Friday, January 09, 2015

The heroes of Inabanga: Honoring Bohol's warriors

LOST SON. Chona Bautista, 48, takes a glimpse of her beloved son 'Onad' a day before his burial in Inabanga town, Bohol on Saturday (Jan 10). Bautista is considered by his town mates as a hero like their ancestor, Francisco Dagohoy, who led the longest armed rebellion in Philippine history. (Photo by Ariel Bautista)

About 270 years after the uprising of homegrown Filipino warriors led by Francisco Sendrijas a.k.a. Francisco Dagohoy, Inabanga town in northern coast of Bohol has produced another warrior and hero, Army 1st Lt. Ronald Bautista, 27.  

He paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving the people in the hinterlands of Anitapan in Mabini town, Compostela Province, one of the NPA-infested provinces in the country.

The people of Inabanga are very proud of his feats as an Army soldier. They recognized  his active role in helping poor people far-away from home, in solving their community problems. He was dubbed as a 'peace and development' warrior.

Since the Spanish domination of the island centuries ago, this town had consistently gained prominence for its valiant heroes. Aside from being the site of the longest revolt of Philippine history, it is home to fierce warriors who fought the American forces during their occupation of Bohol in March 1899.

One of the notable heroes is Captain Martin Cabagnot, a local guerilla leader during the American occupation. Armed with bolos and spears, he led a handful of brave warriors in engaging the superior enemy forces in close combat, killing at least a hundred of the American invaders. 

During the attack of the Japanese in 1943, Inabanga once again kept the freedom alive when its proud sons organized a resistance movement that fought the enemies in several battles that lasted at least two years. 
Worst fear

Bautista's 48-year old mother, Chona, have good memories of his beloved son. 

She can still vividly remember 'Onad' patiently grinding rice from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm, in order to cook bibingka (rice cakes) that would be sold the next day.

“He was already a very responsible child since his elementary school days. He wanted to help us earn more money so that we can send them to school,” she said, her voice cracking. 

Chona is suffering a parent’s worst fear – that of burying a child she raised and protected. 

On Saturday (Jan 10), she would have to let go of her “Onad” with a final goodbye in a military burial set for heroes. She will receive the Philippine flag that is used to cover the coffin of his son. 


Aside from selling rice cakes, Chona said “Onad” also earns money by patiently copying notes for his classmates. He was a favorite 'scribe' because of his excellent penmanship.

“He was very resourceful and he constantly found ways to earn extra income to support his studies. He was very determined to finish school,” she said.

Despite these challenges and distractions, little Bautista still managed to keep his grade up, even securing for himself a place on the top ten of his class, Chona said.

From Bohol to PMA

It was never Bautista’s dream to become a soldier, his mother Chona said.

Chona said it was the idea of a full scholarship and allowances that attracted Bautista to PMA. He was encouraged by a relative to take the PMA entrance exam when he was on his third year in agricultural engineering in CMU.

To him, it was another way to help his family. Bautista, apparently, did not mind the danger attached to the profession.

“I was even against his entering PMA. I was scared he might get killed when he becomes a soldier. I’ve seen on TV many soldiers die while in service,” she said, her tears flowing anew.

Chona was referring to the stories of soldiers’ deaths in Bohol during the 1990s when it was still a hotbed for insurgency. Among those who were killed in numerous encounters in Bohol was 2nd Lt. Socrates Que, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1998.

But, due to public-private partnership which proved an effective weapon against insurgency, Bohol was declared free of insurgency by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 2009 alongside Cebu. Bohol today is considered one of the most peaceful places in the Philippines.

Pedro Bautista, 67, village captain and uncle of Bautista, said he had always known his nephew would grow up to become a good man.

“He was a good boy and active as a youth leader here,” Pedro said in a phone interview.

He added that Bautista was an active leader of Sanguniang Kabataan (SK). Even after he left Bohol to go to PMA, he would return home every break and meet up with his friends and neighborhood kids to impart the things he learned in the military school.

When he became a soldier, he still saw his friends during his free time to encourage them to become leaders themselves and dream of bigger things for their future.


As he grew older, Bautista’s sense of responsibility grew with dreams of sending his own siblings to school, particularly his older brother Ariel, 28, who had to stop and provide for him while he went to college in Central Mindanao University in Bukidnon. 

Onad's  and Ariel, his older brother, worked together to send their younger brother Gelo, 25, to college.  Ariel opted to drop from school and worked as a basket weaver until young Gelo finished his Computer studies.

Later, "Onad" also supported Ariel's college education. He is now a fourth year Mechanical Engineering student.

Now that her helpful “Onad” is gone, Chona is worried about the education of her other four children, all of which are still in high school.

But, Chona need not worry for the AFP will award scholarships to his siblings through its Educational Benefit System Office (EBSO).

The AFP EBSO was activated August 2000 by virtue of General Orders Nr 920 dated August 22, 2000, by command of then General Angelo Reyes, and Presidential Decree 577 (PD 577) signed by former President Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1974. PD 577 was the first law ever enacted providing for educational benefit for soldier’s dependents.

Bearing its tagline “Leaving No Soldiers’ Orphan Behind” conceptualized by former AFPEBSO General Manager Commander Wenefredo Banua, dependents who will be included into the program will receive support throughout their college years from the AFPEBSO fund and partner-stakeholders from Department of Education (DepEd).

“We will facilitate the awarding of educational benefits for the younger siblings of Lt. Bautista and his companions who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the country. This is our own way to honor our fallen heroes,” said Lt. Col Danilo Estranero, the General Manager of AFPEBSO.

Special military honors

For his sacrifices, Bautista is set to receive posthumous award, the Wounded Personnel Medal from the AFP alongside the special military honors during his burial. 

The AFP Chief-of-staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang, Jr. directed the Central Command to accord Bautista with appropriate burial honors fit for a hero. 

A firing party composed of soldiers from the Special Forces unit based in Bohol has been readied for the burial ceremony that will be held at around 2:00pm (Sat).

Officials from the local government and the military unit stationed in Cebu and Bohol will join the relatives during the said ceremony.

Local officials from Inabanga town will attend the solemn ceremony for Bautista in his hometown as a sign of respect for the very first PMA graduate of their town that they now see as a hero and an inspiration for Bohol in years to come.


Senior government officials dared communist rebels to show sincerity and  to “walk their talk” toward resuming the peace talks.

“We strongly condemn the pointless violence exercised by the CPP-NPA-NDF. If they are truly serious in their call for the resumption of peace negotiations with the government, we challenge them to walk their talk and stop harassing development projects, civilians and unarmed soldiers on holiday. There is no way to peace but through peace,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said in a statement on New Year's eve.

Aside from murdering Bautista and his men during the Christmas season truce, the NPA bandits had also abducted a jail warden in Compostela Valle,  and burned down heavy equipment used for development projects.

“In blatant disregard of the Christmas season, when our people desire and expect peace and goodwill, the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front) reciprocated the government’s gesture of a month-long unilateral ceasefire with acts of senseless violence,” she added.

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