Going to a concert in a crowded mall or jogging around an almost empty park is not what it used to be, especially in places that are on the bucket list of terrorists.
In such cases, the music fan or the fitness buff most probably would have no idea that the otherwise uneventful weekend pursuit of personal leisure could turn into a nightmare. Nobody really plans a day at the mall or the park around a tragedy, not even someone who is suffering from paranoia.
The reality, however, is that no regular concert-goer or track star-wannabe or tourist on a holiday can predict when a tragedy will strike, such as a car ploughing into a crowd in a busy district with an extremist behind the wheel. This could have been the scenario that the driver of a van had hoped to create in Barcelona last week as he mowed down local and foreign tourists in the popular Las Ramblas district, killing 13 people and injuring about a hundred others.
One of the fatalities was a seven-year-old boy of Filipino descent. But it is sad enough that innocent people were killed, period.
The boy, who is yet to be named by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), was with his parents, who survived the attack when his life was ended abruptly by a deranged mad man. Two other Filipinos from Milan, Italy, and four Irish citizens, also of Filipino descent, were reported as of Tuesday to still be under medical observation.
The world becoming a global village, ironically, has helped advance the political and ideological agenda of the jihadist groups and their followers.
These violent extremists have recruited another partner in technology, which has rendered the planet borderless by wiring it, enabling them to strike at any target anywhere on the globe.
The problem for the rest of the world who are not on their side is that there is no quick fix for the mayhem that seems to be the be-all for the supposed keepers of whatever their faith is, to wrap explosives around their bodies and take with them “collateral damage,” such as the Filipino boy and the 12 other human lives that were lost in that incident.
Vigilance, while seemingly becoming a meaningless mantra to many, still remains one of the serviceable weapons in our personal arsenal of combating such attackers and their supporters elsewhere.
While we call on the police authorities to step up their intel work and safety measures to secure the public, it is also our duty to take precautions for ourselves and our families when we decide to go out where the crowd gathers because the reality of our times is that they are, indeed, potential targets for the extremists.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has made it known that Filipinos back home are “pained” by the heartbreaking news that “we lost one of our own in the recent violence unleashed by extremists against innocent civilians in Barcelona.”
“The metropolitan region of Barcelona,” according to the Spanish think tank Real Instituto Elcano, “is the home of jihadist terrorism in Spain.”
That busy Las Ramblas spot must have been targeted for maximum damage. But precisely because it is regarded as one of Spain’s top tourist draws, the tragedy could only make the call for unity against terrorism more relevant to our times. Or the lyrics of Russell Watson’s “Barcelona” will keep ringing in our ears: Barcelona, how can I forget?… Make the voices sing. Start the celebration, and cry.”