Crowds gathered in Manila this afternoon to mark the fourth anniversary of the bus hostage tragedy which claimed the lives of eight Hong Kong tourists, laying flowers and lighting candles.
It is the first year that the annual memorial has not been mired by political turmoil over demands for compensation and an official apology from the Filipino government.
On August 23, 2010, a sacked police officer Rolando Mendoza hijacked a Hong Kong tour bus with 25 passengers.
After an 11-hour standoff, the former cop was shot dead in a botched rescue attempt that lasted 90-minute and culminated in a gun battle.
This April, after three years of strained ties that included sanctions, the Philippines expressed its “most sorrowful regret and profound sympathy” over the tragedy, stopping short of an apology.
The families of those affected received an undisclosed sum in compensation, which they described as reasonable. Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said that the sum was around HK$20 million.
Earlier this month, about 30 monks from Hong Kong joined Manila officials and representatives from Hong Kong at the site of the tragedy where a golden shrine was erected for Buddhist rituals.
August 9 and 23 were declared “days of prayer” with today’s ceremonies for Christian rites.
This afternoon, Filipinos were seen reading excerpts from the bible at the Quirino grandstand where the tragedy took place with Catholic priest father Sanny De Claro blessing the site in front of dozens of onlookers.
Fourteen hostages survived the 2010 seige, including Hong Kong woman Yik Siu-ling, who shot in the face and later had to undergo reconstructive surgery on her lower jaw. Yik received an undisclosed payment from the Philippine government.
Last year, tensions had run high between Hong Kong and the Philippines, with the Chinese territory threatening economic sanctions if Manila did not apologise and address the demands of the survivors and their families. The threat came just as the Philippines was hit by a super typhoon, triggering calls for a delay on humanitarian grounds.
But in January this year, Hong Kong cancel visa-free arrangements for Philippine official and diplomatic passport holders in retaliation. The Hong Kong government rejected an apology from Manila mayor Joseph Estrada last August, but found responses to other requests - including compensation, the punishment of responsible officials and improved tourist safety - as satisfactory.
Watch: The Philippine bus hostage-taking incident