 150 Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel to help secure the area during the Sunday festivities.
"Though they will not remain here after the festivities, the active defense posture of the 73rd IB and the PNP will still continue in preserving the peace in the area," De Leon added.
"We can see that even after the events of last night, we, as a community, still have the support of the people. The challenge to us, local executives, is to not lose hope." Mayor Lopez stated.
"The events of last night did nothing but to strengthen our resolve when it comes to attaining peace."
Authorities believe the people responsible for the June 20 bombing were remnants of Lawless MILF Groups.
Governor Dominguez confirmed that a high ranking official of the 107th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has been captured. "Hopefully this will be able to shed light on the incident in Maasim," the governor said.
"The people of Maasim will not allow itself to be terrorized and I have faith in our armed forces in determining who is responsible and bringing them to justice." Dominguez said. "Whoever is responsible for this, and if you are listening, your days are numbered." (Sarangani IO/PIA 12) [top]