Brave soldier frees a hostage-taking victim, hailed by local folks as a hero: TSgt Gilbert Ang's story
I was reading the news early morning today (Jan 11) when I received a message from my PMA upperclassman and fellow Scout Ranger, Lt. Col. Melencio "Meme" Ragudo, about the heroic feat of his subordinate. "My soldier was hailed as a hero after saving a child from a hostage-taker somewhere in Antipolo City yesterday. You might want to hear his story," he said. Hearing the initial details, I became excited. As a military leader, I am also inspired by the tales of heroism involving our everyday heroes, the enlisted personnel. "Sir, I will meet him at 1200H today. Please let him visit my office," I told him. Knowing the man
When I arrived at the Public Affairs Office, a smiling soldier clad in snappily pressed Battle Dress Attire greeted me. He was soft-spoken and mild-mannered. I invited him to my own receiving area for a bolahan session. I made it a casual conversation like a kwentong kanto. I wanted him to share his thoughts freely.
His full name is Technical Sergeant Gilbert Ang, 39, of Antipolo City. He is married with a young daughter. The eldest among 4 siblings, he was raised by his parents in the suburbs of Sta Mesa, Manila. His parents, Hernan, 65, and Leticia, 62, were both ordinary laborers. "I belong to a close-knit family. My parents taught us the value of humility and kindness to others," he said.
Since his younger days as a Citizen's Military Training (CMT) officer, he had aspired of becoming a soldier. He learned the fundamentals of military leadership at that young age. Determined to join the AFP, he took the ROTC while studying at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Sta. Mesa. Later, he also finished the Probationary Officer's Training Course (POTC) as his ticket for commissionship.
The financial difficulties that his family experienced in mid-90's forced him to drop from school and enlist in the Army through the Army Reserve Command in 1996. "At first, I was frustrated for not finishing my college education, but, I was also happy because I was able to join the profession that I love," he said. Because of his solid military background, he easily adjusted to the regimented life of a soldier. His excellent performance, high standard of discipline, and leadership skills brought him to places. He was sent abroad for specialization training twice.He finished the Warrant Officer's Course and the Explosives Inspector's Course both in Australia.
Heroic feat Ang did not know that he will encounter a hostage-taking incident during his short weekend privilege. At noon time on January 10, he was on his way home on board a motorcycle when he spotted a commotion along Sumulong highway in Mambugan village in Antipolo City. A highly-trained soldier of the AFP Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG), he stopped near the crowd of people to investigate. A few meters away, he saw a deranged man probably in his 20's, poking a knife on the neck of a child.
Not far away from the crowd of bystanders, there were policemen who tried to negotiate with the suspect for the release the child. They were ignored by the knife-wielding man who kept walking, clutching the victim with his right hand.
The sight of policemen with long firearms irritated the hostage-taker. He kept walking away followed by a growing number of villagers. By that time, the stand-off had dragged for about half an hour.
Worried that the suspect might become violent, Ang approached the policemen led by Police Chief Inspector Dogwe. He offered to help rescue the child.
"I told them that I can do something with the help of a few unarmed civilians. I explained that the suspect might stab the child because he was very agitated and appeared to be emotionally unstable," said Ang. Seeing the soundness of Ang's proposal, the policemen agreed.
Working with untrained civilians for a very delicate rescue mission, Ang was fully aware of the risks.
Scanning the scene, he weighed his options and decided to carry on.
"I remembered my own 6-year old daughter. It could happen to her and someone has to save her too. I was willing to take the risks of getting harmed and even being blamed if I fail," he said.
He can still vividly remember that about two decades ago, he had also engaged two armed robbers in a shootout after the suspects threatened to shoot the driver and conductor. His superb marksmanship skills made him victorious against the criminals. The main difference this time is that he is unarmed. His courage and his motorcycle are his only weapons.
When he asked for volunteers for a daring rescue attempt, two civilian volunteers came forward to help. He explained the 'concept of operation' and their respective tasks.
"I assigned myself as the Main Effort, the civilians and policemen as the Supporting Efforts. It was like a military operation where I am the over-all leader and primary actor," he said.
As the Main Effort, he volunteered to ram his motorcycle on the left side of the hostage-taker's body in order to throw him off-balance, and allow the two civilians and policemen to grab the knife and the child. They all knew that it was easier said than done.
"I made sure that the plan was clearly understood by all players. During that time, the suspect had already walked about a kilometer towards Marikina-Infanta highway and was visibly exhausted."
Dare to fail
Ang and his hastily-organized team of rescuers, closely following the suspect to get a chance to launch the strike.
In two occasions, he had to abort his plan because the suspect became suspicious and threatened to kill the child anew. "I could not afford to see him kill the innocent child. I have calculated all the risks and dared to fail."
He patiently waited for the golden opportunity by continuously trailing the suspect. His team members were only a few meters away around the hostage-taker who was almost surrounded by usiseros and concerned citizens alike.
Seeing that the suspect was not looking, he raced towards him, aiming the front wheel of his motorcycle on the suspect's left leg. He hit the mark and he crashed just beside him as the crowd rushed in. He became dizzy after suffering cuts and bruises.
"I was not fully aware of the next scene because the angry mob promptly surrounded the man. I felt something hit my butt but I sensed the gnawing pain on my leg which hit the pavement," he narrated.
Lying on his side and grimacing in pain, he was relieved to see the child safely wrestled by his 'team member' away from the suspect .
SP03 Jesus Magno, SPO1 Herbert Iligan and PO2 Roy Macuto of Police Community Precinct 1, Antipolo City wasted no time in disarming the suspect, who was later identified as Alvin Occidental, 28, of Pansol, Quezon City.
Ang and the policemen also intervened when bystanders took turns in punching the suspect. He understood that the suspect was not in his right mind.
"I also pity him because I saw his face and his blank stare. He might have some personal problems that led him to do the unthinkable."
People also started gathering around Ang to congratulate him. Learning that he was an Army soldier, people started screaming "Iyan ang bayaning sundalo!" (That is our soldier-hero!)
Despite the accolades, Ang stayed humble and explained to them that he was just doing what is right.
"I did what a father needs to do in that difficult situation. I am also a soldier so the more that I have to show the people that I can protect them when they need my help," said Ang. Truly, Gilbert Ang is one of our everyday heroes in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Mabuhay ka!
My souvenir photo with TSg Gilbert Ang of the Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG) during our meeting on Sunday (January 11). He emerged a hero during a hostage-taking incident in Antipolo City by leading the bold rescue of the victim with a handful of civilians and policemen.