Saturday, July 28, 2012

Honoring the Al-Barka heroes: My personal experience

The first time I witnessed the ceremony honoring a soldier who died in combat was in October 2011.

I was among the officers who met our fallen heroes who perished in Al-Barka.

I am not really used to seeing this kind of ceremony where most of the people around display serious looking face, some of them are teary-eyed especially the immediate family members.

As part of my job, I briefed the family members about the message from the Army commander.

I can see the dagger looks that may even pierce a Level 4 Kevlar helmet.

"I understand your feelings and  I am willing to help in any way I can", I said.

Seeing them in pain, I felt the loss of a loved one  in a  tragic incident in Basilan where some of the soldiers were mangled to death.

"The nation is honored to know that your loved ones died as heroes. We all owe them for their self-sacrifices so that peace will finally reign in Basilan," I explained. 

"I also want to thank you because you have shared the burden of having a son or husband who has willingly served our country." I added.

One mother interrupted me and said, "That is okay but we want justice!".

"Tita, the armed  conflict in Mindanao could not be solved by sending more soldiers to take revenge and cause more loss of lives. Our government is doing something that justice will be served."

I felt relieved that they have gradually calmed down.

Some relatives were the images of both pain and anger. I saw one whose hands were trembling.

Looking around, I was glad that some soldiers from the Special Operations Command also came to comfort them.

Named as 'Survivor NCOs', these soldiers were tasked to escort the fallen heroes towards their homes, assist the family members with any administrative requirements.

More often than not, these soldiers are also the ones who tell the news about the death of the soldiers to their respective parents or wives. It is one of the 'toughest' job in the Army!

It was about 6:45pm when the C130 cargo plane bearing the coffins of the Al-Barka heroes careened to a screeching halt in the runway, as we watched about a hundred meter away outside the Base Operations building of Villamor Air Base.

Soldiers from the Security and Escorts Battalion, dressed in their snappy attire, stood ramrod straight as they patiently waited for the plane to position in front of the formation area.  

Another group of soldiers were tasked to collect the coffins from inside the plane.

When the rear door of the plane was opened, I started to hear people crying loudly. 

One after the other, flag draped metal caskets containing the human remains of the fallen heroes, were carried by the soldiers as  they marched in unison towards a designated area.

When they were all lined up, the ceremony started. The sound of taps filled the air; I couldn't describe the feeling of loneliness around me.

As I looked around, I saw fellow tough soldiers whose eyes were in tears---including me. It was like I also lost my own brothers.

I couldn't help but imagine how the likes of fellow Scout Rangers Cpl Roberto Ricafranca and Cpl Jordan Magno died beyond the call of duty.

An ace sniper whom I mentored in the past, Ricafranca chose to hold the ground as he urged his teammates to withdraw with their injured members, including his cousin, Alex Ricafranca of the 12th Special Forces Company.

On the other hand, Magno was the one who repeatedly collected injured teammates from the engagement area, saving several of them.

He failed to come back at the casualty collection point. He was later found dead, riddled with bullets.

Of course who can forget the good leaders like Lt Vladimer Maninang, Lt JD Khe and Lt Colt Alsiyao who inspired their men to fight valiantly? They are my heroes too.

Today, I am joining the group of people who are patiently awaiting for the arrival of another set of heroes.

Surrounded by an overwhelming enemy force, these soldiers kept the Ranger's flag flying, amidst the heavy volume of fires.

Their unit was able to repulse the bandits after 3 hours of intense fighting. They paid the ultimate sacrifice in their dire attempt to prevent the enemy from completely annihilating their 40-man patrol.

Their fellow Rangers were very thankful for their bravery.

The rubber plantation workers in Tumahubong village are also very grateful for their services, preempting the planned attack by the bandits on their community. For defending them, the soldiers are their heroes too.

I am quite sure that there will be more tears for these fallen soldiers later today.

I can only hope that  this armed conflict that has claimed numerous lives will come to an end.

Regardless of our religious affiliation, let us all pray for the safety of our soldiers who have unflinchingly performed their duties in the most dangerous places around the country, so that millions of people will live in peace.


  1. kailangan nang magpadala ng mga tangke, humvee at mga helicpters

  2. The government will ensure that justice will be served.

    Armed violence is not the right answer to the problems that these people encountered in their community.

    Di rin makatarungan para kakampihan ng iilang armadong hindi naman taga Sumisip, na makikisawsaw at magdagdag ng problema kaysa makatulong.

  3. i want to extend my condolence to the bereaved family of our departed loved soldiers.. I salute you all and May you all rest in peace.. To my dear friend Pfc Rey Evangelista, I will be missing you so much.. thanks for treating me as your sister.. <3 <3 <3 >Ellis A.<

  4. ...God bless your troops guy's...don't ever loose hope...make the fight worth all the pain...continue leading the way...i salute all of our fallen soldiers, you guy's died a hero...thank you for serving our country...for keeping us safe always...snappy salute to all of you!Rest in Peace to heaven...your troops that you left will continue fighting for peace here across the land...

  5. i am a soldier, & will always be a GOD fearing soldier that is religiously doing my job to serve my country...

  6. nakakawalang gana ang AFP, sabi nila sa pamilya ng 19 na sundalo na namatay sa Alberka Basilan ay na COURT MARSHAL at DISCHARGE WITHOUT HONOR FROM THE SERVICE ang tatlong COLONEL na utak ng lahat ng nangyari sa pagkamatay ng mga 19 na magigiting na sundalo. ang totoo niyan ang TATLONG COLONEL ay nasa fort Bonifacio sila na pagala gala parang walang nangyari......! nasaan ang katarungan CABUNZKY kung talaga kang karapatdapat na tawagin na sundalo ng bayan?

  7. o pareparehas kayong mga opisyal na galing PMA na mukhang pera! sana mamatayan din kayo, masmatindi pa ang abutin ng pamilya niyo sa nangyari sa 19 na sundalo,makarma kayong lahat....!
    lahat ng pamilya ng 19 na sundalo nanalangin sa diyos para mamatayan din kayong mga opisyal , na u ngas.......!

  8. sir vladimir maninang pinaghirapan mong makapagtapos ng pag aaral buong buhay mo po nagsikap ka nagpapastor ka ng kalabaw at baka sa bukid nio nagpapakain ka ng baboy sa babuyan nio habang nag aaral ka kase sa hirap ng buhay probinsya naten magpahinga kana sir sa kamay ng ating mapagmahal na panginoon...