DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The air smelt of burning incense. Their hands gripped white roses. A congregation was singing, too difficult for bystanders to ignore, apart from the countless men in uniform guarding them so a tragic event a year ago will never happen again.

Family of the victims and survivors shed tears remembering the night when an improvised explosive device blasted a massage area here at the crowded portion of Roxas avenue.

“Those who are accountable will be brought to justice,” Archbishop Romulo Valles said in his homily. Few steps away are a line of SWAT men clad in black gripping rifles. Right across the congregation is 12-feet sculpture of the Mary when she was bodily taken up into heaven as she ends her earthly life.

Some 17 people were killed on the night of September 2, 2016. A month later, authorities arrested three people suspected to be involved in incident.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they were members of the Maute group. The government has long called them “terrorists,” the same group that hoisted an ISIS flag in Marawi in May this year.

“I am sorry that it happened,” said Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte. “I am sorry that we have to do this every year.”

The survivors of the bombing incident and the families of the victims recently received livelihood assistance in August. The money came from donations gathered by the city government, totaling P3.4 million.

Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte also handed out cash assistance and the local government earmarked a P4.5-million cash assistance.

But beyond the feelings and generous gesture of remorse, 53-year-old Gloria said the government has to be serious in protecting its citizens from terror groups and lawless elements.

“They should not just be conducting thorough inspections after incidents like this happen,” she said. Requesting for anonymity, Gloria was one of the massage therapist who witnessed the ruckus a year ago.

“Even if I was spared of the blast, I still continue to live in fear,” she said.

Davao and the entire island of Mindanao is still under the control of the military amid the country’s war against the Maute group in Marawi. President Duterte has thought of lifting martial law, but said a spillover of serious terror activity in Maguindanao made him change his mind. (davaotoday.com)

JUSTICE OF LOVE. Davao City Archbishop Romulo Valles tells the people of the Davao to not lose hope in God and urge​s​ ​them ​to continue to pray for justice for the victims and survivors of the tragedy. (Robby Joy D. Salveron/davaotoday.com)

JUSTICE. The parents of Senior Police Officer 1 Jay Adremesin, who was​ among the 17 killed in the Roxas ​n​ight m​arket bombing a year ago, ​continue to shout for justice for their son. In between them is one of the sons of the ​slain police.(Robby Joy D. Salveron/davaotoday.com)

SURVIVORS. Survivors in crutches and arm cast offer flowers and candles at the blast site.(Robby Joy D. Salveron/davaotoday.com)

SURVIVOR’S FAMILY. Jenelyn Espurtono, 7, sits beside her father Judy during the first year commemoration of the bombing. The incident ​paralyzed her mother Lilibeth, who was a former massage therapist at Roxas Avenue.(Robby Joy D. Salveron/davaotoday.com)

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