Thirty monks from Hong Kong and the mainland will perform Buddhist rites in Manila this Saturday for the eight Hongkongers killed when their tour bus was hijacked by a rogue policeman in 2010.
However, none of the victims' relatives or the survivors will attend the 12-hour ceremony following an invitation from Manila mayor Joseph Estrada. It included a promise that there would be no fear of any fresh tragedy occurring under his watch.
"The embassy told us the family members will not come," Manila councilor Bernardito Ang told the South China Morning Post. "The family members begged off saying they don't want to relive the past. But they said they join us in prayer," Ang said.
He added: "We will continue because the resolution has already been passed by the city council declaring August 9 of this year as a day of prayer and mourning."
Ang, who is of Chinese descent, said: "The Chinese believe that in a tragic death, you have to make sure the souls ascend. Otherwise they become wandering souls. The monks will pray the whole day to send the souls upwards."
He added that the rites were being held on the anniversary of the hijacking according to the Chinese lunar calendar, as opposed to August 23, the day the tragedy occurred on the Gregorian calendar.
Ang said Catholic rites would be performed on August 23.
Estrada, his deputy Isko Moreno and prominent members of the ethnic Chinese community are due to attend on Saturday.
Estrada successfully brokered a deal with the victims' relatives, the survivors and the Hong Kong government in April which ended years of strained ties over the botched rescue mission. They received apologies and compensation said to total HK$20 million.
Last night, Tse Chi-kin, the older brother of 31-year-old slain tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn, confirmed that the families had received the invitation from the Philippines through the Hong Kong Security Bureau more than a month ago, and he understood that none of the relatives or survivors would travel to Manila.
"The bodies of the deceased were brought back and are buried in Hong Kong, so we think there's no need to commemorate [them] there," he said, adding that he had no wish to travel to the country in the near future.