Davao City International Airport, April 20, 2003

Through the glass wall of the 2nd-floor arrival area one can see the waiting shed that once was. The roof is gone and all that remains is a rectangle of gray cement. There are people waiting for passengers – relatives, taxi drivers, hotel receptionists, event coordinators, vendors – but none of them are standing where the shed used to be. Now that the area is totally clear, devoid of anything that might conceal an explosive, now that it is actually the safest place to wait, no one waits there.

I’m here for a demonstration of affection in the form of a “concert for Davao” to be played later today at the SM parking lot – apparently SM really DOES have it all – and am therefore traveling with mi amor, my
guitar, in her much-battered case. I wait for her to emerge with the baggage. On the same trip for the same purpose are Cynthia Alexander and her troupe of musical magic-workers.

With instruments and luggage in tow we step out into the 0645 sunlight and cross the driveway to the scene of the crime. There is an 18-inch section of palm tree trunk standing there by the main crater of the blast, a monument of sorts.

The crater itself isn’t much to look at. Not even an inch deep. Barely a foot wide. There are coins in it, love offerings. Even with all the kids around asking for money to buy food, none of them run off with these coins.

The crater is surrounded by smaller scars radiating outward from the central one. The shapes of the scars suggest the velocities, the force and violence
involved in their creation. What horrible shapes the shrieking pieces of metal and debris must have etched into living flesh I am glad not to have seen.

There is a bubble of silence here as we contemplate the cement. It is a silence saturated with beautiful, clear, un-smogged sunlight and fresh air, made more intense with the dark counterpoint of pain, blood and screaming.

It is said that recurring ghosts are like fingerprint smudges on clear glass, possessing no personality or volition of their own and simply replaying time and again the intense emotions that caused the “smudge” in
the first place. The ghosts here are more than a smudge, they have cracked the glass.

Times like these I wonder what music is for . . . and then I just go ahead and keep on playing.