The Philippine News Agency (PNA) reported in September that 50 survivors of the twin blasts in the cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu are now slowly recovering and rebuilding their lives through psychosocial healing sessions by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU).

The OPAPRU, through its Social Healing and Peacebuilding Office (SHAPEO), partnered with the Notre Dame of Jolo College to capacitate 25 local counselors and carry out 10 healing sessions among the blast victims.

The impact of the SHAPEO was also narrated by one of the blast survivors, Delia Hoe:

“For the past two years, I have been full of anger, fear, hatred for the perpetrators, hiding myself, not going to church, sad and undergoing self-pity because I bore the pain and trauma as a victim of the twin bombings in the cathedral.”

After attending 10 healing sessions, Hoe said she has come to terms with what happened and is now ready to move on to the next chapter of her life.

“I learned to be enlightened about the tragedy that no matter what happened to me, I stand with a sincere heart because there are many who love me. First of all, God, because I am still alive and so are the people around me” Hoe said.

The PNA also stated, one of the counselors, Alton Jurah, said the journey was not easy.

He added that the struggle was re-learning the methods and ways of effective counseling sessions.

Jurah also said he was touched to see the trust and respect that had been established among counselees during the healing sessions.

“We know how brave you were to share your traumatic experiences with us. It’s not easy but you opened the doors for us to help you,” Jurah told Hoe, adding that he will continue being a frontline responder to the counselees and victims of other traumatic events.

Additionally, the PNA reported, the 11th Infantry Division chief, Maj. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio noted that “our challenge really is how to sustain the gains we have now achieved.”

He said through the collaborative efforts of all peace stakeholders, the people of Sulu are now enjoying relative peace and security since the bombings.

“We will continue to perform our mandate to secure this region so that incidents such as another bombing will not happen again. Security really is a shared responsibility and ‘yung tulong ng (the help of the) stakeholders really play a great role in achieving sustainable peace in the province,” Patrimonio said.

OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. who attended the completion ceremony of the psychosocial healing sessions last Aug. 27, assured its peace partners agency that it will continue to implement peacebuilding initiatives in the province.

“This is not the end of our peacebuilding efforts here in Sulu. The OPAPRU shall continue to work closely with our peace stakeholders to sustain and build on the gains of peace in the province,” he added.

He also said under the Marcos Administration’s “banner of unity”, the OPAPRU, in collaboration with its peace partners, is determined to create the conditions where long-lasting peace and sustainable development can take root and flourish.

As part of the culmination program, the OPAPRU and Ministry of Social Services and Development provided the beneficiaries with in-kind socio-economic assistance.

Galvez noted that academic institutions such as the Notre Dame of Jolo have played a significant role in sustaining local peace initiatives.

He said the OPAPRU is also intensifying efforts in the implementation of Executive Order 570 through the adoption of the National Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (NAP PCVE).

Galvez said through the NAP-PCVE, the national government will effectively address the factors that contribute to radicalization and violent extremism in the Philippines